Is there anything lovelier than the first proper Irish new potato? I am not talking about the plastic bags filled with spotlessly clean baby spuds, which have their place, but are a bit bland and you can get them all year. Nor am I talking about the little red Jersey potatoes which are nice but not singing with taste. No, you know what I am talking about. The very first Irish new potatoes. Little nuggets with the skins half peeling off them when you touch them, still covered in the precious ground they grew in because if the growers washed them they would lose that delicate outer layer of joy.
It is like the cold blustery weather is codding us because the new potatoes tell us that yes summer is here, and there is proof. And of course when I see them piled into a spot somewhere I am instantly transported to being half the size of the women around me and my mother’s smile, as she jostled with the crowd and called out asking for two pounds of new potatoes, and interrupting herself, “ah sure make it three”. I can hear the joy of the trader on the stall in Camden street, knowing she was the purveyor of a very special treat calling out “First of the new potatoes”. And I can still see the big scales with the heavy round weights so used to potatoes being heaped onto them ungraciously the rest of the year, being treated so differently as when the new potatoes landed the lighter weights were used and potatoes were weighed in brown bags, altogether precious.
New Potatoes, real new potatoes, do not need anything fancy done to them or with them. All you need to do is wash them under the tap to remove the soil, rarely is scrubbing needed. And for God’s sake don’t cut them. Pop them into the pot to boil, wait until their little thin skins begin to give and the flesh is tender, pour out the water and let them steam with a lid on for a minute and then put them in your favourite big bowl. With real butter on top and a sprinkling of salt.
This is no time to be messing with sunflower this or rapeseed that. This is real butter time. The grass that fed those cows and made that milk is growing on the same land that produced these spuds and they are a marriage of the Gods.
What to serve them with? It doesn’t matter at all. Not one bit. I like a nice bit of home cooked ham and a salad. But that’s the dinner of my childhood. I would probably love a bit of salad cream with it too if I’m honest, but sure who eats salad cream these days?
I always cook too many, partly because I will definitely goback to the bowl when they are still sitting there, sprinkle a bit of salt on and eat a couple more. But more so because the next day it is roundy chips time. New potatoes sliced thickly and fried in the pan. I expect Nigella or Jamie might call them Sauté potatoes but in my house they are roundy chips.
As I head out to find myself some, I think I will definitely behaving three pounds.