Welcome to the Carol Taylor cooking show… with a bit in the front end on the health benefits of the star ingredients from me.
This week a reminder of why potatoes are so good for us.
Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine and I would like to introduce you to a common vegetable that is definitely on my shopping list.
The not so common Potato
You cannot claim Irish ancestry and not be aware of the significance of the potato in our history. For my great-grandfather, as a child in Cork, in the 1830s, the potato would have been an essential and daily addition to his diet. By 1845 by the start of the great famine in Ireland caused by the potato blight, over a third of Irish people were reliant on this humble vegetable to sustain their families. My family were lucky in as much as they were close to the sea and had access to other foods but for millions inland it was the most devastating disaster in Irish history. Apart from those that perished, it instigated a mass migration that was to impact countries around the world. So why should the potato be considered so nutritionally important to us today?
Potatoes were the most common carbohydrate for most of us in the western world up until after the second world war. Another ten years and we were starting to develop more exotic tastes and first the Indian restaurants and then the Chinese introduced us to rice in its various varieties. And, over the last 50 years or so they have been chucked in and out of our diet at the whim of “experts” who one minute want us to stop eating carbohydrates, then they are in, then they are out………….
In my mind they should definitely be in and I hope that when you have read all the history of this simple but essential vegetable and all that it offers you too will include in your weekly shop.
The history of the potato.
There are some legends regarding the introduction of the potato into Ireland, around 1600. Some believe that Sir Frances Drake brought specimens back from the West Indies and handed some over to Sir Walter Raleigh who cultivated them on his farm in Ireland. I prefer the far more quirky explanation that potatoes were washed up on the shore after the Armada was sunk and – with typical Irish ingenuity – were transformed into a national treasure and alcoholic beverage.
This humble root vegetable has travelled thousands of miles to adorn our dinner plates and there is archaeological evidence that they were first cultivated in Peru around 4,500 years ago although wild potatoes had been eaten as early as 10,000 years ago. I would imagine that ancient civilisations would have also eaten them in one form or another.
Wheat and corn could not survive the cold of the mountains in the same way as the potato, and the Inca cultures actually developed frost-resistant varieties and a technique to freeze dry the mature root, providing flour that could be stored for a number of years. Like in Ireland, the potato became the staple food for South American’s living at high altitudes and they even produced alcohol in the form of a beer called chicha.
As I mentioned, in recent years carbohydrates have found disfavour with the diet industry and unfortunately this includes the potato. In fact the potato has far fewer calories than rice, pasta and bread; provided it is not laden with cheese and butter. It is a highly nutritious, low fat and healthy accompaniment to any meal.
There are over 100 different types of cultivated potatoes available today, and some of the more familiar to us are the King Edward, Maris Piper, Kerr Pink and Rooster varieties. Some older varieties were reflective of the time they were cultivated, such as Irish Peace.
What Are The Health Benefits Of The Potato?
There is a very good reason why the potato has been regarded as a staple food in so many cultures. When conditions are tough, and nothing else will grow, the potato will thrive and provide many essential nutrients the body needs to survive.
Provided you do not eat a pound of saturated fat with your potatoes (a bit of real butter however is delicious!), including them as part of your diet may prevent a number of potentially serious illnesses. Research into elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, poor immune system function, cancer and hormonal imbalance show that the properties in the potato could well help prevent these conditions from developing in the first place. If you need to lose weight, eating potatoes will provide you with a great many nutrients and energy without adding excess calories or fats to your daily diet.
Despite being around for thousands of years this vegetable still holds surprises and recently scientists have isolated kukoamines in potatoes. Previously, these were only found in some Chinese herbal remedies. The main property of this chemical is its ability to reduce blood pressure levels. As elevated blood pressure is becoming increasingly more common, for both men and women, eating potatoes regularly in the diet could be very beneficial.
Potatoes are also high in Vitamin C, B6, Copper, Potassium, manganese and fibre. They also contain phytonutrients called flavonoids and carotenoids that are extremely important anti-oxidants.
Most of us are familiar with the health benefits of Vitamin C especially in relation to our immune system, but this vitamin also protects the harmful cholesterol LDL from oxidative damage, which leads to plaque forming and blocking our arteries.
Vitamin B6 is involved in nearly every major process in the body and is necessary for the health of each cell in our bodies. It also assists in the formation of several neurotransmitters in the brain and helps regulate our mood.
High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease and B6 has been shown to lower homocysteine levels in the blood.
B6 is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrying pigment in our blood, and is therefore linked to our energy levels. B6 also helps balance female hormones so eating potatoes regularly as part of a balanced diet is useful for PMS and other hormonal imbalances.
Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise iron. It is needed to make ATP, which is the fuel that we run on, and some hormones and blood cells.
Potassium reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell; it allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain correct fluid balance in the body. Without the correct amount of potassium our heartbeats can become irregular.
Manganese is needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as ensuring glucose tolerance. It is also part of our antioxidant defence system.
It is important that you eat the skin of the potato as this contains a concentrated source of fibre, which our bodies need to remove waste and toxins efficiently. If you buy pre-washed potatoes, remember to clean them before eating as the potato will have become susceptible to fungus and bacterial contamination. Scrub the potato under running water and remove any eyes or bruises before cooking. You can boil, bake, dry roast, mash and dice potatoes. If you want to mash or roast with a little fat, use olive oil and herbs rather than butter or margarine.
Next time you pass the display of potatoes in a supermarket don’t think “fattening”, think “mashed with a little olive oil and garlic” or “roasted with rosemary and Mediterranean vegetables with a little lamb on the side”!
Now I am going to hand over to Carol who is elevating this ‘not so common’ potato to even greater heights.
One of the world’s favourite vegetables… The Potato.
The shape and colour of potatoes vary from brown to red and most that I buy have the light brown skins some are suitable for use in salads like the Charlotte potato which is waxy while floury potatoes like the Maris Piper are ideal for mash and baking. The red skinned potato which is also lower in starch than its brown cousin can be boiled, fried, steamed it has so many uses and also it is down to individual preference we all have our favourites…
My favourite, which I can’t get here, are the Jersey Royals available for a very short period April to July and are delicious just boiled or steamed with a sprig of mint and a bit of butter.
For many years potatoes have been vilified and banned on many diets however common sense is now prevailing in most camps and as it has only about 110 calories and is naturally fat free, has zero sodium or cholesterol and more potassium than a banana it is now encouraged to be part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
That is the potato with nothing on it!
It becomes unhealthy when you load it up with all your favourite things.
The recipes I have chosen to share with you today are potatoes cooked with healthy, fresh ingredients which I hope you enjoy!
My first recipe is a very simple recipe using my favourite new potatoes. – New potato Skewers.
- New potatoes
- Bay leaves
- Shallots or salad onions peeled and halved
- Sea Salt
- Olive Oil
Gently clean the new potatoes and par-boil for 5 minutes. Thread onto the skewers with the salad onions and bay leaves…I sometimes add a few peeled cloves of garlic. Brush with Olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and BBQ or grill for about 10 minutes turning occasionally until nicely browned.
Serve with a fresh salsa or Greek yoghurt dip or dip of your choice or as I do just enjoy on their own with a little additional salt.
They can also be eaten with fish or meat as a side dish.
Can be served every which way, some microwave them (yuk) I prefer mine crispy skinned….They can be loaded with coleslaw, cheese, butter and this is where they become very unhealthy…As a treat maybe but I find that now I can’t take the taste and it reaks havoc with the tum..I am not used to so much fat……
I love mine topped with a home made chilli con carne, some prawns with a light dressing, bacon, avocado,salsa and a little cheese, sour cream mixed with horseradish and a couple of prawns or cottage cheese and a roasted tomato…What is your favourite topping???? Answers in the comments please.
Next we have Boulangere Potatoes….
- 1 1/2km of floury potatoes
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 onions thinly slices
- 2 tbsp Olive oil.
- 425ml vegetable stock.
Pre-heat oven to 200C/180Cfan/Gas 6.
Slice the potatoes thinly by hand or use the food processor or if you are apt with a mandolin then be careful. Put in cold water while you prepare the onions.
Fry the onions until soft and lightly coloured with the sprigs of thyme this takes about 5 minutes.
Using a 1.5 litre oiled gratin dish or other oven proof dish start by spreading a layer of potatoes over the base of the dish, sprinkle with a few onions then continue layering… finishing with a layer of potatoes.
Pour the stock over the potatoes and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden brown and crispy.
Serve with meat or fish and a salad or steamed vegetables of your choice.
Then tell me that you didn’t miss the addition of cream and cheese.
Chicken and Potato Parcels.
4 large skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 4 medium potatoes thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
- 4tbsp melted butter or olive oil
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Lemon slices
- 4 squares of foil.
On each of the foil sheets arrange the potato slices overlapping them slightly, season with a pinch of salt. Top with the chicken thigh and drizzle with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top each parcel with lemon slices and fresh rosemary. Seal each little parcel.
Cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. I always undo the foil for the last 5/10 mins just to give the top a little colour.
A nice quick meal when you don’t have time or are just tired after a day’s work…Serve with a salad or some steamed vegetables and a nice glass of wine.
Now let’s not forget about the sweet potato.
A root vegetable that resembles a potato, although it is quite different in both taste and texture. The skin is a pinkish orange and the flesh can be deep orange or we have purplish skinned ones here with a purple flesh. They have a slightly sweet flavour and I know my American cousins top them with marshmallows and bake them for Thanksgiving…This I have not tried….
I eat mine baked or mashed and prefer them to what I call normal potatoes although the men folk in my house disagree with me on this…
They are also lovely in a curry…..For the prawn, sweet potato and lime curry
- 2 tsp freshly grated coconut
- 2 tbsp medium or hot curry paste
- 2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
- 4cm piece fresh root ginger peeled, cut into long thin strips
- 1 red chilli, seeds removed (optional), finely chopped
- 1 x 400g can coconut milk
- 250ml vegetable stock
- 75g sugar snap peas
- 75g baby corn, halved lengthways
- 225g raw, peeled jumbo king prawns (defrosted if frozen)
- 1 bunch spring onions trimmed and sliced
- 1 lime juice only
Put a large pan over a medium heat and toast the coconut for a few minutes stirring all the time so it doesn’t burn. Put in a dish and set to one side.
Using the same pan on a medium heat add the curry paste and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring.
Add the sweet potato, ginger and chilli and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk and the stock and stir until it comes to a gentle rolling boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the sweet potato is almost tender.
Add the sugar snaps and baby corn and cook for 4/5 minutes or until tender stirring occasionally… Mix in the prawns and cook 2 minutes until they are just pink…remove from the heat. Add the spring onions and squeeze in the lime juice and season to taste.
Ladle in to serving bowls and scatter with the coconut serve with warm flat breads.
For a more substantial meal serve with steamed rice.
One of my favourite Curries is the Thai Massaman curry eaten more in the south of Thailand and not seen as often here in the North so it is just as well that I have the recipe and make my own it is a milder curry and always includes the potato which not many Thai dishes do.
Thai Massaman Curry
- 500 gm chicken or 2 chicken breasts cubed. You can also use thighs or the leg which is often used in the authentic rustic Thai Massaman.
- 3- 4 tbsp massaman curry paste
- 400 ml coconut milk
- Half cup good chicken stock
- 1-2 med potatoes cubed
- 1-2 tbsp fish sauce
- 100 gm mushrooms quartered
- 4-6 baby corn halved
- 50 gm sugar snap peas
- Chopped coriander
- Peanuts (optional)
Put a little coconut oil in a pan to heat add your curry paste and a tbsp fish sauce and cook stirring for about a minute.
Add your cubed chicken and stir to coat with the paste then add the coconut milk and stock stirring to combine properly bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook for 10 minutes and then add your potatoes cook until potatoes cook for a further 15 minutes and add mushrooms, sweet corn and peas. Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add some peanuts if using and stir in some chopped coriander. Cook for a further 5 minutes and then serve with steamed rice.
All the way through cooking taste and adjust your seasoning I add more fish sauce generally and quite a lot of coriander…
But it is personal taste and that is what cooking is all about.
N.B Please note that on my sons recent visit to the UK he was asked to make this curry….His brother said my coconut milk always separates can you tell me why what am I doing wrong???
The coconut milk he was using was not 100% coconut milk which was why…All of ours is here and I was under the impression that the same brands were also in the UK…Not so!
Please check that what you are using is 100% and if it isn’t be very careful that you don’t allow it to boil as it will separate.
Lastly one of my favourites….
Aloo Gobi …Indian potato and cauliflower curry.
- 400g floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper or King Edward), cut into medium-sized chunks
- 1 large cauliflower , cut into florets
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp nigella seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 8 curry leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 2 small green chillies, pierced a few times
- 1 tsp golden caster sugar
- 1 lime , juiced
- small pack coriander, chopped
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
Tip the potatoes into a large pan, fill with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5-6 mins until starting to soften but still holding their shape. Drain well.
On a large baking tray, toss the potatoes and cauliflower with the spices and 2 tbsp oil. Season well and roast for 45 mins, stirring halfway through cooking, until the veg is soft and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pan. Fry the curry leaves and garlic for 1 min, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Add the tomatoes, chillies, sugar, lime juice and some seasoning. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 mins until the tomatoes have broken down.
Add the roasted veg to the tomatoes. Simmer for 5 mins, adding a splash of water if the curry gets too thick.
Stir through the coriander and serve with rice, warm naan bread and yogurt.
This is one of my favourites quite a dry dish and I usually use it as a side and if it just us halve the recipe.
I hope you have enjoyed these potato dishes and again thank you to Sally for letting me add my recipes to her very good advice on the benefits of the humble potato.
Just a bit of Trivia it is called Man Farang here…
And my thanks to Carol for another outstanding collection of recipes that are so easy to follow and we love to hear from you when you try them out.
About Carol Taylor
Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.
I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.
Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.
Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!
Connect to Carol
New additional Blog: http://myhealthyretirement.com/welcome-to-orienthailiving-my-first-post/
Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology.
Phuket Island Anthology: https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS
Please feel free to share thanks Sally
If you have missed previous posts in the Cook from Scratch series you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/cook-from-scratch-with-sally-and-carol-recipes/