I’d planned to publish this recipe to coincide with what should have been National Potato Day later this month at Ryton Gardens, an event usually held under a giant marquee at the home of Garden Organic. Unfortunately, Ryton is undergoing refurbishment and therefore not hosting the event this year, so I’m left to source my organic seed potatoes from elsewhere.
It’s one of the key crops on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, and since its introduction to the UK some five hundred years ago, the potato has become such an important part of our diet. It is susceptible to a number of pests, like slugs and wireworms, but the biggest single threat is blight, a fungus which, unchecked, can eventually destroy the crop.
I didn’t have any blight last year, which is unusual. But even when it does strike, if the grower acts quickly by cutting down and destroying infected haulms, the disease does not destroy the potato crop itself and there is absolutely no need or justification for chemical intervention.
However, commercial growers of non-organic potatoes spray their crops with fungicide on a routine precautionary basis, even before signs of blight become apparent. Typically, each non-organic potato plant will be sprayed between 10 and 15 times before the potato crop is harvested.
So unless you are partial to fungicide it makes sense to buy and use organic.
For this recipe I’m using one of the stored main crop organic varieties I grew on the Circus Garden last year. It’s called Setanta, a red skinned potato and a good “all rounder”.
I first came up with this soup a few years back when around a dozen family and friends came back to our house after a walk across the nearby Malvern Hills in freezing temperatures. We’d been unable to join them for the walk but were delighted that they had called by. They were in need of both heat and nourishment, and this quick soup ticked both boxes. It’s very easy to make but boy does it feel good as it goes down.
potato, rosemary and chilli soup
1 kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 onions, chopped
Leaves from 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, equivalent to a large tablespoon (use 1 tsp dried rosemary if fresh is not available)
2-3 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 litres vegetable stock
1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large cauldron or pan which has a lid. When hot add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the potatoes, rosemary, chilli, garlic and salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring continuously. Next, add the stock.
2. Place the lid on the pan and continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, by which time the potatoes will be soft and beginning to disintegrate. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly before processing in a blender (you will need to do this in batches).
3. Reheat the soup over a gentle heat, stirring frequently, and do not allow it to boil. Serve in bowls with good quality, preferably home made, bread.