Thursday, January 14, 2010
Picture the humble potato – such a perfect little package of pleasure. Fries, mash, hash brown, jacket potatoes, rosti, mmmm after delightful mmmm. It’s not hard to see why this tuber is the fourth largest food crop in the world. In fact, the spud is so popular that 2008 was declared International Year of the Potato (how’d I miss that memo?) It’s even got its own dedicated museum, seriously!
I could possibly go on and on about this vegetable but in a bid to curb verbosity I’ll just point out some of the more interesting trivia. For example, did you know that the potato comes from the same family as deadly nightshade/belladonna, henbane, tobacco and mandragora/mandrake. (Had to make sure I put that last one in as MC Senior is a mad keen Harry Potter fan.)
With such exciting relatives, it’s little wonder that the tame tuber actually possesses toxic potential. Potatoes contain compounds known as glycoalkaloids - one of which is solanine. Accidentally ingesting solanine can cause all manner of nasty symptoms, but actual death by potato is thankfully rare (I think). Interestingly enough, deep-frying potatoes can lower the glycoalkaloid concentration, so there’s your excuse the next time a chips/fries craving strikes!
The potato is also a pretty hardy vegetable, even managing to sprout in space. And of course, if you get bored of eating them, you can always make a potato clock.
We didn’t make a clock, but we made some pretend potatoes.
This idea is from one of my favourite little books: Quick and Easy Small Cakes by Kazuko Kawachi . I’d never really felt the need to make this zany treat although I’d always stop to admire the realistic looking “potatoes” when flipping through the book.
adapted from Quick and Easy Small Cakes.
(makes about 13 small “potatoes”)
1 cup mashed potatoes (from about 3 small potatoes – starchy ones, eg Sebagos, work best).
1 tablespoon thin cream
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt and cinnamon to flavour
Marzipan to cover (I used a 250g box)
More cinnamon to dust
Slivered almonds to decorate
Mix mashed potato, cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan over low heat to dry out. When cool, fashion small potato shapes and set aside.
Roll out marzipan thinly between two sheets of plastic wrap, cut out circles larger than the potato balls. Be careful not to overwork marzipan or handle it too much otherwise the marzipan can become oily. Wrap the potato balls in the marzipan, then dust with more cinnamon so that they look like potatoes. The best way to do this is one at a time in a very small bowl. Place the marzipanned shape in the bowl, dust with the cinnamon and shake the bowl until the cinnamon coats the marzipan potato.
Arrange seam side down on paper patty cases, and stick slivered almonds in randomly to form “eyes”.
Best served within a few hours of making as the mashed potato causes the marzipan to start “weeping” after awhile.
Honestly though, I don’t think I’ll make this again. It was just a bit too oddball for me. Hey, I’m not averse to veggies in dessert but neither the girls nor Mr. Kitchen Hand were taken with these. It was fun while it lasted though :)
Some potato links: