Champ – The Food of the Gods!
I can honestly say with hand on heart that if I had to choose just one thing to eat from this moment forth it would be champ.
This is purely and simply the food of the gods. No ifs, ands or buts about it. This is food perfection.
There are many variations on this simple dish. Each household in Northern Ireland that makes it, makes it their own.
I have heard of people cooking the scallions, adding herbs and other things but I am adamant in my certainty that the way my grandmother made it was, and is, the definitive way. All other ways are poor imitiations.
But then it is true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
I am furthermore firmly of the opinion that champ is a complete meal in itself. Any additions, such as sausages or chops on the side, only detract from the sheer perfection of the divine creation that is champ.
My grandmother, as I have said, made the perfect champ and she taught my mother, and then me, how to create this magical dish.
It is simple, but requires dedication. There is no point starting this half heartedly. This is a meal best made when you are hungry. As in could eat the your own body weight in one sitting.
Champ deserves your full attention and an empty stomach.
That said, if you are willing to give it all your all, you will be rewarded. With a full stomach, a sense of deep contentment and a need to sit down and not move for several hours.
It is worth it.
Every bite is perfection.
My grandfather was a farmer, both arable and beef. He grew potatoes since ever my mother can remember. We used to dig them fresh for each meal. His potatoes were amazing. He was also very fussy about which potato suited each preparation. Champ requires a good floury potato, no waxy potatoes need apply.
I also have something to add at this point. I know that there are things to be said (by some people) for boxed dried potatoes. For me, they will never reach the standard of a real spud. But, after much discussion (I kid you not, there has been discussion on this) I will concede that for some people there are times when boxed potatoes cut it.
Yet, I can catagorically state they will never suffice for champ.
Champ, its very name, is the king, the champion of potato dishes. It deserves real potatoes, and nothing less.
I have gone on enough.
Finally, I am prepared to share my grandmother’s sacred recipe for this king of dishes. I know, selfless, but that’s just me.
- Potatoes – the “floury” kind – not waxy ones
Peel as many potatoes as you can without falling over in sheer exhaustion. Joking aside, you need about three decent sized potatoes per person and one for the pot.
Boil the potatoes until they are tender.
Drain and return to the pot, then dry for a few seconds on the heat.
Mash with a potato masher, or a ricer if you must. Never, ever, ever use a blender or mixer. That is just wrong.
Season with a dash of salt and a good sized knob of butter. Translate that as a knob of butter twice the size of that you think you need.
Mash the butter into the potatoes.
Pour some milk into the potatoes. You want a creamy consistency, but you don’t want slop.
This is my grandfather’s term, and it took me a lot of practice pounding the potatoes before he gave me his blessing saying that I finally knew how to pound potatoes properly.
That was a good day. 🙂
Pounding potatoes means mashing them until they are mashed to a creamy consistency and then keeping going, stirring occasionally with the masher and mashing some more. There cannot be a single lump allowed to exist. Pound it out!
Then add the chopped scallions and stir them into the creamy, mashed potatoes.
It is essential that all of this is done as quickly as possible so that when you pile heaping portions into the centre of each plate it is steaming hot.
Make a well in the centre and add a knob of butter that closes your arteries just by looking at it.
Then find somewhere comfortable to sit with a spoon and your plate full of deliciousness.
There is a prescribed way to eat this ambrosia. Just in case you hadn’t realised.
Dip your spoon into the well and scoop up some of the champ and melted butter. Eat it from the inside out. If there is a breach in the wall, as from time to time there may be, use your spoon to reform the volcano.
Enjoy every delicious bite.
I do. Lots!