After some unseasonably fine days earlier this week, when peering despondently into my wardrobe caused me to struggle to remember just what it was that I wore in the warm weather, icy rain has descended on our hill again and my thoughts have turned to comfort food. Coming from bog- Irish stock, there is nothing I find more comforting that potatoes (oh, and chocolate of course) and while they really are a versatile, all-seasons type of vegetable they lend themselves well to calorie rich, rib-sticking winter dishes.
Potatoes were introduced into Europe by the Spanish in the later part of the 16th century. They brought them back from the America’s where they had been domesticated between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. The humble spud endured a poor reputation in Europe, being considered only really fit for pigs and not becoming a staple until later in the 17th century in Ireland, significantly later in England and the Netherlands and not becoming universally accepted until the 19th century. Here in Australia potatoes are harvested pretty much all year round, with their peak harvest times in South Australia being from December to May.
Potatoes still get a lot of bad press, with their high carb content being held responsible for weight gain, but I never, ever grow tired of them or of finding different ways to enjoy them. Growing up in my culinarily challenged home we had them baked, boiled, roasted mashed or chipped and they accompanied every meal. Fortunately the wonderful spud is a popular ingredient in cuisines from all around the world (with the obvious exception of Asia) and, while I firmly believe butter and cream will always enhance potatoes, it is also nice to check out a few new ideas.
If you are looking for some spice ideas to tart up potatoes you might try adding one or some of the following – basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, fenugreek, dried chilli, cumin or turmeric. If you really want to spice things up you might like to try this recipe I have borrowed from the pages of the Best Ever Indian Cookbook (published by Hermes House). Big on flavour, but low in calories, this is a simple dish and the perfect weekend meal for the lazy cook – er, that would be me, I think. The amounts of spices used in this may be a bit modest for some so they could be beefed up a bit if desired. Ricotta could also be used in place of cottage cheese.
Potatoes Stuffed with Spicy Cottage Cheese
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1/2 ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp mixed onion & mustard seeds
- 3 curry leaves
- 2 tbsp water
- Preheat oven to 180C. Wash potatoes & pat dry, prick each with a fork and wrap in foil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, or until soft.
- Put the cottage cheese into a heatproof dish, set aside.
- In a separate bowl mix tomato paste, cumin, coriander, chill & salt.
- Heat oil in a small pan, add mixed seeds and curry leaves and tilt pan so that oil covers the seeds and leaves.
- When the curry leaves darken and the aromas begin to rise, add the tomato mixture and water and cook on a low heat for a minute or two. Add to the cottage cheese and stir well.
- Split the cooked potatoes and fill with the cheese mix, serve with a salad for a light meal.
Number of servings (yield): 4