Comber Early potatoes have arrived in the shops signalling that summer is officially here. This variety, like Jersey Royals, have protected geographic indicator status (PGI) meaning that they are unique to the particular area in Co Down that they come from. In France Champagne enjoys the same elevated status as does Stilton cheese.
These unique potatoes benefit from sandy soil and sea salty air which helps to create the soft skinned, tender textured potato that requires no more adornment than a dash of good quality butter or simple vinaigrette.
My grandparents grew Sharpe’s Express potatoes every year and I can still see my granda Jim slip his spade into the soil to reveal oval golden orbs. They were steamed and served with the ubiquitous salad of the time — ham, boiled egg, tomatoes from the greenhouse and lettuce from the garden. A jar of granny’s pickled beetroot would have been plonked unceremoniously on the table alongside salad cream. Most days I can’t remember where I left my car keys 10 minutes ago but this 40-year-old childhood memory is as clear today in my mind as if I had been sitting at that table last Sunday afternoon.
Smoking your own salmon needs nothing more than an old roasting tray, some woodchips and tin foil. Hot smoked salmon is lovely served with pickled beetroot, warm butter laden Comber Earlies and a dollop of hard to beat homemade salad cream. A souped-up version of the old classic.
The Italians make a simple bread call schiaccata and it lends itself really well to the addition of our lovely local potatoes. The base is simple — neither yeast nor kneading is required. Top with wafer thin slices of Comber earlies, brush with an infused oil and scatter over parmesan or local cheddar. Bake until bubbling and golden.
Sadly sales of this magnificent tuber are down in recent times, with consumers favouring rice and pasta as a result of the misconception that they are quicker to prepare and more nutritious. In reality a potato is naturally fat free, rich in vitamins C and B6 and fibre. A muck, caked potato, straight from the ground would gladden the hardest heart.
Comber Earlies have a limited season so cherish and eat them while they’re here.
Hot smoked salmon, pickled beetroot salad, Comber earlies & salad cream
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
What you’ll need
Hot smoked salmon
4 x 150g salmon escalopes
Oil for brushing
Brush the salmon with oil and season with salt. Line the bottom of a roasting tin with foil and place a rack on top. Place salmon on rack and cover the tin with foil. Place directly on a high heat — a barbecue is best or turn your extraction up high. Cook for 2 minutes then turn off and allow to rest. Place salmon on a baking tray and roast in a 200oc oven for about 6 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
For the Pickled Beetroot
2 large beetroots, peeled
1 red onion, finely sliced
75ml cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
Slice the beetroots as thinly as you can or coarsely grate. Place the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pan and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Pour over the beetroot and mix in the onion. Allow to pickle for a couple of hours before serving.
For the Salad cream
2 hard boiled egg yolks (chop the whites and add to the salad)
1 tbsp English mustard
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp Cider vinegar
150ml double cream
150ml Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
Salt to taste
Blend the yolks with the mustard, sugar, vinegar and cream until it starts to thicken. Add the oil in a steady stream until fully incorporated. Season to taste.
1kg Comber Earlies, scrubbed clean
Steam or boil until cooked through.Serve the salmon hot or cold with the beetroot, some leaves and the hot potatoes. Salad cream on side.
Schiaccata Bread with Comber Earlies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
What you’ll need
For the dough
250g self raising flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
150ml lukewarm water
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well.
Add the water and oil and mix to a dough.Place on a floured surface and flatten into an oval about ½ inch thick. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and set oven to 190oc.
For the topping
2 medium Comber Earlies
1 tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil or local rapeseed oil like Broighter Gold
50g finely grated parmesan
Scrub the potatoes clean and dry.
Slice as thinly as you can – preferably with a mandolin and spread all over the top of the dough.
Mix the rosemary, garlic and oil and spoon all over the potatoes. Scatter over the parmesan.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Slice and serve.