I have very little to say about potatoes, but this is usually because my mouth is too full of them to say much of anything about anything.
I honestly wish I were Irish so that I could claim some sort of deep-rooted cultural reason for my almost impossibly obsessive relationship with potatoes. But I’m not. So… bugger.
Instead, I offer:
a) I like potatoes like a German nudist enjoys comfortable shoes. And being naked.
b) I like potatoes like a 14 year-old girl from Sandton likes writing text messages that end with ‘omg lolz u bitch’.
c) I like potatoes like the French enjoy being moody and dismissive about anything they didn’t invent.
d) If asked whether I’d like to have sex or a potato, I’d actually have to think about it.
e) If I were to suddenly become a one-person political party – I’m pretty sure my election manifesto would revolve around the compulsory eating of mash and gravy.
f) Smash is not a potato, and anyone who thinks otherwise should go and attempt that thing where crazy Mexicans dive off cliffs to prove manhood – but, like…without practicing or anything so vaguely concerned with personal safety.
So it’s no surprise then that the other night I was tooling around with a cupcake tray (you know…as one does), and trying to figure out if it could be used to make some sort of shortcut to a potato noisette-type affair. Needless to say, you leave me in the kitchen for an hour or two with a couple of potatoes, a bottle of wine and Miles Davis being ridiculously and unfathomably talented in the background, and I’m going to come up with something.
It’s simple, quick and you know…it has potatoes in it, so what’s not to love?
Potato and leek cupcakes (for 2)
3 large potatoes (peeled)
2 leeks (finely sliced)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp chopped thyme
What to do
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, boil the potatoes until a sharp knife passes through them easily. Drain the water, and quickly – before too much of the heat is lost – add the chopped leeks, mustard, thyme, butter and some salt and pepper.
With either a ladle or a potato masher – gently mix everything together gently crushing the potatoes as you go. Your aim isn’t to mash them, but rather to make a soft, chunky, buttery mix.
Pop on the lid, and let this steam for about twenty minutes.
Heat your oven to 180º Celsius, and lightly grease up a cupcake tray with butter. Spoon in the potato mixture into the cupcake moulds, pressing it down so that it’s compacted nicely. Brush with olive oil, stick them in the oven and bake until the tops are golden brown.
Once they’re cooked – turn them out and serve with a nice girl in a strappy top (or smoked salmon with coriander aioli – like in the picture) .
It’s grassy, but you can drink it.
So, the other thing that’s happened in the time I’ve been on the quiet side – was that someone thought it’d be an excellent joke to put me on a list for another tasting of estate wines, alongside people who really do know what they’re talking about (I guess the lovely @KathrynWhite_za thought the comedy-value of me saying ‘yah bru – it tastes like my dad’s diesel lawnmower’, while sitting next to someone who’s just made an elegant and insightful comment about cool-climate vineyards, would off-set any potential loss of her reputation).
The result was a lovely evening hosted by the beautiful and uncondescendingly knowledgeable @giselabean held at The Attic restaurant’s newly revamped bar section (a massive improvement) in Johannesburg. It was basically so that a couple of folks could taste the range of wines from the La Vierge estate, while simultaneously in Capetown, Pretoria and Amsterdam some other people, with probably more ironic pants and better haircuts than me, did the same.
So, it was about two wines in, and I was grappling with the onset of the whites, when something struck me (warning, this sounds like something Portentous and Important is coming. It’s not). You see, the interesting thing about accidentally learning more about this stuff because some practical jokers think it’s funny to get me to explain myself with a mouth full of Pinotage, is how readily comparisons with other unexpected bits of life come to mind. The very first time I lifted to bonnet of a car I actually owned – what was underneath might as well have been a conceptual sculpture made of old bits of a shoe factory, designed to ‘express the complex emotions associated with being bullied on the playground aged 7’, for all I actually understood what the fuck was going on in there. However, a couple of years later – and mostly because I’ve spent a lot of time broken down on the side of the road trying to figure out why it’s not working again, and having my long-suffering mechanic swear at my ‘pile of shit’ (as he affectionately calls my beloved jeep usually while hitting it with a hammer), trying to explain to me what’s gone wrong this time – what’s underneath my bonnet has started to look less and less like that conceptual sculpture, and more and more like what it actually is: a complex puzzle of parts and machinery that all connect and feed each other with a specific and logical purpose that, in concert, all contribute towards a machine which can be a pure, humming expression of speed, freedom and human ingenuity when experienced at its highest level.
This is coincidentally also how I feel about white wine.
Wow, seriously? That indulgent paragraph about car engines and all you get is a crappy sentence about white wine? I’d ask for my money back if I were you. Seriously, I could have said that whole wanky paragraph like this:
The more you’re forced to look at something, inevitably the more you’ll understand it – even if by accident. Oh, and my car breaks down a lot.
Oh well. Moving on
Alas it’s true. In the beginning of my narrow existence, white wine just tasted like water that had gone sour. And, because I didn’t really like it much, I didn’t bother to take it any further. As a result I can’t tell a Riesling from a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc or from an actual cup of sour water. To me, they all just taste like…’white wine’. Yes, one might be “grassy”, and the other “with a hint of honey and melon” – but that’s about it really. However, after being exposed to the three whites on offer from LaVierge; a Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and actually walking myself through each of the experiences – the characteristics, or at the very least the emergence of those distinct characteristics in my brain – started to register. Which is, I guess, the point.
In this case, the Riesling – with it’s appealing mineral quality, Chardonnay – faintly wooded, fresh and light, and Sauvignon – crisp and cleansing – started to actually work.
Don’t get me wrong, my heart still belongs to red – but at least I don’t make a face like a five year-old being offered a vegetable when someone puts a glass of Chenin in front of me.
So thank you La Vierge – both for that – and allowing me to pose rather drunkenly with a bottle of wine called Nymphomane. Which I include for your viewing pleasure.
Oh – and if anyone’s interested, here is the experimental twitter stream I put together trying to review wines in the style of a Sunday World headline.