Friday, 18 May 2012

Cheap 'n' greek 'n' frugal: Potato mash (Πατάτα πουρέ)

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.

At the supermarket in a small town in Holland, I was astounded to see so many packets of potatoes in the fridge section. The potatoes were all ready to be cooked. No dirt, no skin, no eyes, just pure white raw potato gleaming in the packet, cut in all shapes and sizes. Similarly, in the home of my London friends, the only potatoes to be found were the bagged ready to heat and eat type.

If you peel potatoes and don't place them in water, they lose their white colour. The surface will turn a dirty grey and the potatoes will look rotten and wholly unappetising. Something must have been placed in those packagings (or the potatoes will have undergone some kind of treatment) that allows them to remain lily white.

As yet, I haven't got myself round to picking up bags of ready to cook potatoes. It doesn't sound natural or even cost-efficient. Since the Potato Movement started in Greece, the potato has dropped in price considerably. Nevertheless, Cretan supermarkets stock mainly ready to cook potatoes, some in the form of fresh boil-in-the-bag (cleaned, with their jackets, from France), as well as frozen potatoes cut as chips that are ready to fry or seasoned potato chunks that go into the oven as is. Potato mash powder is also widely available, even though potato mash is very easy to make.

I had a delicious mash flavoured with spicy horseradish mustard at the Ladywell Tavern in London, with leek and onion slivers incorporated into the mash, which I wanted to recreate in my own kitchen.
Gravy is not a Greek culinary phenomenon. My rudimentary gravy was made with a piece of leftover lamb roast, mashed into a water-and-oil mix. The sausages  
You need:
600g of potatoes (~ 0.30 cents)
1 teaspoon of mustard (optional - you can buy really good cheap Greek ones now)*
1-2 glugs of olive oil*
salt and pepper*
a few slices of crisp-fried onion*

Mustard made in GR, NL and F (left to right)
Peel the potatoes (for a cleaner whiter look to your mash; if you boil them with the jackets on, the potatoes will discolour slightly on the surface). Cut into even medium-sized chunks and place in a pot with plenty of water. Make sure there are at least 5cm of water above the top of the potatoes. Boil till tender.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them well and place them in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard and seasonings, and blend all the ingredients with a fork till the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Finally, mix in the onion.

Bread isn't really necessary with this meal, but bread is never missing from the traditional Greek home. While in Germany, we bought some Krakow sausages (the packet contained 5 for €5.95). 

Mash can be eaten on its own, drizzled with some lemon juice and olive oil. It makes a good evening meal. My kids especially like it after they come home from their basketball sessions. As a lunch meal, it's perfect with sausages (LIDL sells good quality cheap Greek-made German-style sausages). And some more crispy fried onion (slice them in thin rounds and cook them in a frying pan with very very little olive oil, stirring constantly until they become crispy).   

Total cost of the meal for four people: about €3, together with the sausages; about 75 cents per serving.

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