Champ – Bringing Back Some of Ireland with Me

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I had never heard of champ before asking about it in a quiet restaurant in Glenariff, Northern Ireland. It was listed as a choice of side dish alongside chips, crisps, and veggies. It turned out that it is a mashed potato dish with scallions and a few other things that I couldn’t hear her say.

Mashed potatoes?

In Ireland?

I’m there.

At first I thought it was colcannon, but champ originates in the North and is a Northern Irish dish, and it was delicious. 

It was also different than any of the country mashed I’ve gotten in the US (think Cracker Barrel with gravy) or any I’ve made myself. It wasn’t that I’d never thought of combining these ingredients together, but I was just used to the simplicity of mashed potatoes – butter, milk, salt, crushed under a masher until smooth – ish.

It wasn’t until I did a quick Google search that I saw how simple champ really is to make.

As for our masher, it is almost always at the bottom of the sink or at least it seems that way when I need to use it so I have a few alternative tools to use as mashing tricks.

Large forks are good mashers.

So are large spoons if applied with the right pressure.

And last, my most recent discovery, a copper one-cup measuring cup. This really did a great job.

For my version of champ, I washed, cut, and boiled about seven medium-sized potatoes. I did not peel them, but they can obviously be peeled if you prefer them that way. The ones we had at the restaurant were peeled. Their mash was a perfect creamy white.

After the draining and mashing, I added one stick of unsalted butter, about two tablespoons of salt, three scallions diced as finely as I could get them, and a scoop of sour cream. You could use more scallions if you like. I also didn’t use milk, but it could be added or used instead of the sour cream.

Just before the rest of dinner was ready, I added about 1/4 cup of shredded, sharp cheddar cheese. I used white to keep the color of the potatoes. The topmost photo was taken in bad lighting; I’ll have to correct that when I make them again.

Only the usual suspect (the picky eater) complained despite loving them abroad. Everyone else loved my rendition, and I’m sure they’ll make it into regular rotation.

AllRecipes has a recipe to follow if you like measurements. Usually, I do, but when I’m cooking (rather than baking) I like to gauge how it looks, feels, and tastes.

32/52 – Oatmeal Cookie Surprise

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We had a few minutes before our tour began at the Titanic Experience in Belfast, Northern Ireland and made the decision to preview the gift shop. It was one of those perfect tourist attraction shops that had ranges of items from keeping the peace with the children to native Irish crafts; with prices ranging from  £1 to over £100 for woollens. We took a quick look, made our mental notes of what we definitely wanted to check out, and began our tour.
On coming back down to the shop, the first think that I noticed were the two racks of postcards. After pins, postcards are where my attention goes. Behind those racks were three long shelves that helped to form the checkout line on the opposite side. This side held all manner of small foods – cookies, candy, chocolate, Guinness infused, Bailey’s infused, mints, tins, and the like.

I passed it by about ten times in looking around, and trying to see where my kids had gone, and what they were now begging for, but I kept coming back to the cookies.

I mean, Grace’s Irish Oatmeal Biscuits, made with Irish butter, in the shape of shamrocks – you can’t get much more touristy than that. They were £3. I know I could get biscuits in any grocery, but they wouldn’t be Irish made, shamrock shaped, tourist biscuits.

And £3 wasn’t a bad price for what they were. And the tourist in me really needed to get them.

Instagram, you know.

I bought them, I packed them, I took them home with the rest of my candy.

I finally sat down on a quiet afternoon, and opened the box. Carefully pulling apart the ends, separating the plastic wrapping, I didn’t expect much.

I took a bite.

I sat there, in stunned silence, and took another, smaller bite that I could savor a bit longer than the first.

These were the BEST oatmeal cookies I have ever tasted.

No lie.

The. Best.

I still have two left because I don’t want to finish them.

They’re just the perfect amount of butter, oats, and crunch.

They are truly heavenly.

My recommendation for anyone visiting anywhere in Ireland that sells these is to buy as many as you can squeeze into your suitcase.

Seriously.

30/52 – September

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​It used to be that September was known for Back to School, falling leaves, and colors changing. Even outside of the Northeast, that is the stereotype of fall and September.

Now, and for the last few years we have had what many call an Indian summer. It cools off just enough to lull you into plaid and flannel, and then Mother Nature turns up the thermostat. It’s warmer today than most days this past summer. The first week in September, just a few weeks ago, I thought I was still in Northern Ireland – bright, sunny, occasional rain, and seventy degrees max!

What happened September?

Still, I won’t be stopped from wearing my sweater and my favorite boots to kick around the leaves – red, gold, orange, and yellow, eating an apple right off the tree, or from drinking that often too hot apple cider.

If I stand in the shade, it might just feel like fall.

Books Recs for Rosh Hashanah

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I’ve mentioned before that I always read on the Rosh Hashanah holiday. I am currently either in the middle of or just about to begin three books. I’ll also include ones that I’ve finished recently.

1776 – by David McCullough

1984 – by George Orwell

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – by Trevor Noah

The Children – by David Halberstam

Cronkite – by Douglas Brinkley

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention – by Manning Marable

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet – by Lyndal Roper

Read my Pins – by Madeline Albright

The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

The Princess Diarist – by Carrie Fisher

The Zookeeper’s Wife – by Diane Ackerman