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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 20 October, 2018
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GIY: Get creative with delicious new potatoes using this Spanish tortilla recipe

Serve as a generous lunch or light dinner with a salad of peppery green leaves, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

THANKS TO THEIR hard-as-nails outer skins, squashes will store very well from harvest time (around October) right through to the following April which is an impressive six months.

They are an incredibly versatile and delicious veg to have around – equally at home in a salad, risotto, stew, roast, tart or quiche – and the bigger ones have a serious amount of eating in them.

I like growing all vegetables, but I love the ones that are sown once during the year and store well, so for example carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and so on. These are the real high-return crops, where it’s possible to become self-sufficient (or close to it) with a single act of seed sowing. Squashes fit this category also.

Easy to grow and store

So easy are squashes to grow, and so well do they store that I always find it strange that more commercial growers here don’t get in on the act, particularly with the more unusual varieties of squashes. Generally speaking most supermarkets only stock butternut squash (and usually imported ones) – it’s a shame they are not more adventurous because there are far sweeter and more flavoursome varieties out there.

My favourite of all squash varieties is the ghostly, grey-blue Crown Prince which despite its enormous size and pumpkin-like demeanour, has an incomparable sweet flavour.

It’s a good time of the year to sow squashes, so this week I got stuck in. If you sow too early, they will be ready for planting out too early, so around now is perfect. I am growing the squash varieties Crown Prince, Delicata and Uchiki Kuri, and the pumpkins Baby Bear and Vif Rouge d’Etampes.

Nuts on squashes

This year I am going a bit nuts on squashes on a relatively unpromising piece of land beside the big tunnel. I turned the soil, added plenty of compost, poultry manure pellets and seaweed dust and covered it all down with mypex to suppress weeds.

I am hoping to grow about 100 plants, and sell those we don’t use. If it sounds hare-brained, that’s because it is. Will report back soon.

The Basics – Pot up Courgettes, Squashes etc

This time of the year is all about managing the timing of when you plant seedlings out in the garden. Do it too early and the plants will be knocked back by night-time cold.

Do it too late and the plants become spot-bound’ – that is, they have grown too large for their container resulting in tangling of the roots (and possibly bolting issues later on). I’m still too suspicious of the weather to plant out relatively tender plants like courgettes and squashes – by potting them on in to bigger pots, you buy yourself a couple of extra weeks where you can keep them in doors.

I sow courgette, squash, cucumber and pumpkin plants in large module trays but they grow incredibly quickly and need to be put in to larger pots within two weeks or so. Simply pop the seedling out of its module, put a little compost in the base of a bigger pot, place the seedling in carefully and then fill it in with compost.

It pays to water the plants very well about an hour beforehand – the seedlings pop out of the pots much easier then – and of course you need to water again after you have finished potting them on.

Recipe of the Week – Spanish Tortilla

This week saw our first new potatoes from a January-sown crop in the polytunnel. It’s one of my favourite harvesting moments of the entire year. You don’t want to do anything fancy with the first harvest of new potatoes – a sprig of mint in the sauce pan when boiling them and then lots of good Irish butter and Bob’s your uncle.

For the second, third and subsequent harvests it’s time to get creative and keep the delicious spuds centre stage. This classic tortilla recipe from The Natural Cook (Tom Hunt) does exactly that. Serve as a generous lunch or light dinner with a salad of peppery green leaves. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 350g new potatoes, washed
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A pinch of sweet paprika
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

Cut any large potatoes in half so all the pieces are roughly the same size. Bring to the boil in a saucepan of salted water, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until just soft.

Drain and cool, then dry, cut into cubes and fry in a good glug of the oil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Keep turning to ensure a good all-round, golden, crisp skin. When ready, sprinkle with paprika and salt and set aside.

Slowly saute the onions for 15-20 minutes in light olive oil until they are very soft. Add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the onions to the potatoes and allow the whole lot to cool. Now add the eggs and mix, crushing the potatoes a little as you do so. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a deep 15-20cm frying pan with a good splash of the oil. When it begins to smoke, pour in the egg mixture. Reduce the heat to its lowest and cook for 4-5 minutes, shaking the pan from side to side to prevent it from sticking.

When it is cooked halfway through, it is ready to turn. Flip the tortilla on to a large plate. Return the pan to the heat and slide the tortilla back into the pan, raw-side down. Shake from side to side again to make sure it isn’t stuck.

Using a wooden spoon, tuck the rough edges underneath to make them rounded, then cook for a further 5 minutes. Slide on to a plate and allow to cool.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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