Recipe: Champ

 Now, this really isn’t a recipe I expect any of my readers to rush right out and try but some of you, especially those of Irish descent, may find it interesting. ‘Champ’ is a rustic dish native to Northern Island that consists of little more than mashed potatoes mixed with green onions (scallions) and then served with lots of butter and salt. It’s the sort of concoction that would go very nicely as a side dish with a roast and other veggies, but its roots lie very much in the poorer corners of Ulster and many families would have made a whole meal of it. Nowadays, of course, it is eaten more for its appeal as a comfort food and it is a treat that I enjoy it very much. My wife, perhaps because she lacks any Irish blood, is not really keen on mashed potatoes in any form, but since she is away out of the country as I write this, I have whipped up a batch to enjoy alone…

A picture of the ingredients is perhaps not really necessary but you can definitely see the simplicity of the dish. The method for cooking it is just as plain…

Basically, you just boil up a bunch of spuds, mix in a goodly quantity of sliced scallions and some salt, and then serve with as much butter as your system can handle. Milk, or cream is sometimes added, and pepper, I gather, is a frequent accompaniment as well. Personally, I don’t think the latter is necessary and I rather suspect that in days past, pepper was not commonly found in the pantries of those who couldn’t afford the meat to go along side the spuds.

Back before the modern potato mashers found in almost all western kitchens today, Champ was pounded to a mash with a wooden, pestle-like implement known as a ‘beetle’ (indeed, another name for the dish is ‘Poundies’). I have never seen one of these myself, and when I tried doing and Internet search for ‘Champ Beetle’, all I came up with was images showing either tricked out Volkswagens, or people holding up extremely large and disgusting insects. I did, however, come across a little ditty I had heard before, and long forgotten. It goes:

“There was an old woman who lived in a lamp. She had no room to beetle her champ. She’s up with her beetle and broke her lamp, and then she had room to beetle her champ!”

Anyway, however you make it, it is very important that you eat it properly. Even though you might mix a little butter into the blend as you are mashing (or ‘beetling’, if you prefer), you need to add the rest after it is served. As you can see in the first picture, the eater makes a whole in his, or her, mound of champ and then fills it with butter. It is not to be mixed in… rather; you must eat from the outside in, dipping each forkful into the butter pool as you go. You may have to replenish this, of course, so have lots more on hand.

Well, as I say, I doubt that many readers will have a very strong urge to go out and eat a whole plateful of Champ, but, at the very least, the next time you are making mashed potatoes to go alongside a roast, or what have you, try adding a handful of chopped scallion to the mix. It not only tastes good, it looks very pretty as well…

18 thoughts on “Recipe: Champ”

  1. Some Irish neighbors introduced this dish to me AND I THOUGHT IT WAS FABULOUS. Once in a while you just have to go for all that butter. How lovely to be reacquainted with this huge indulgence. Virginia

  2. I must admit, when I saw the picture without knowing what it was, I went “Ewwww!” But then I read the actual description and recipe, and ZOMG it sounds awesome. I will be trying this very soon. 🙂

  3. I would dive into this plate head first. My Irish blood dictates this. My husband also is indifferent to mashed potatoes, which baffles me. He’s not Irish but he’s mostly German, and the Germans know their way around a potato too. So I don’t get it.

    This recipe makes a single serving, right???

  4. I think this sounds just wonderful! I love mashed potatoes adulterated with anything extra, but scallions would be a great taste. I’ve never heard of Champ and enjoyed the story! And I’m now hungry! Debra

  5. These sound a lot like a dish my grandmother used to make (see Ninny’s Crabcakes). She didn’t make the mound but she would put in individual dishes by our plates and pour melted butter over top. Thanks for this. Come and visit me again! Anyone who likes taters and butter is okay by me.

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