Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon has been sampling more of Orkney's finest produce this month. Keep reading to try her recipe for yourself.
No haggis served in Orkney is ever complete without clapshot, arguably the most famous dish from the islands. Now a widely adopted name for a mix of bashed or mashed tatties and neeps (swede, not the purple or green topped turnips), clapshot is a much loved and lauded dish which must be 'Just So' to get approval from locals. A recipe that I read on-line which added grated nutmeg and chopped chives drew derision - it should just be floury tatties, fresh neep, salt, pepper and loads of Orkney’s delicious butter.
No-one is certain where the name clapshot comes from but some think it is a nod to the noise of the masher in the saucepan being reminiscent of gunfire. The name started in Orkney and then spread through the Highlands. The traditional way to cream mashed potatoes is with hot milk (it always gives a better result than cold) but adding milk to a mix of tatties and neeps simply makes to loosen a mixture. What better reason - or excuse - can there be to stick purely to butter to mash the veg into the perfect clapshot texture?
Orkney has the soil and temperatures to grow the best in both neeps and tatties. In my blog about potato salad in July 2019 I talked about the fact that tatties were being eaten in Peru at the same time that Skara Brae was inhabited. Tatties are as Orcadian as the Neolithic (albeit an introduction from a completely different era) and William Shearer’s seed potato list is full of varieties especially suited to Orcadian summers. Some say that Golden Wonder is the ultimate clapshot potato but any floury spud will do the trick. I used Rooster, one of the most popular varieties on sale from Doull’s or The Trading Post, my local village shops in St Margaret’s Hope, for my clapshot.
Pick the right variety of seed and Orcadian neeps can grow to the size of small footballs without becoming at all woody. Definitely not destined for the serried rows of supermarket veg, these underground members of the brassica family are best frosted before use for a slightly sweeter flavour. I’m a one-pan-if-possible sort of cook, especially when serving clapshot in the most Orcadian of ways with haggis and mince, to keep the last-minute washing-up to a minimum.
This simple dish is as much a part of Orcadian life as the wind.
For that reason, I start the cooking with the tatties in a pan of water to be brought to the boil, and then add the neep in smaller dice to the same pan once the potatoes have come to the boil. This gives a perfect texture when both are just cooked for the mashing as there should be a little texture to the finished dish - but not like the school lumpy mashed potato of old.
Clapshot is always served freshly mashed from the saucepan, and never browned in the oven like creamed potatoes.
You don’t need quantities for this recipe. You simply need good floury potatoes and a fresh firm neep - not one that has gone soft with age. You need roughly one third neep to tatties. A little more is fine but certainly not as much as half and half - and no less than a third either: neeps give much of the flavour to this dish (along with that Orkney butter, of course!) The correct ratio for flavour, colour and texture is of paramount importance.
Peel the tatties and neep. Cut the tatties into good sized pieces for boiling and add to a pan of cold water, then cut the neep into dice about half the size of the tatties. Bring the tatties to the boil, cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the neep. Bring to the boil again then cover and simmer for 15-20 mins until just soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain, then mash with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper and as much butter as your conscience will allow. Don’t over-mash - you need to be able to see flecks of the neep. Serve straight away with haggis (I usually bake mine in the oven wrapped in foil) and mince for a truly Orcadian feast.
Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.
Rosemary also writes and vlogs about whisky and is particularly interested in whisky and food matching. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and on her rosemarymoon.com and myorkneylarder.com websites.
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