Today, I would like to tell you about the time I kept a New Year’s resolution all the way into August. Yes, eight months. No fails.
As you might guess, this resolution had nothing to do with exercise, weight loss or budgeting, all of which have a low success rate beyond February 1. No, this is about the year I pledged — from the bottom of my heart and my stomach — to eat more spuds.
Why the potato, you ask? What better vegetable to celebrate in the depths of a Prairie winter than the hardy, tenacious tuber sitting stoically in the cold room, eager to sprout forth at the first joyous rays of spring.
As a garden vegetable, the potato thrives in our northern climate; perhaps if I ate more potatoes, I reasoned, some of that northern vigour would rub off on me. Also, the potato is the only vegetable for which my province (and my family) is pretty much self-sufficient, which is reason enough to eat more. Finally, though born in the high mountains of Peru, the potato has successfully travelled the world, inspiring a cornucopia of world recipes from curry aloo to vichyssoise. Since I am not a fan of plain old (boring) mashed potatoes, I would rely greatly on this culinary versatility like an armchair traveller whose armchair has been pulled up to the dinner table.
To kick off the year of the potato, I devised a menu for New Year’s Eve with potatoes in every course. The appetizer included blue potato pakoras, a delicious deep-fried snack from India made with grated potato and besan (chickpea flour), along with a Spanish omelette of fingerling potatoes, red peppers and eggs. For the main course, I served roast chicken with a side of tartiflette, a lovely alpine concoction of sliced potatoes, bacon and cheese. For dessert, I made mashed potato chocolate chip cookies, then we toasted the new year with a bracing shot of potato vodka. I went to bed confident it was a New Year’s resolution that would stick — at least to my ribs.
Then came August. And with August came spudnuts. As the name implies, spudnuts are doughnuts made with potatoes as a main ingredient. They are a specialty of the Saskatoon summer fair, held every August, having been introduced decades ago by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who sold spudnuts as a fundraiser. The local love of spudnuts has since outgrown the capacity of church volunteers. Nowadays, exhibition park employees handle the job, making 45 batches of 200 spudnuts every day of the fair. That’s a lot of potatoes.
Originally made with mashed potatoes, modern spudnuts can also be made with potato flour, instant mashed potatoes and even pre-packaged mixes. The potato makes a doughnut that is lighter and fluffier than those made with flour alone. But I like this old-fashioned version, which is undoubtedly my favourite way to eat mashed potatoes.
As August rolled into September, fortified with spudnuts and a fresh harvest of spuds, I had no problem sticking to my New Year’s resolution to the very last day of the year. At which time I made a new resolution to eat more beans.
- 1 packet yeast (2-1/4 tsp.) 1/4 c. warm potato cooking water
- 1 c. mashed potatoes 3/4 c. warm milk
- 1/4 c. melted butter or vegetable oil
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 to 4 c. all-purpose flour Vegetable oil or lard for deep frying
Dissolve yeast in warm potato water and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in mashed potatoes, warm milk, butter or oil, sugar, egg and salt. Add 3 cups flour and knead 8 to 10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth dough that is not sticky. Place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough to oil all sides, cover with a tea towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Punch down and rise again until doubled. Roll dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut with a doughnut punch. Alternatively, you can cut the dough into circles (with a cookie cutter or a glass) and work a hole in the centre with your fingers. Let spudnuts sit and rise for 15 minutes. Heat vegetable oil or lard at a depth of 2 inches to 360 F. Working in batches, fry spudnuts until golden brown, turning to cook both sides. Place cooked spudnuts on paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with sugar or glaze with vanilla icing.