Tag Archives: Superquinn

Cooking The Blues

Health, history, novelty – but what do they taste like? Ernie Whalley cooks the Blues

Many of the original potatoes first introduced to Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries have long since disappeared. Today, a handful of commercial varieties remain. However the Keogh family, who have farmed in North County Dublin for the past 200 years have re-introduced some of these rare and ancient varieties by developing seed from old agricultural archives. Each Heritage (as they term them) variety has an original colour, shape and taste – Blue potatoes, which were first grown here in the 1900’s, have a dramatic dark purple skin and the flesh within is deep blue, a colour it retains after cooking. Tom Keogh, from Peter Keogh and Sons reckons “The novelty factor of cooking blue mash or blue chips will raise many eyebrows at the dinner table. It is also a great way to get young children interested in eating potatoes.”

Recently, I received a sample box. I’ve come late to these violet and indigo wonders; it seems every food writer around has already been extolling their virtues. What virtues? The cynic might say “Well, they’re purple, aren’t they? So what?” But, bear with me…

Cook these potatoes and your guests will be eating a slice, or maybe a chip of history. Purple/blue potatoes have been linked to the Incas. Some say they were reserved for the king. People have speculated that the original potatoes brought back to Europe by (maybe) Columbus or (was it?) Sir Walter Raleigh were of this hue. I can just envisage the conversation:-

Elizabeth I: For godsakes, Walt. These things clash with my regal attire. Can’t you find some that tone with my new French robe? Green, yellow or something?

Raleigh: I can probably get white, your majesty.

Elizabeth: Do it, so. Begone.

(six months later)

Raleigh (bowing low, while doffing his hat with a flourish): Behold, your majesty. The white potato.

Elizabeth: Fool. These tubers are not white. They are a sort of muddy brown, with scab and big holes wherein some clumsy oaf has stuck a pitchfork. (To Burleigh, her chancellor, conveniently standing by at the head of a posse of tough looking dudes with shiny helmets and big spears) Seize him! Off with his head!!!

But, seriously, how do the purple spuds stand up to testing?

Well, they are not of the “Rush Queens, Pure Balls of Flour” ilk. Texturally, the purple spuds are, if not quite ‘waxy’, grainy or mealy, more like. ‘Compressed porridge’ was what came to mind when I baked them in their jackets. Roosters have nothing to fear. Roasted, they don’t have a deal of flavour – nothing to wean me off the Golden Wonder or the Kerr’s Pink, both of them fluffy within and crisp-crusted without. They make decent chips – with the caveat that the purple/blue hues metamorphose to mottled brown and navy. havern’t tried mashing them yet.

Novelty value apart, there is one very good reason for eating blue spuds. The strong blue colour is the same anthocyanin that gives blueberries, blackberries and aubergines their distinctive tints, a powerful antioxidant which protects cells from damage and so may inhibit certain cancers, heart disease and muscular degeneration.

So far as aesthetics go, perhaps the most sympathetic deployment would be as potato salad, cutting the boiled or steamed tubers into wedges and mixing with small, whole white salad potatoes (varieties like Charlotte or Nicola) would make for an appealing contrast in shape and texture. Some chopped scallions and a bulb of raw fennel would add bite and crunch, alternatively a handful of blanched mange tout. Potential for a “Wow!” factor at a dinner party here.

Currently my favourite salad dressing – and it works as well for potato as for green salad – is a 6:1 blend of good extra virgin olive oil and WHITE balsamic vinegar, with a scattering of chopped chives and thyme leaves, a little salt and a good grind of fresh black pepper. Of the white balsamicos the Belazzu brand is especially piquant (I get mine in Greenacres of Wexford but other good delis stock it). Another potato salad dressing I like is a 50/50 blend of homemade mayonnaise and Greek yoghurt.

Keogh’s Heritage Blue potatoes are now available exclusively in Superquinn stores nationwide from for a limited period, priced €2.99 for a 1kg box.

So it Goes… this week's decent drinking

SQ French Wine Sale shows they’re back on track

sq-botts-0909When I saw the press release (it was some time ago) proclaiming that Richard Moriarty was installed as the new wine buyer for Superquinn I was wholly euphoric. “Yes!” I said, “strange appointment, but the man does have his own winery, I suppose that’s the connection.” Imagine my chagrin when I realised that what was Ireland’s most niche supermarket (until the Celtic Tiger ushered in the like of Fallon & Byrne and Donnybrook Fair) had appointed as their new vinous supremo, not the Newport Beach, CA-based bon viveur, the guy responsible for the notorious ‘Pimps, Hookers, Drug Dealers and Lawyers Ball’ and other bacchanalian affairs, not the man who nailed a whole Lamborghini to his living room wall but some other Richard Moriarty. Dammit, I was looking forward to the press gigs!

Superquinn made a bright start with wine back in the late eighties, exhibiting a representative selection from Europe that extended beyond the classic regions – they were probably the first people to tell us that there was a world of Spanish wines beyond Rioja. An initial aversion to centralised buying brought some personality to the wine shelves of individual branches. Their French collection was, for a long time, impeccable.

Then, as happens, they lost their way. Around the turn of the millennium the other supermarkets had caught up good style. Superquinn, always a little tardy in latching on to the excitement coming out of newer regions, seemed to retrench and get stuck in a time-warp. About five years ago you’d find their shelves stuffed to glory with the produce of minor French chateaux, frequently from dodgy vintages. Every day you opened your mail Superquinn were holding a French sale to clear stocks. Untrue, of course, but that’s what it seemed like.

It’s heartening to be able to report that, since the appointment of the other Monsieur Moriarty, a young wine trade professional, the Superquinn star is on the ascent again. Indeed, the impact made by this guy could hardly have been exceeded by his Californian namesake, except maybe the press tastings would have been a tad hairier and maybe more fun.

Last week I received five samples. Four of them spoke of the new SQ. Starting with the cheapest, the Superquinn Cotes du Rhone 2007 is a complete and utter steal for €7, as my good buddy Martin Moran has already mentioned elsewhere. Les Vignerons des Esterzargues are one of the better co-ops and here, to order, they’ve produced a syrah/grenache blend with a vibrancy and a full-on fruit flavour that would skittle an assortment of New Worlders at nearly twice the price. At the same time they are bang in the idiom – this is a Rhone wine.

Even nicer, for another euro, to my mind is the (dreadful pun) ‘Chat en Oeuf’ 2007, €8, zippy and mellifluous at the same time, with a deal of joyous Grenache and a wee top-up of Syrah for backbone. Chateauneuf it’s not – quite. But, like it’s Syrah-based cousin it’s right on the money and a smidge more. I wasn’t surprised to glom the back label and see the steady hand of my old Mancunian mucker Paul Boutinot. We have a mutual friend, Paul Rook, last seen flogging dog food from a market stall, alas. In his wine trade days he had a spectacularly sharp palate and a vinous vocabulary that extended to only four words. Wine, he avowed, was either “crap; sound; or fucking sound” and if Rooky said a wine was “fucking sound” you could order a case in the certainty that it would delight. Well, Chat en Oeuf is fucking sound.

The third and fourth wines were both whites, again French. Ch. Cabannieux 2007 is a Graves, a Semillon/Sauvignon blend, a style currently about as fashionable as a denim boiler suit. God only knows why. This wine has been knocked down to nine euro in Superquinn’s sale and for that price would see off any of the tarnished pennies I tasted at the Chilean extravaganza the week before last. Decent gooseberry and citrus fruit and a total absence of horrid green pepper. Good, easy drinking and greaty value at €9, sale price..

The other white, a Pouilly-Fuissé (ah, there’s the bloody acute key combo!) is, for me, a bit of a star. Just to show you that France isn’t all 80 Gauloises-a-day horny-handed sons of toil, the savvy producers of Domaine du Roure du Paulin have hung a natty label round the bottle’s neck; this tells you the grape is Chardonnay, in fact it says CHARDONNAY – traditionally produced and partially matured in oak barrels’, all the buzzwords. Rounded, surprisingly sophisticated, this sample stayed to dinner. €14 in the Sale, steal!

The last wine, alas, seemed in contrast, a bit of a lemon. I have a soft spot for red Graves, or Pessac-Leognan as you must call it these days. Ch Haut Brion was the first first growth I tasted and I have fond memories of rescuing bottles of Smith Haut-Lafite from the river that was, only the day before, the high street during the East Molesey floods in 1968. So shame that Ch.Haut Lagrange 2004 doesn’t cut the mustard. The essence of this region is that, at best, it produces wines that are extravagantly perfumed, that have the schnozz quivering with anticipation. On the palate, you trade off a little body for a lot of elegance. The aftertaste remains with you, powder dry in the mouth, with a hint of rose petal. That’s what I get, anyhow. The 2004 vintage was uneven in quality and even the best wines I found lean, ‘interesting’ rather than ‘opulent’. This one was thin on fruit, not particularly tannic but… what’s the word? Ah, yes, “boring”? Not quite. ”Joyless, then”. Spot on. If Sibella has to wrestle the sample off me in case I drink the whole bottle it’s good wine. Here I wasn’t even tempted.

Call me a conspiracy theorist but this wine is bog standard yesteryear Superquinn. Do they have a deal of it still to shift? Ah yes, it’s half price in their sale, €25.99 down to €13. I’d warrant the well-made Medoc, Pey du Pont 2006, is nicer for €12.

Still, four out of five ain’t bad. In fact it’s very good. Young Mr.Moriarty’s sophisticated palate and obviously smart buying skills have put SQ back on track. And in their French Wine Sale Catalogue I spied a whole heap of further goodies. A really tasty Cairanne for €9, The SQ Sancerre, €13, if you favour  this style it can’t be beaten for the money. The Alain Grangeon Chateauneuf… now that is a wine.

SQ Autumn French Wine Sale runs from Sep 16th – Oct 13th.