The dish’s origin lies in the firesides and kitchens of Ulster’s farmhouses, where the potatoes would be bashed in a wooden pestle, known as a “beetle.”
The origin of its name is less clear. It’s assumed to come from Ulster–Scots, the language that evolved between locals and settlers from Scotland. The meaning is found in the Scottish borders referring to a stretch of ground that is trodden into a bog-like state. However, the Scottish National Dictionary states that it holds the same meaning in English “to crush with the teeth, munch”. Either way it makes sense that the potatoes are mashed!
Purists would have champ enjoyed by itself, in a large bowl, in front of the fire. More often than not, nowadays, it’s enjoyed alongside meats, such as sausages or baked ham, or alongside a stew or braised lamb shank, with some other veg on the side. That meat and two veg stereotype among the Irish is still going strong but hey if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right!?
Also as people’s tastes and diets change so too has this dish. Below we provide the traditional champ menu and some modern twists you might like to try.
- 1 kg potatoes
- 1 ½ cup chopped scallions (spring onions)
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Salt to taste
- Boil the potatoes in salt and skin them.
- Dry them or put them back in the pot to ensure water evaporates.
- Mash well.
- Simmer the chopped scallions in the milk for a couple of minutes and add the butter into the mixture.
- Add the scallion, milk and butter mixture into the mash potatoes and mix.
- You can add extra milk but ensure the mixture does not become too moist.
- If needed, reheat until it is nice and hot.
- Some other ideas
- Replace the butter with olive oil for a healthier option.
- Add more spices sparingly. The beauty of Champ is its simplicity.
- Use normal white onions if finding scallions proves difficult.
- Grate some delicious Irish cheddar cheese over the top.
H/T to My Secret Northern Ireland.