Irish potatoes are widely grown in the western and south western parts of Uganda. They are the world’s fourth most important staple food after maize, wheat and rice and are available in varieties of Victoria, Kisoro, Kabale, Rutuku and NAKPoT (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
They are widely loved and bring in a good value of returns to growers, traders and processors.
Although they have been traditionally consumed as boiled or as chips, Sarah Kengonzi, a cookery instructor at MTAC, says there are several ways to add value to potatoes to earn more in the way they are cooked. One can make different potato products. The tubers offer unlimited delicacies.
“Different varieties make different products and the long-growing tubers are more preferable as opposed to the round ones. Below are some of the different ways you can cook the Irish potatoes,” she says.
These are mashed potatoes rolled into small balls, dipped into beaten eggs then fried. You might also need ingredients such as grated carrots, ginger, coriander and lemon to flavour your cutlets.
To prepare the cutlets, you need to peel the potatoes, boil them for 15 minutes until they are soft, after which they are mashed. They are then dipped in eggs and shallow fried for five minutes until they are brownish in colour.
Bread crumbs are then sprinkled on the surface of the cutlets to make them more delicious. They can be served with fish or chicken.
To make them, peel the potatoes, chop into pieces and boil for 15 minutes until they are soft. Pound them until they appear paste-like.
Mashing potatoes is a popular way of serving potatoes with only salt and butter or cream. Grated garlic and white pepper can also be thrown in to the mix for a rich flavour. This dish can be served with beef or chicken stew.
Potato salad can be made in many different ways. Potatoes with a smoother skin do not require peeling while making salad.
To make the salad, boil potatoes for 10 minutes until they are a bit soft. Take care not to over boil as they will fall apart (as in mashed potatoes). Once they are ready, slice them into chunks using a knife and let them cool.
Put the chunks in a plate alongside sliced onions, and vegetables of your choice.
Boiled potatoes have a nice creamy texture once cooked. Wash the potatoes and chop into pieces before boiling for 15-20 minutes until the water is drained.
Boiling only requires salt for seasoning, but you can also include herbs such as thyme or garlic cloves and bay leaves or other spices to the cooking water to flavour the potatoes.
Steaming is different from boiling in that while the latter involves submerging the potatoes in water, in steaming, water is placed underneath the potatoes.
Once you have chopped your potatoes, put them in a pan, and add little water and use low heat to steam them. The pan is covered using a lid to ensure that the potatoes cook on steam for 45 minutes.
Potato varieties recommended for boiling are also good for steaming.
When grilling potatoes, you need to wrap the unpeeled tubers with a foil paper - after washing them. Put them on the grill for about 25 minutes. You can always find out if they are soft by using a folk or a knife.
Once they are ready, lift them out of the grill using a spoon and serve. Arizona, Asante, Tigoni and Tolica potato varieties are suitable for this meal.
Boiling and frying
In boiling and frying, peeled potatoes are chopped into sizable cubes and boiled in salted water for 10 minutes.
They are then drained and dried before being deep-fried in corn or vegetable oil for about 15 minutes until they are brown.
They are, thereafter, removed from the oil then left to cool. They can then be served just with juice, chicken tikka, fish fillets and fried beef.
To make potato soup, melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, add sliced onions and stir for eight minutes until they are golden brown.
Add mashed potatoes, water, salt, and pepper to the mixture and boil. Stir milk and bacon bits into the mixture and boil. Remove from heat and stir into soup.
Chips or French fries
To make French fries, potatoes are peeled, sliced and chopped to 1cm sizes. They are then washed, dried and parboiled (partially boiled), then drained and left to cool.
The chips are then blanched in a pan or fryer of oil at 155 degrees Celsius.
Remove them and let them cool. When you are ready to serve, fry them again in heated oil for two minutes at 185 degrees Celsius.
Markis, Ambition, Annet, Asante, Caruso, Connect, Jelly, Shangi, Rudolf, Sagita, Kenya Sifa, Kenya Baraka, Kenya Mavuno, Arizona and Asante Potato varieties are recommended for making chips.
Place potato slices into a large bowl of cold water as you slice them as thinly as possible. Once they are cleaned, soak them in salty water for at least 30 minutes, then drain them and rinse.
Thereafter, marinate (soak) them in a mixture of white vinegar to prevent the slices from disintegrating.
Heat oil in a deep fryer to 185 degrees Celsius, then dip the potato slices to fry. Once they start turning golden, remove and drain on paper towels. Continue until all of the slices are fried. Season with salt if desired.
Mix mashed potatoes, egg, flour, salt (if needed) and garlic salt inside a bowl. Sprinkle some cheese or butter onto the mashed potato cakes. Flatten the mashed lamps to about one inch thickness.
Melt corn or vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Drop pancake-size lumps of mashed potatoes into the frying pan.
Flip the potato cake over for 10 minutes so that both its sides are browned. All potato varieties suitable for mashing are also suitable in making cakes.
Potatoes take about four months to mature for harvesting; thus, can be grown twice a year. They are commonly grown in Kisoro and Kabale districts and are often intercropped with beans.
“Finding market for this produce is a big challenge, says Julius Ayebale a farmer in Kabale. This is because farmers do not sell the potatoes directly to consumers so the middlemen end up buying the potatoes at a cheap price from the farmers while exploiting the consumers who pay a high price.”
Potato prices depend largely on who is buying it, availability on the market and the sizes of the produce. Medium sized potatoes are sometimes counted and in Nakasero market, about 12 can go for Shs2,000.
Irish potatoes are one of the crops that never get out of season. A bag of Irish potatoes can be between Shs250,000 and Shs300,000.
The perfect baked potato is crispy on the outside and fluffy in the inside. One needs a fairly large potato for baking. The potato should be thoroughly washed but not peeled.
Small amounts of herbs such as rosemary and parsley are also needed to add flavour to the baked potato. You also need salt, sliced onions and white pepper for seasoning, and corn oil. You can also stuff the potato with beans, eggs, cheese or bacon.
The herbs and seasoning are then spread over the potato before corn oil is sprinkled liberally over the top.
Bake in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 40 to 45 minutes. Use a sharp knife or a fork to test if the potatoes are soft enough and use a spoon to lift them on to a plate. You can take the tubers with tea or stew.