Thursday, January 23, 2014

On the Maltese Derby Potato

My definition of 'local' has significantly changed since I decided to live on an island that is roughly 316 km² (or 122 m² for the folks back home). While the country is a big importer for the various ethnic groups that reside here (the Brits with their tea, the Italians with their espresso, and the plethora of processed goods from all over), the average market holds more local goods than I have ever seen indoors. They sell fresh spinach by the bags, looking freshly picked with soil in the roots and a chance of a snail or two.

At certain times of the day throughout the week, trucks will park with a wide selection of produce to sell. You see potatoes, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, greens, local and imported fruits, cactus pears, eggs, and so much more. As I continue learning about the agriculture in Malta through my internship, I’m starting to understand what goes on behind the scenes, and that the island (much like local farms in the United States) struggles with the competitiveness of cheaply imported goods. It’s surprising, really, because the quality and price of the local foods are much more affordable, easily traceable, and in my opinion, more delectable. 

Since locality is more prominent in the supermarkets, sometimes products will be out of stock until the next shipment. Take rabbit, for example. It took me a number of weeks before I was in a butcher’s shop at the right place and time. On the other hand, local potatoes are always in demand and in supply.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Maltese Derby Potato is an amazing potato. Maybe it's an Irish thing to like potatoes as much as I do, and I definitely have gotten on board with eating the MDP at least twice a week.  It reminds me of the yellow potatoes back in the States, but not as waxy and significantly butterier in taste. It isn’t particularly floury like the Russet/Idaho potato, but it seems like the MDP would be best prepared by roasting, pan-frying, and mashing, and holds its shape in stews. It’s a very good potato species, a close second to my preference for sweet potatoes when I don’t want rice, quinoa, or corn.

Maltese Inspired Home Fries

25 g Butter, salted (easily substituted for a non-animal based fat like olive oil or coconut oil)
2 Onions, finely diced
1 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
7 medium/ 1000 g Maltese Derby potatoes, cubed
1 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. Sage
1 tsp. Cumin
1/4 tsp. Rosemary
75 g fresh spinach leaves, cut into thick slivers

Toppings (optional):
Parmesan cheese
Fresh Basil and/or dill
Poached eggs

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter on medium heat.
Toss in the onion and garlic cloves and cook until slightly transparent.
Add the potatoes and cover with the lid, checking and stirring intermittently to avoid burning on the bottom.
When the potatoes have softened, add in the remaining ingredients and turn off the heat.
Cover the lid to allow the spinach to wilt.
Serve warm with your choice of toppings.

Makes 4 servings.

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