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It's the mashing that makes them smashing! Let's hear it for the humble potato.

Byline: KAT BALDWYN

Potatoes - we love 'em sliced, diced, chipped, pureed, roasted, boiled or mashed. Today marks the end of the first ever Potato Week, a celebration of the world's most popular vegetable and KAT BALDWYN discovers that Birmingham really is a city of potato lovers.

A SEVEN-day celebration of the humble spud has been held to recognise one of the world's most versatile ingredients that has had a presence on our dinner plates for more than 450 years.

Hosted by the Potato Council, the first ever Potato Week builds on the success of Potato Day, held in 2010, and aims to inspire the nation to make the most out of their tatties.

And according to findings released by manyfacesofpotatoes.co.uk - a website dedicated to the search for and sharing of potato recipes - people in Birmingham have their own unique approach, especially when it comes to mash.

A survey suggests almost half the people in the city have mash as a meal up to three or four times a week and ten per cent boasting of using five different mash recipes.

While most of the country agrees a smooth consistency is important, some Brummies (one in 17) like their mash lumpy, while half prefer it light and fluffy.

Forty per cent add a hard cheese like cheddar to their mash, while 12 per cent add spring onion.

Chef James Martin said: "This research shows how inventive people from Birmingham can be when it comes to transforming a simple recipe into a quick and tasty meal.

"Whilst mash has been a family staple for generations, with an exciting twist like salmon and cream cheese or Brie and sun dried tomato, it can be a tasty and modern meal the whole family will enjoy.

"With thousands of ways of preparing mash, most on the table in under half For mash get TV ads made robots a seventies an hour, it's no wonder it has been a family favourite for so long."

As part of Potato Week, James has also given his top tips for creating the perfect mash: * After mashing, always mix milk and butter into the potato with a wooden spoon. Using a blender will result in a gluey and waxy texture.

* Gently warm milk and butter before slowly adding and mixing it with the mashed potato to prevent lu mps.

* Invest in a potato ricer - they're cheap and result in smooth and fine mashed potatoes.

* Keeping the potatoes in larger pieces when boiling will mean less water is absorbed, giving you a tastier, richer, mash.

Smash: Simon Bull, marketing manager for the Potato Council, said Potato Week was a chance for everyone involved in growing, supplying, retailing and serving potatoes to educate and inspire consumers. He added: "We know that people ultimately love potatoes but we have a job to do to continue to build demand and consumption."

hit. One woman helping to promote the humble potato in Birmingham is Eleanor Hoad ,who hosted Edible Erdington Potato Day in February this year.

Edible Erdington is a project that has transformed three large brick planters on Erdington High Street into vegetable plots. Dreamed up by Eleanor, Erdington Art- i s t in Residence, the project has grown more than 60 different varieties of vegetables over the last year.

Erdington Potato Day saw a display of some of the 150 different varieties of potato available in the UK, free potato -themed food, a potato planting session, Favourite: Mr Potato and a chance to taste some of the high street harvest. Visitors were also able to enter The Great Erdington Potato Self Portrait Competition which gave them the chance to create a self-portrait using just a potato and a variety of craft materials. Eleanor said: "We of ten overlook the humble potato but they area great source of vitamin C and fibre and there are so many unusual varieties available that we hardly ever see in the shops. Potatoes are easy to grow at home in the ground or in containers, it's amazing how many you can grow even in small spaces."

Head. How do you make perfect mash? Send your recipes to kat_baldwyn@mrn.co.uk OUR SAY: PAGE 18 POTATO TIMELINE 1536 - The potato arrived in Europe 1609 - European sailors take the potato to China 1719 - Potatoes arrive in USA 1801 - First French Fries served in America 1845 - The Irish potato famine 1853 - Potato crisp invented in New York 1952 - 'Mr Potato Head' toy invented 1995 - The potato is grown in space 2008 - United Nations International Year of the Potato Ireland decimated by horrific famine BEGINNING in 1845 and lasting for six years, the potato famine killed more than a million men, women and children in Ireland and caused another million to flee the country.

Ireland's potato crop, the basic staple in the Irish diet, was devastated.

A few days after potatoes were dug from the ground, they began to turn into a slimy, decaying, blackish mass of rottenness.

The cause was originally thought to be static electricity or the smoke that billowed from railroad locomotives or the mortiferous vapours rising from underground volcanoes.

In fact, the cause was a fungus that had travelled from Mexico to Ireland.

"Famine fever" - cholera, dysentery, scurvy, typhus, and infestations of lice - soon spread through the Irish countryside.

Within five years, the Irish population was reduced by a quarter.

CAPTION(S):

A country scarred: The Irish Potato Famine. Favourite: Mr Potato Head. For mash get Smash: TV ads made these robots a seventies hit. Brummies' favourite feast: The West Midlands loves the versatile and healthy potato and, right, celebrity chef James Martin. The best of British: Tucking in to a mouthwatering pie and mash dinner.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 8, 2011
Words:952
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