Champ by Oonah Joslin

Red Roosters were good, or blues, or Maris Pipers. When you couldn't afford meat, you ate champ - not that designer-chef stuff you see on TV nowadays as an accompaniment to chops. No. The only dinner you were getting was champ - and champ was the best.

No soldier, on detail, ever peeled and quartered so many potatoes, to minimise cooking time.

This was a labour of love, tossing the scalped tubers into cold water in the double handled aluminium pot - testing for, 'mashability,' once boiled. When the magical moment was reached, they were drained and a shake of pepper and 'roughness of salt,' were added. 'Enough to do,' was the only measure of a 'roughness,' my mother ever gave. Then a good bunch of scallions, the only other main ingredient, was snipped in - not a spring onion in sight- we wouldn't have known a spring onion, if it had jumped up and bit us. Spring onions were English. The glorious green and white were mashed together with a, 'wee drap o' milk,' - and if that was straight from the cow, so much the better.

Assembly of this dish was every bit as important as its preparation. You had to even the top and divide the mixture fairly. There would be ructions if one got more than the other! That done, sticky mountains of champ, nearly as big as Slemish itself, and exactly the same shape, would be spooned into old fashioned, willow patterned soup bowls - the sort that had ample capacity and 'a lip'.
They needed to be deep to hold the juice.

The juice was the finishing touch that made champ special. A knob of butter was inserted into the mound from the top, and closed in, like the magma inside that extinct volcano. Hot milk was poured down the outside, to form a moat at the base. The whole was like a lactating breast - the best food a mother could provide.

You ate it with a spoon, nibbling round the outsides, until the golden butter oozed and spurted into the white milk and cascaded over the green scallions. Green, white and gold - it was a tricolor of a dish that catholic and protestant revered in equal measure. It was fodder for growth - truly the champ.

@ 2008 - Joslin

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