Freelance writer from the northeast coast of England with a fondness for vegan food and punk rock.
Mashed Potato: Delicious and Versatile
As a child, I detected a clear disparity between the mashed potato I saw in comics and the real stuff that was served up for school lunch. In comics like the Beano and Dandy, every time there was a slap-up meal to be had, there would be a mountain of mash, from which jutted out upward-pointing crags of sausage.
The reality of school lunch mashed potato was somewhat different; therein lay lumps of undercooked potato waiting to be discovered. I remember struggling one day with a piece of raw potato the size of a peach stone, and in my child’s mind I formed the idea that the potatoes were deliberately undercooked as a means of retribution for a collective lack of application from me and my classmates.
But, of course, mashed potato is scrumptious and versatile. To demonstrate both of these attributes, here are three ways to use mash that are deliciously disparate.
Recipes on This Page
- Vegan shepherd's pie: mashed potatoes are used as a topping
- Aloo bonda: mashed potatoes are coated in batter and deep-fried
- Concannon: mashed potatoes are fried up with leek and cabbage in this classic Irish side dish
Recipe 1: Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd’s pie is a staple dish that would make it onto many people’s comfort food top ten lists, including vegans. A stratum of mashed potato, sitting atop a base of veggie mince in a rich, thick gravy makes a tasty, satisfying repast to be appreciated by hungry adults and finicky children alike.
Where I grew up, it was common practice to add a can of baked beans to the mince when making shepherd’s pie. I suspect this adaptation was introduced to make the filling go further during times of hardship. Whether or not that is true, baked beans work very well in this recipe, so I’ve included them.
Step 1: Make the Topping
- 3 fist-sized potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed to make 2 cups
- ½ cup unsweetened plant milk
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter
- Salt and pepper
- When the potatoes are hot, mash in 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Add the milk and stir vigorously until smooth.
- Check seasoning and set aside.
Step 2: Make the Filling
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup veggie mince
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 can baked beans
- vegetable stock
- cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water
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- Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion over medium heat until soft.
- Add the carrot and saute 1 minute more.
- Add the stock, and simmer for 10 minutes to cook the carrot.
- Stir in the veggie mince and cornflour/starch mix.
- Simmer gently for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the baked beans, and stir until everything is incorporated.
Step 3: Put It Together
- Spoon a layer of filling into a baking dish, filling it halfway.
- Using a spatula or knife, scoop up mashed potato and gradually work around the inside, using the edge of the baking dish to scrape the potato from the spatula or knife, so it sits on top of the filling.
- When all of the edges are done, carefully scoop potato into the middle until all of the filling is covered.
- Smooth the topping off with a knife.
- Drag the tines of a fork along the topping to create a furrowed effect—this will give a crisp/smooth contrast.
- Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and brush it onto the topping, taking care not to obliterate the furrows.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
Recipe 2: Aloo Bonda
When I was a young vegetarian, my (then) wife once borrowed a huge hard-backed cookery book from a friend. There were very few vegetarian recipes within its covers, but as I browsed inattentively, one in particular caught my eye: aloo bonda. The colour photo of these deep-fried batter-coated balls of spicy mashed potato inspired me to have a go, and the result was delicious. There are many different varieties of aloo bonda, including sweet versions, but this simple recipe works very well.
These are great for buffets, half-time snacks and as a side to a curry. They also make great picnic food, particularly when drizzled in sweet chilli sauce, or dipped in mango chutney.
Unlike the other two dishes in this article, the desired consistency for the mashed potato in aloo bonda is not whipped up with milk and butter, but rather dry and, if you have the time, chilled. This gives a more solid mash, which is easier to shape.
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ cup garden peas
- Oil for frying
- Peel and boil the potatoes, and then mash them. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin and coriander seeds. Fry gently until they start to pop.
- Add the onion and the chilli pepper and saute until the onion is soft.
- Stir in the mashed potato and peas, and mix until everything is incorporated.
- Set the mix aside to cool down.
- When the mixture has cooled, and thickened, roll the potato into balls—2 level tablespoons of potato makes a good-sized ball.
- Place the balls on a sheet of baking parchment close to the batter and the pan you will use.
- Heat the oil to deep-fry the bondas.
- Submerge one of the balls in the batter, making sure it is well coated, and transfer it to the hot oil. A tablespoon can help keep the round shape.
- Repeat the process with the next balls, but don’t overcrowd the pan.
- Deep-fry for 2 minutes and then remove the bondas from the oil, and drain.
- Serve with sweet chilli sauce.
Recipe 3: Colcannon
Colcannon is a close cousin of that other Irish mashed potato dish, champ, the main differences being that concannon uses leeks instead of spring onions, and cabbage is added. Any kind of cabbage, or kale, can be used in this dish. I prefer savoy.
Some recipes include grated nutmeg in their list of ingredients, but I’m not a fan, so I’ve omitted it. If nutmeg is your bag, then half a teaspoon will do you. My personal preference is to stir in a teaspoon of English mustard just before serving. One attribute common to both champ and colcannon is the capacity to hold a veritable lake of melted butter in an indentation made with a spoon.
How to Clean Leeks
It is important to ensure leeks are properly cleaned before use, as they can house a lot of grit and soil. These don't just get lodged in the outer layers, but well into the heart of the leek as well. Here's how to do the job properly.
- 2 fist-sized potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
- 1 medium leek (or ½ large)
- ½ cabbage
- ½ cup unsweetened plant milk
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- Melt half of the vegan butter in a pan, and saute the leek until soft.
- Add the cabbage and saute 1 minute more.
- Pour in the soya milk and stir as the cabbage cooks in the steam.
- Add the mashed potato and mix everything together.
- Check seasoning and turn out onto a plate, piping hot.
- Make a well in the potato with a spoon, and drop in the remainder of the vegan butter.
Mashed Potato Playlist
I loved this EP when it came out. English Dogs were new to me, but each boisterous track was fresh, exciting and loud. I chose this track because I still love the outraged Max bemoaning, Oh, my god, just look at their hair, and I pay tax on it, it's just not fair. I delved into their debut album, Invasion of the Porky Men with great enthusiasm, but I wasn't too keen on their change of direction. Horses for courses and all that.