'Potch' Recipe From 'How Green Was My Valley'
"Out to the back to mix the potch then. All the vegetables were boiled slowly in their jackets, never allowed to bubble in boiling, for then the goodness is from them, and they are full of water, and a squash tasteless to the mouth, without good smell, an offence to the eye, and an insult to the belly. Firm in the hand, skin them clean, and put them in a dish and mash with a heavy fork, with melted butter and the bruising of mint, potatoes, swedes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and their tops, then chop purple onions very fine , with a little head of parsley, and pick the leaves of small watercress from the stems, and mix together. The potch will be a creamy colour with something of pink, having a smell to tempt you to eat there and then, but wait until it has been in the hot oven for five minutes with a cover, so that the vegetables can mix in warm comfort together and become friendly, and the mint can go about his work, and for the cress to show his cunning, and for the goodness all about to soften the raw, ungentle nature of the onion."
How Green Was My Valley - Richard Llewellyn
The above passage is quoted in Bobby Freemans Welsh culinary masterpiece, Traditional Food From Wales along with the following observation:-
" Such a detailed description of this old Pembrokeshire dish is fortunate, for I can find no other written record of it anywhere, only confirmation of its existence. "
It seems likely that 'potsh' and the north Welsh variant 'stwnch' were common recipes in rural and working class households throughout Wales before the advent of the 20th century and modern pre-packed foods.
As you will see there are no quantities or cooking times in the above recipe from Richard Llewellyn's book so preparing this recipe was an adventure somewhat akin to culinary archaeology. The directions below worked well for us although you may wish to experiment with your own versions of this supremely adaptable dish. Be warned, however, that you MUST leave the vegetables to par boil for at least 2½ to 3 hours, otherwise you will be forced to resort to a food blender or engage in some extremely vigorous mashing. In the latter case you may find yourself expending more calories creating the dish than it can replace.
The finished product is, however, quite delicious and excellent when accompanied with leek and bacon (as pictured above).
Important! Remember to par boil the veggies whole. Do not chop or peel.
The Ingredients (Serves 6)
- 1large swede (rutabaga)
- 4 medium size carrots
- 2 turnips
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 parsnip
- watercress (to taste)
- parsley (to taste)
- fresh mint (to taste)
- 4 oz butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1 purple onion
Method (Preparation time: 4-5 hours)
- Par boil the parsnip, rutabaga, potatoes, turnips and carrots for at least 2½ to 3 hours. Do not peel or chop before hand and do not "allow the water to bubble during boiling" (medium heat should be about right but you may need to experiment)
- Remove the vegetables from the water, peel and mash. Add butter and mint.
- Then - "chop purple onions very fine , with a little head of parsley, and pick the leaves of small watercress from the stems, and mix together."
- Put the resulting mixture in an oven at 350°C for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Serve hot with leeks and bacon.
Watercress, chopped shallots and parsley