How to make Irish mashed potatoes with green onions aka Irish champ.
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- Read on for a few relevant facts and step by step pictures (1 min)
What is Champ?
Champ is a classic Irish mashed potatoes dish with green onions, warm milk, butter, salt and pepper. It’s origins are in today’s province of Ulster, Northern Ireland. The old Irish Gaelic name for Champ is brúitín (translates to mash). Some people also call it poundies because in the past the potatoes would be mashed with a big pounder.
The heavy wooden pounder (in some areas called a beetle) was typically handled by the man of the house. Big Irish families boiled large pots of potatoes and mashing them to a smooth consistency required strength.
Champ is an important part of Irish culinary tradition and a staple side on modern Irish pub menus, even restaurants in trendy cities like London and New York.
In the past nettle was added to the mashed potatoes instead of scallions or chives and overall the dish was regarded as unrefined, peasant fare.
During Samhain it was customary to place a bowl of Champ outside – near a tree, a field post or under a whitethorn bush, as an offering for the fairies to feast on.
Samhain was a pagan Irish Gaelic harvest festival with Celtic origins and was celebrated each year around the eve of October 31st, to mark the beginning of winter and the end of harvest. Eventually the pagan tradition was incorporated into Christian holiday practices and was attached to All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day to eventually evolve into Halloween.
To this day Champ is enjoyed on Halloween, along with its cousin Colcannon (made with cooked cabbage and/or kale).
Ingredients for Irish Champ
- Potatoes. Use starchy or all purpose potatoes suitable for mashing. We prefer Yukon Gold but Russet work well too. They best resemble the traditionally grown Irish varieties. In the past potatoes were cleaned, boiled with their jackets, then peeled (or not, in certain areas) and finally mashed. Feel free to peel and rinse them before boiling for ease of preparation.
- Butter. Get good Irish butter, you can use salted if you wish – just do not add any salt until you taste the Champ and determine how much might be needed.
- Salt and pepper. To season the mashed potatoes, to taste.
- Milk. Use whole milk. It will become infused with the zesty green onions flavor and add its own delicate sweetness.
- Scallions/green onions or chives. Both green and white parts.
How to Make Champ
All you need to do is:
- Peel and cut the potatoes in uniform pieces then boil them until tender.
- While the potatoes are boiling thinly slice the green onion or chives and add them to the milk in a saucepan (reserve a little for garnish). Bring the mixture to boil on the stove, then set aside.
- Mash the drained boiled potatoes adding butter and salt.
- Gradually add the green onions and milk mixture and continue mashing until satisfied with the consistency. Season with pepper.
Signature Way to Serve Champ
Possibly the best thing about these zesty mashed potatoes is the melted butter it is traditionally served with – a classic way to enjoy the dish.
To serve Champ in the authentic way, family style, scoop the potatoes into a large bowl or serving dish and make a well in the middle using the back of a spoon. Just before you serve melt half a stick of butter and fill the well it.
An easier approach is to simply place knobs of room temperature butter in the center of individual servings of very hot Champ – it will melt almost instantaneously.
Always garnish with a sprinkle of chopped green onions and season with a pinch of pepper.
TIP: Serve in prewarmed dishware, whether family style or individually. Encourage diners to eat from the outside in, scooping forkfuls of mashed potatoes and dipping them into the butter.
There are numerous twists to Champ, specific to certain parts of Ireland. The difference is in the addition to the mashed potatoes (instead of green onions).
- Parsley Champ – add three tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to the milk (more if you are making a double batch etc).
- Pea Champ – make only with fresh peas, cooked for a few minutes in boiling milk with a bit of sugar.
- Leek Champ – thinly slice the white parts of two medium leeks, cook in butter until soft then add to the potatoes along with the milk.
- Crispy Onions Champ – pan fry yellow onion rings until crispy then serve around the edge of the mashed potatoes (the only variation where the addition is not mashed into the potatoes).
- Dulse Champ – soak about two cups of dulse leaves in cold water (affiliate link), then stew them in the milk until tender and add to the potatoes.
To Reheat Champ
If you made a triple batch and have leftovers reheat them in an oven safe dish covered with foil to prevent the formation of a skin. Place the dish in a 350 F oven. Time will vary depending on the quantity of Champ you are warming up.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
Being so rich and creamy Champ can make for a delicious, filling meal in its own right. A bowlful such as you can see above is most filling.
Today, in the majority of cases Champ is served as a side – to that end consider the top three Irish entree recipes listed below.
- 2 lbs starchy potatoes (Yukon gold or Russet)
- 1 cup whole milk
- bunch green onions or chives (about 1/2 cup full when chopped)
- 4 tbsp Irish butter* + more to serve, to taste
- coarse salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel the potatoes, cut in half or in quarters (aim for uniform pieces) and boil in water until very tender.
2. In the meantime finely chop the green onions (reserve 2 tbsp for garnish) and combine them with the milk in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to gentle boil on the stove, then immediately remove.
3. Drain the potatoes, add the butter and salt** and mash until mostly smooth. Slowly add the hot milk and onion mixture while you continue to mash. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed. Season with pepper to taste.
4. To serve family style first melt about 1/2 stick of butter. Transfer the potatoes to a warmed dish and make a well in the middle with a spoon. Pour the melted butter into the well. (If serving individually add a lump of room temperature butter to the center of each serving).
Garnish with the reserved green onions.
*Unsalted recommended as it will be easier to control the overall saltiness of the dish.
**If using salted butter do not add salt at this point, adjust seasonings in the end.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 326Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 192mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 8g