The oca is one of the important staple crops of the Andean highlands.
Its not that hard to grow in Ireland, although I should I think have earthed them up more and they certainly should have been in the ground earlier.
Next season - if I'm still in the country - they will be grown using stacked car tyres to make them easier to earth up and to increase the heat to the tubers.
Coming from the same place and growing in the same conditions as potato, it is quite frankly very surprising why they are not better known in Europe and Ireland.
The potato after all has become the staple carbohydrate for northern and eastern Europe.
With their blight resistance, it is particularly poignant being Irish as to how things might have been different had this crop been established on the Island from 1840 to 1880.
The skins range from red to white, sometimes a waxy green and its inner flesh is white.
They can be baked, boiled, roasted, mashed, or used in any dish calling for potatoes.
Its great to dig them at this time of year, to see new food come out of the ground after the frost, like new potato's in the winter.
Mr Robin at the top of the title picture was also anxious that I harvest them, and very happy with the newly turned earth for a snack or ten after the cold snap.
I got the original seed from Cristophe and Ciara on Clare Island in Mayo - he runs ecofarm.ie and Macalla farm. As far as I know is the only person in Ireland who supplies Oca as seed.
If you do buy seed from him, please be sure to mention that you heard about the farm on this blog, that way I can try to blag a few free ones from him this year.
The farms website is also on the links for this blog.
If you are interested in growing Oca then there is a really good blog run by a dude called Ian Pearson - In fact, its such an impressive resource, I have added it to my bloglist on the right - check it out for all Oca questions.
Delicious roasted, Oca is frequently eaten with roasted lamb in New Zealand where I first encountered it.
It is said the oca brings a “lost cuisine” back to life. Oca is native to the ancient cuisines of the Andes in South America and was grown throughout the Inca and Mayan civilizations.
The New Zealander's are very clever, resourceful, inventive people. They are also really good at marketing.
Kiwi fruit are a Chinese Gooseberry - but were re branded as Kiwi fruit, so people associate the food with New Zealand. Oca is now sold sometimes as New Zealand yam, even though it was introduced there sometime in the 1860's - but like other imported crops it thrives as a crop in NZ.
I'd say that it will become re branded as Kiwi Yam in the future, or maybe even Kahu Yam after the stunning hawks they have there.
I'm using Oca in this recipe, but diced potato would work - and to be a little more exotic maybe sweet potato which I think in Irish cities would be easier to find than Oca.
Having moved back from Holland I find the lack of variety and availability of foods and spices etc. a bit frustrating, hence the growing of things like Oca, Japanese mustard greens, acocha, root parsley etc.
I hand picked the Scallops from the strand at the bottom of the farm at low tide, so they are un-dredged, about as eco friendly as you can get - but a fair bit of work, cold toes and fingers.
Despite the cold, I still think of the foreshore as a living larder, wading out for mussels, clams and razorfish - all reasonably easy to find if you know the tides and the area. I just take what I need.
Lidl have a good offer on Scallop at 12 for €5 at the moment along with other luxury foods like venison, game birds and lobster - well worth checking out for Christmas.
Scallop is one of my favorite seafood's, it requires very little in the way of dressing up - its perfect as it is.
This recipe is kind of inspired by one of the Hairy Bikers Cook Off programs on BBC, one of their 7 minute supper challenges was made using scallops.
I had a similar idea in mind for scallops, In terms of presentation, I'd normally serve scallop in its shell with a bacon and cheese type sauce - but they put it together a little differently than I would have - with potato, so I decided to use the Oca in this dish.
I really like the programs that Si and Dave do, unpretentious, well explained and entertaining.
Along with Master Chief, I think they are my favorite TV cooks.
Coming from the North of England, I think they have a lot of the same cuisine culture and influences that I have with the Connemara climate - as would the Scots.
Leeks, herring, mackerel, kidney, liver, mutton, cabbage, kale, beetroot and turnip being just a few things they have used that other TV chiefs don't use that often or frequently.
Certainly the bikers were doing Kale before it became suddenly fashionable on other shows.
The other real advantage they have over me in terms of a cuisine background is the fantastic, rich heritage of Indian food people in the North of England are exposed to.
Mind you, I did learn how to do a cardamom martini from one of their programs, so they have a lot to answer for in that department.
The Beetroot Fondant.
In the meantime I quickly melted some butter in a pot and prepared some small fresh beetroot for a root vegetable fondant
As usual with a fondant, the beets were sauteed in the butter until they started getting crisp and tender - to that I added some home made stock from cubes in the freezer.
About 20 minutes in, when the liquids had reduced a lot, I had some sliced potato left over from the Spanish omelet. These went in with 10 minutes to go, cooked well and picked up a lovely colour from the beetroot fondant.
The Scallop and Bacon
I had some bacon in the fridge - you could also use streaky bacon. I cut of the piece with the most fat.
I sliced the bacon thinly. Use one piece of bacon for each scallop.
20 minutes after the Oca and beetroot were started, I fried the bacon in cuinneog butter and olive oil at a high temperature until crispy, rendering out the fat.
After about 6 minutes of cooking, the bacon was taken out of the pan, put in an oven proof dish and chucked in the oven to stay warm.
I reduced the heat under the pan to medium. Then the Scallop was added to the pan, using the rendered bacon lard to cook it.
This takes about 5 minutes - so the top and bottom of the scallop is dark brown, caramelised - but be very careful not to burn them. I always cook them with the tongue, not only does it add to the flavour - it also helps to colour the jus.
After they are cooked, put them in the oven with the bacon to keep warm.
Drain the pan over the scallop and bacon.
NB: At this point put the serving plates in the oven.
When the greens (spinach in this case) are done, return the scallop, bacon and liquid to the pan for about a minute, then remove the bacon and scallop reserving any fats or liquid on the pan
- move the scallop and bacon to the warm serving plate.
I used spinach. My one regret was I did not use Beetroot leaves or Swiss chard from the garden for this, when I harvested the beets I did not think to reserve some greens for this meal, so next time I will know better. I was very tempted to use cavalo nero kale from the garden, but the delicacy of the scallop put me off - perhaps next time - as using chard, beetroot leaves or kale would have made this a truly winter dish.
Anyway, the spinach is easy, shred, chuck in the pan and saute until reduced slightly - put directly on the warmed serving plates.
The Jus and presentation
At this point the greens, bacon and scallop have been plated up.
Pour some white wine - about a third of a glass - into the pan to de-glaze,
then add three tablespoons of cream, mix through and allow to reduce.
While that is reducing, get the fondant beets and potato's onto the plate.
Remove the oca from the oven, and plate up.
The sauce should be reduced slightly, spoon it over the scallops and bacon - be generous.
If I had parmesan cheese, I would have added a few shavings on top of the scallop for taste and presentation, but as I said, scallop does not need much in the way of flavouring.
I used a small winter gem lettuce - a cos type.
The dressing was made to compliment the Oca.
1/4 tsp mustard
1 clove garlic crushed and chopped
120 ml walnut oil
40 ml lemon juice
tsp maple syrup or honey
Pinch Cayenne pepper
As a wine, I used a Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, available at Super Value. Although the name suggests it comes from New Zealand, its actually made in France.
I think as this is a European dish, influenced by my time in New Zealand it is an apt choice, and it does go very well with the meal.
I must say that as a meal, this is one of the best I have produced - although because scallop has such a fantastic taste and texture its hard to go wrong.
I am delighted at the way the oca came out, the colours make for great presentation, and the flavours all work so well.
You have the sweet, rich scallop, the dry, salty bacon, the slightly earthy beetroot, slightly bitter spinach and the soft lemony/nutty flavour of the oca with the jus ties it all together.
The side salad also gives a refreshing zing with the lemon juice through it.
So, there it is, Oca grows well in Ireland and you can use it to compliment some of our own great foods with something a little exotic and very simple. And dont forget, you can source the Oca from Macalla farm.
As always, thanks for reading and please take the time to comment - I really do appreciate the time and effort taken for feedback