Saturday 7 April 2012


Potatoes are one of the unsung heroes of the vegetable larder.  Inexpensive and always available, they're taken for granted by modern cooks and, despite their good nutritional value, they are considered "bad food" by many adherents of high protein diets and followers of fitness fads.  Even those of us who value their contribution to the frugal housekeeper's menu and budget often treat potatoes as an afterthought; cooking them the same few ways and presenting them like a poor cousin to the other foods on our plates.  

In times of plenty it’s difficult for us to imagine a circumstance where potatoes would form the primary - and sometimes only - source of nutrition in a person's diet, yet, for many Scottish and Irish tenant farmers in the 19th century, that’s exactly what happened.  Consigned to marginal land by agricultural reforms, crofters eked out a meager existence; wringing subsistence from the few resources available to them. 

Crofters grew potatoes because they were one of the few crops that could withstand the poor soil and inclement weather of coastal Scotland and Ireland.  They could be stored, and thus relied upon to provide a staple food supply year-round.

It’s estimated by some that as many as 75% of the calories and nutrients in the diet of 19th century Scottish and Irish crofters came from potatoes.  Potatoes were eaten at every meal.  Often they were the only food available.  When other foods could be provided, they were mixed with potatoes in order to feed as many people as possible.  

Potato blight swept through Scotland and Ireland in the 1800’s, causing potatoes to rot in the field.  Potatoes in storage were reduced to a mass of black slime.  It was a tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions, and it resulted in mass emigration to Canada and the USA.

Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their cultural traditions and recipes with them when they came to North America, including potato-based dishes like colcannon and clapshot.  They continue to enjoy these dishes into the current day and have shared this fondness with their neighbours and communities.

Clapshot is a mixture of “neeps" (yellow turnips, also known as rutabagas or Swedes) and "tatties” mashed together.  It’s a filling, satisfying dish with a pleasant flavour; textbook comfort food.  In Scotland, clapshot is often served with haggis, mince (ground beef or lamb), sausages, or cold meat, but it makes an excellent side dish for almost any meal where one would consider serving mashed potatoes.  

Traditionally, clapshot is made with an equal weight of each vegetable, mashed together with butter and chopped chives or green onions.  Although it's not traditional, I add a little evaporated milk to mine to make it easier to mash. 

To make Clapshot, you’ll need:

  • 1 pound diced rutabaga
  • 1 pound peeled, diced potato
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped chives or green onion (not pictured)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and allowed to come to room temperature
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons milk, cream, or evaporated milk heated to lukewarm in the microwave
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the rutabaga and potato until they’re tender.  The rutabaga will take longer so start cooking it first.

Put the cooked potato, rutabaga, chives, and butter together in a bowl.  

Add some of the milk.

Use a potato masher to make a smooth mash, combining all the ingredients together. 

Rutabagas are more fibrous than potatoes so it can be difficult to get this mash completely smooth.  I’m okay with a few lumps but, if you're not, you can use a ricer to achieve a finer texture. 

Clapshot is always best served piping hot.  Leftovers can be fried or stirred into a soup or stew.
This post is linked to Hearth and Soul hosted by Premeditated Leftovers, The 21st Century Housewife, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, and Penniless Parenting.

Hearth & Soul Hop


mjskit said...

I've never heard of clapshot and certainly haven't ever had mashed potatoes and rutabagas. It sounds delicious and something we would really enjoy. Thanks for sharing!

Aunt B said...

Thank you for stopping by to check it out. :)

April J Harris said...

This is an excellent, well researched post and this is comfort food indeed! I've eaten Clapshot many times - it's very popular in the UK, although it is often just referred to as Neeps and Tatties in England itself. Whatever you call it, it definitely a delicious dish, well worth making and wonderfully frugal too. Colcannon and Bubble and Squeak are still very popular here as well.

Aunt B said...

Thank you April. That's a great compliment coming from you. :) I grew up eating Clapshot, Colcannon, and Bubble and Squeak. It's nice that these familiar dishes have retained their popularity.

Alea Milham said...

I have been missing out! I have never had clapshot, but I sure do mean to fix that soon. It looks delicious!

Aunt B said...

I think you'll like it Alea. It makes a nice change from plain mashed potatoes. :)

Unknown said...

Gosh, Aunt B. I didn't even know it had a name. We do mashed potatoes and turnips all the time and sometimes we add in some parsnips too. I do mine like you with butter, milk and seasonings and sometimes chives if I have them.
Thanks for letting me know that this was a real dish, I just thought it was simple food that we enjoyed eating.

Aunt B said...

My pleasure Debra. Your dish has a long history. It's been popular in Scotland and Ireland since the 17th century. :)