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Real food: Potato and Smoked Bacon Soup

No matter how much pizza, pasta and chicken chow mein we eat, the Irish love affair with the potato will never fade. St Patrick's Day is as good a day as any to celebrate the potato. Roast a chicken or some rib beef on the bone and serve three kinds of potatoes -- buttery mash, duck fat roasties and gratin dauphinoise.

For a more traditional dish, try some dry-cured loin of bacon (try JJ Youngs in Celbridge and Clane) with cabbage and buttery mashed potatoes.

Potato and Smoked Bacon Soup

There is eatin' and drinkin' in this soup. To make the soup a little more posh use Italian smoked pancetta (try Nolan's, Terenure, or one of the Italian shops) instead of streaky bacon.

Ingredients: 600g potatoes, peeled and diced, 200g onions, peeled and diced, 50g butter, 4-6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced, 900ml chicken or vegetable stock, 2tbs chopped fresh mint (or parsley), 100g crème fraîche, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and once it foams add the bacon. Cook 'til the bacon begins to crisp and then add the potatoes and onions, stirring 'til they are fully coated in butter. Put a lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and sweat for 10-15 minutes.

Add the stock and the chopped mint and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Purée the soup with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add the crème fraîche, taste and adjust the seasoning. Thin the soup with a little milk if you wish. Serve with crusty brown or white soda bread.

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