It’s no surprise that the secret to Czech West Ham star Tomáš Souček’s dominance in claret and blue comes from a recipe for success.
You may think it’s one part determination, two cups of hard work, a teaspoon of endurance, a pinch of patience – but instead it’s more to do with potatoes.
500 grams of potatoes, to be exact.
After Souček’s late winner against Everton, he surprised fans by saying how much he was enjoying playing over the Christmas break given that normally he ‘has three weeks off eating potato salad’.
Knowing we were about to offload the turkey that was Sebastien Haller, meat eaters might have turned to Kevin Nolan to revive the chicken that was the centrepiece of his goal celebrations – but sadly that is now well past its sell-by date. Instead, it was left to the humble potato to keep the festive spirit alive.
West Ham even did their best to provide their Czech star with his own custom potato salad the next day in training, which he gleefully held and posed with for all the social media accounts – a totally normal thing to happen at just a normal, regular football club.
Souček’s Czech-mate Coufal mentioned in a subsequent interview his fondness for potato salad and carp and got given nothing.
If, like Coufal, you’re keen for your own bite of success, here’s how to make a tasty vegan version of Souček-fuel – and just put some meat in there if you don’t want it to be vegan. You do you.
Firstly, take a leaf out of fellow Czech Tomas Repka’s book and it’s time to get boiling! No, not your own blood after incurring an innocuous tackle, but water, in a pan, and with some salt.
Football may be a game of two halves, but in this case, quarter the potatoes and pop them straight in the top left corner of the pan. Boil them for 13 minutes while you set out your game plan for the rest of the match.
Peel and dice two carrots – these will need to make an appearance in the pot with just four minutes to go before the potatoes need a water break.
Watch Soucek’s headed goal against Brighton a few times and then get ahead(er) on your peas – pop the 150g of frozen pears into the boiling pot for just a minute of extra time so that they defrost.
Check the potatoes are getting soft and make sure they don’t need any extra time.
Then, much like the energy in West Ham’s recent 3-1 loss to Liverpool, it’s time to get draining! Drain the potatoes, carrots and peas and set them aside to make like a proverbial ice bath and cool off completely.
Time to go on a cup run. Grab a small cup, or if, like West Ham, you’re unlikely to get your hands on a cup anytime soon, a small bowl will do.
Sou-check you’ve got your remaining ingredients and then mix the vegan mayonnaise, pickle juice, dijon mustard, dill, onion powder, and white wine vinegar with a spoon until blended.
Then, get to chopping – and try to embody Coufal’s cool defending, and not chop anyone down on the edge of the area.
Instead, finely dice celery, red onion and cornichon pickles. Once the vegetables are cold to the touch, chop the potatoes into cubes, and mix everything together with the sauce.
If you’re ready to kick-off your dinner, enjoy the salad right away – but if you want to really get ahead of the game, wait 45 minutes to allow the flavours to properly get a feel for playing together, and then enjoy!
500g Potatoes (skin on)
2 normal sized Carrots
150g Frozen Peas
½ Medium Red Onion
2 Celery Sticks
7-8 small Cornichon Pickles
For the sauce:
5 TBSPs Vegan Mayonnaise
2 TSPs Pickle Juice
1 TSP Dijon Mustard
½ Dill (dried or fresh)
¼ TSP Onion Powder (or Onion Salt)
1 TSP White Wine Vinegar
Serves four (four two)