There are many, many foods that I like (and indeed very few that I dislike) but I really LOVE potatoes and I have never found a potato dish that I don’t enjoy.
When I was growing up my dad was not a very adventurous eater so my mum was not a very adventurous cook (although she is now!). We rarely ate rice or pasta (except for rice pudding and spaghetti hoops) but we often filled up on spuds. My dad’s preferred method of eating them was to have the potatoes boiled whole in their skins; he would then peel them at the table and eat them with a little knob of cold butter and some salt. I have never seen anyone else do that since but you should try it because it tastes great. The rest of the family were particularly fond of mash, homemade chips and Sunday roast potatoes.
I really started to get more adventurous with potatoes out of necessity rather than creativity: Not long after we got married Martin and I found ourselves seriously out of funds and two weeks from payday – we had a few store cupboard ingredients and no cash. We were saved by an opportune and unexpected visit from my dad who had stopped off at a local farm and bought us a 56lb bag of potatoes.
We ate potatoes, and only potatoes, for dinner fourteen nights on the run. Aware of the obvious potential for boredom we set a challenge to never eat the same meal twice during this time – I can’t for the life of me remember the details but I know we succeeded. These days I prefer my spuds with meat or fish and vegetables but at the time we were just immensely grateful to be eating at all. This experience did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for the humble spud.
Before I started writing this piece I wondered if I was alone in my passion: It would seem not – apparently we each eat an average of 102kg of potatoes per year here in the UK (around 2 kilos or more than 4lb per week). What on earth do we do with all those potatoes?
I decided to conduct a little (very unscientific) research via the bun scuffle facebook page and Twitter (@bunscuffle) where I asked you about your favourite ways of eating potatoes.
Lots of you like mash but you really are a creative lot and your ideas varied from simple mash with butter and milk (or cream) to mash with the addition of spring onions (champ), cheese or horseradish. You use mash on top of cottage pie and one or two of you turn it into an occasion such as Jacqueline’s mash with butter, top of the milk, pepper, scallions (spring onions) and bacon lardons or Taya’s buttery mash with red onion, leeks and peas which she then tops with cheese and pops under the grill to brown.
You also like baked potatoes; with cheese or cheese and beans for a quick, tasty meal but Liam says to vamp up a baker you should scoop out the insides of the cooked potato and mash it with crème fraiche, chives, spring onions and bacon bits, pile it back in the skin, top it with pepper and parmesan and return it to the oven for ten minutes. Sounds good to me. One thing we all agree on is that the skin should be good and crispy.
Roast potatoes also got a few mentions but once again you like to add some extra flavours; Richard roasts his with garlic and rosemary and the addition of a little leftover bacon or sausage fat, Lisa prefers to cook and crush new potatoes before roasting them with a little garlic and olive oil, Steph does similar with main crop potatoes and the further addition of some herbs whilst Pat roasts hers chopped, in their skins in little foil parcels along with chunks of sweet potato, onion and seasoning.
You would expect to find chips in any blog piece about potatoes but I thank John and Megan for reminding us that they need to be crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside – just like, as Megan points out, an armadillo!
Surprisingly there was only one mention of dauphinois potatoes – a personal favourite – rich in cream with a crispy, browned topping. My sister, Debbie, makes hers from a 1960s Good Housekeeping recipe which includes the addition of Lancashire cheese – delicious.
With all this talk of butter, cream, and cheese we should be eternally grateful to Fran and Ange for their healthier options. Potatoes are not, despite the myths, an unhealthy food. They are high in carbohydrate (an essential food group), low in fat and a great source of vitamin C (oh dear – I’m starting to sound like the potato marketing board..).
Fran suggested ricing the potatoes to make a light, fluffy mash so that no addition of fat is needed whilst Ange shared a recipe for “Slimming World chips” where you cut the potatoes into wedges and part boil them before sprinkling with celery salt, spraying with Fry Light (or similar) and baking in the oven until browned. They both sound good to me.
I would also like to thank Rob for sharing this recipe for pork belly with paprika, fennel and cider served with champ and Chloe for sharing her family favourite “Great Grandma Jane’s Anglesey Eggs” which has boiled eggs, potatoes and leeks layered in a cheese sauce and baked. Chloe made this on the ITV programme “No Taste Like Home”. I haven’t tried either of these recipes yet but they are both high on my list…
Thank you all for your input (Rob, Andrea, Richard, Lyssa Fee, Liam, Lisa, Helen, Michelle, Rob, Laura, Ange, Sarah, Helen, Jacqueline, Debbie, Megan, Steph, Fran, John, Taya, Pat , Chloe and Lisa), this wouldn’t have been half as interesting without your ideas.
If you are still looking for inspiration, check out my Top Ten Ways to Perfect Potatoes.