I Love Potatoes

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.





Top Ten Ways to Perfect Potatoes


1. Mash

You need floury potatoes for mash – Wilja’s or King Edward’s are great. Peel the potatoes, cut into large chunks, put into a pan with a teaspoon of salt and just cover with water. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer until just cooked. Drain well. Return to the pan and mash using a potato masher or pass through a potato ricer – I much prefer riced potatoes – they have less lumps and are lighter and fluffier. Warm a small amount of milk, add a generous knob of butter and when the butter has melted add to the potatoes and stir through. Season with salt and pepper. Don’t over stir or beat the mash as it will become too glutinous and gooey.

You can eat the mash just as it is or, to ring the changes:

• Add lightly steamed, finely shredded cabbage to make colcannon.

• Stir through chopped spring onions to make champ.

• Add mustard or horseradish sauce when serving with beef.

• Add grated cheese (mature cheddar works well) and warm through in the oven until the cheese is melted. You can also grate extra cheese on top and grill it until melted and browned.

• Fry onions and garlic gently until caramelised and stir through the mash until combined.

 2. Baked Potatoes

Estima and Vivaldi make perfect baked potatoes.

Heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6

Scrub the potato clean, dry it and rub the skin with a small amount of olive oil and a little salt. Prick the potato with a fork and put it in the oven. A medium potato will take about an hour and a half but check it after an hour just to make sure.

This is absolutely the best way to bake a potato but if you are short of time you can prick the potato and cook it in the microwave for 5-8 minutes depending on size. Then remove it, brush with oil and salt and put it in a conventional oven for 20 minutes to crisp up the skin.

Once cooked, remove the potato from the oven and cut them open, mash a little butter into the flesh and top with the filling of your choice.

3. Roast Potatoes

King Edwards, Maris Piper’s and Rooster’s make great roast potatoes.

Heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6

Peel the potatoes, cut into large chunks, rinse and boil until half cooked. Drain well and shake a little to fluff up the outsides. Put a roasting tin in the oven with a tablespoon or two of fat. You can use cooking oil but goose or duck fat makes wonderful roasties. When the fat is smoking hot add the potatoes and turn to coat. You can add the potatoes to cold oil but they absorb less fat if it is hot and they start to crisp up as soon as they go in the oven. Place in the top of the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour depending on the size of the potatoes. They are done when the outside is a crisp, golden brown and the inside is soft and fluffy.

For extra flavour add garlic and or herbs to the roasting pan. Rosemary works well with lamb, thyme and lemon are perfect with chicken (halve 2 fresh lemons and nestle amongst the potatoes) but feel free to experiment with your own flavours.

4. Chips

Maris Pipers or King Edwards make great chips.

I get really upset when I eat out at a pub or restaurant which has taken the trouble to cook a fantastic piece of fish or meat only to serve it up with frozen chips. Is it really too difficult for a chef to peel and chop a potato?

If you want to take the time to make your own chips, peel the potatoes, chop into chunky lengths, rinse and pat dry (the drier they are the less they spit).

It is safer and cleaner to cook chips in a deep fat fryer with a built in thermometer. If, like me, you don’t own one you can make them in a deep, heavy based saucepan but you will need a thermometer as the temperature of the oil is critical to a crispy outer layer.

Half fill the pan with oil and heat to 130°C. Sunflower oil is good or any other vegetable oil that will stand high temperatures although purists will say to use lard. Carefully add the potatoes (take care not to overcrowd the pan – it’s better to fry the chips in batches if you are cooking for a crowd.

Fry for 10 minutes or so until cooked through but not browned. Remove from the pan and drain.

Turn the heat up under the pan until the oil reaches 190°C, add the part cooked chips (very carefully) and fry for a further 4 to 5 minutes until browned. Remove from the oil, drain and serve with salt and vinegar with maybe a little ketchup or mayonnaise.

5. Dauphinois Potatoes

1kg King Edwards, Maris Piper or Desiree potatoes, 500ml Double cream, 3or 4 cloves of garlic. (serves 6)

Heat the oven to 160°C / 320°F / Gas mark 2

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and place in a large bowl. A mandolin or food processor will make short work of this and ensure even slicing.

Finely chop the garlic and add to the bowl with a good grinding of salt and pepper.

Pour in enough double cream to liberally coat the potato and transfer the mixture to a shallow oven dish. Press down firmly into an even layer. The cream should come to just below the top layer, add a little more if necessary. Place in the oven and bake for an hour and a half until the potato is cooked and the top is golden brown. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up or the cream might split.

These potatoes are wonderful served with roasted meat or even with sausages and cabbage for a mid-week dinner.

You can add grated cheese between the layers and/or on top although strictly speaking this makes it a potato gratin not a dauphinoise. Gruyere or Cheddar work well.

6. Boulangere Potatoes

If Dauphinoise seem a little too rich you might like to try boulangère potatoes instead.

1kg King Edwards, Maris Piper or Desiree potatoes, 500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock, 2 onions. (serves 6)

Heat the oven to 200°C / 400° F / Gas mark 6

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes as for dauphinois. Peel and thinly slice 2 onions.  Layer the potatoes and onions in a shallow, buttered oven dish finishing with a layer of potatoes.  Pour hot stock over the mixture leaving just the top layer of potatoes out of the liquid.

Place the dish in the oven for an hour until the potatoes are cooked and golden brown on top.

The flavours can be enhanced by the addition of some garlic and fresh thyme or rosemary.

7. Patatas Bravas

600g Maris Piper or Kind Edwards, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, 3 red chillis, chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Heat the oven to 225°C /450°F / Gas Mark 7

Heat the oil in a roasting tin.

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1” dice and add to the tin. Shake to coat and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chopped chilli and garlic, season well and return to the oven for 30 minutes or so until the potatoes are cooked through but slightly crispy. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

These tasty Spanish potatoes are lovely served as a tapa or to accompany roast chicken.

8. Boxty

These lovely potato cakes / pancakes have already featured on bun scuffle. You can read about them and find the recipe here.

9. Sauteed Potatoes

Maris Piper or King Edwards work well.

Peel and dice the potatoes into 1” cubes. Put into a pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, drain well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil or goose fat in a large frying pan. Add the potatoes in a single, well spaced layer. Be patient and allow to brown before turning so that all sides become crisp and golden.

These potatoes are great just as they are, sprinkled with salt and pepper but you can flavour them any way you like by adding garlic, herbs, chillies, paprika etc.

10. Fondant Potatoes

1 large potato per person – the variety (waxy or floury) is down to personal choice but Marfona works well.

Peel the potatoes and use a round cookie cutter to cut out evenly sized cylinders. There will be lots of waste so keep the bits, cover with cold water, store in the fridge and use for mash the next day. Using a peeler skim off the top and bottom edges to create the traditional barrel shape.

Melt enough butter in a frying pan to give a generous coating over the whole surface. Keep the pan on a medium heat and add the potatoes. Cook until the base is well browned and turn over to brown the other end.

Pour hot chicken or vegetable stock into the pan so that the bottom third of the potatoes are submerged – careful it will spit. Put on a lid or cover with foil and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked through; test with a sharp knife.

I only made these for the first time last week but they were really creamy and buttery in flavour and they looked pretty on the plate. I will definitely be making them again.