First cultivated by the Incas thousands of years ago, given prestige by Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI and the first vegetable grown in space, potatoes are quite extraordinary little things. Now if I were to list everything you can do with the humble potato, like Babba rambled on about shrimp in Forrest Gump, we’d be here for a fair while! For today, we’re just going to focus on the basics: how to make perfect boiled, mashed and roasted potatoes and ideas on how you can glam them up for your next dinner party. Let’s go!
Warm boiled potatoes adorned with butter, garlic and lots’a fresh herbs are gorgeous in their simplicity. Or use them to make a classic potato salad. My version is simple: baby potatoes tossed with some mayo, lemon juice & zest, celery (leaves and all) and plenty of dill and parsley. Add in dijon mustard, boiled eggs and thinly sliced red onions, if that tickles your fancy.
CHOOSE YOUR PLAYER: Make sure to use potatoes similar in size so that they cook evenly. It’s best to leave the skin on to help preserve the starch as this gives them their moreish texture; skins can be peeled off after boiling (crisp them up in the oven with a glug of oil and seasoning for a glorious snack).
BOIL: Scrub your spuds, place them in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork or sharp knife. Think of it like a ripe pear: firm & tender but not falling apart. Medium to large potatoes will take about 20-25 mins to cook, while baby potatoes can be ready in 12 mins. Tip: Chop large potatoes into smaller chunks of similar sizes to save some time.
COOL: For the best texture, let whole potatoes cool for at least 15 minutes before peeling (optional) and slicing – an ice water bath can help speed up this process.
Silky, smooth and lush, mashed potatoes are an art. Serve buried under a juicy steak, alongside a classic roast or with anything honestly. For a more outrageous mash, use sour cream or creme fraiche for tang, or stir in sauteed minced garlic, bits of crispy bacon, cheese and/or spring onions. Level up and transform your mash into croquettes, gnocchi, shepherd’s pie or potato bread.
PREP YOUR TATERS: Peel and chop up your potatoes into similar size pieces (pro tip: fry or roast the peels to make potato peel chips). Cover with cold salted water and cook until fork-tender. Drain and return to the pot.
MASH: Mash potatoes with butter and milk (or cream for a more luxurious finish) until smooth and creamy; season to taste. The amount of dairy is up to you and the consistency you prefer, but 3 tbsp milk and 1 ½ tbsp (45g) butter should be fine for 500g potatoes. Don’t use a blender or food processor as it will make the potatoes gluey and gummy (trust me – I’m speaking from experience here). Finish with a drizzle of melted butter and chopped fresh parsley or chives.
The gnarly big brother to their boiled counterpart, smashed & sauteed potatoes have a delightful golden crunch with a fluffy interior. They may take a fair bit of time to prepare, but it’s worth it! Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, lemon zest and, you guessed it, fresh herbs to cut through the greasiness.
COOK: Boil some unpeeled baby potatoes until tender but still firm, about 12 minutes (don’t overcook, otherwise they will disintegrate when fried). Drain and allow to cool.
CRUSH: Gently crush each potato using the base of a glass. Heat a few tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and sautee the potatoes until crisp and golden on each side. Season with flaky salt and sprinkle over fresh herbs and chilli flakes to finish.
Time for toasty roasties! Whole, classic wedge or sommer chopped (because potatoes are delicious in every shape and form), roasted potatoes are my favourite tater form. For the ultimate crunch, potatoes need to be parboiled and roughed up a bit. For wedges, however, I simply toss the raw potato slices in oil & seasoning (I use paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and flaky salt), and roast until golden, turning them halfway. I find these less of a hassle on busy nights, but they’re just as tasty!
HOT POTATO: Preheat the oven to 200ºC with the fan. Glug ¼ -½ cup vegetable oil (duck fat is even better!) onto a large tray and place inside the oven to heat up. The potatoes need lots of space in order to get crispy, so choose the size of your tray accordingly.
ROUGH IT UP: Peel and chop your potatoes into large chunks. Parboil for only 8-10 minutes or until the edges are soft, then drain in a colander. Give them a good shake to rough up the edges – is the key to crispy edges – then leave to steam for 10 minutes until tacky. Carefully place your potatoes in the shimmering hot oil, toss to coat and spread out evenly.
GETTIN’ CRISPY: Roast potatoes until crisp and golden, turning only once or twice during cooking – this usually takes about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with flakey salt and fresh thyme.
Tag us if you try out some of these tips so we can swoon over your spud-tacular potatoes!
P.S. Lord of the Rings fans, I hope you enjoyed the headings
Featured Image: by Kirsty Buchanan
ALSO SEE: Potato Boulangere