There’s nothing like digging up a good crop of potatoes. How does planting just one seed potato create a dozen or more of the plump little rascals? They make such a satisfying thump as they go into the bucket.
Digging potatoes - you never know how many you are going to get, or what size. It adds to the magic.
In the kitchen, home-grown potatoes are so well behaved. They fluff up to make beautiful, smooth mash. Their soft edges rough up evenly to make super crisp, golden roasties. I even pushed some through my ‘spiralizer’ and made potato noodles to add to a duck soup. They held together astonishingly well.
Even the best supermarket potatoes just don’t perform as well. Being grown and stored in slightly different conditions means that the individual potatoes don’t respond evenly to cooking. Hence it’s no surprise to get lumpy mash and roast potatoes where some are burned before others are barely cooked.
This is before we even start to consider the taste. Truth is, home-grown potatoes actually have a taste, whereas bought ones tend not to.
This year we have a fantastic crop. We’ve done some blind tasting and arrived at the conclusion that:
Picasso – best for baking. They have beautiful skin that crisps up like flaky pastry and creamy flesh that pulls the butter right into its heart.
Red Cara – very floury, and great for mash. It’s a great ‘gluey’ potato and sticks together for dishes like potato pancakes, or my ‘Burger in a potato crust’ recipe. Heavy cropping.
Valor – reliable and even sized. Excellent for all culinary uses.
Trouble is, what to do with them? Potatoes seem to scream out for lashings of cream, cheese and butter. Not in our house, unfortunately, because hubby is lactose intolerant. I’ve had to be inventive to come up with some ways to add interest to the bounteous crop. I’ve found some!
Potato Bread. This was an agreeable surprise. I thought the result would be really heavy, but it’s not too bad. It’s quite chewy and supposed to store for up to a week, but we haven’t managed to make one last for more than a couple of days. Must be tasty, then. It’s easy, involving substituting approximately one third of the flour with plain mashed potatoes. It titillates my tightwad tendencies by allowing me to get four loaves out of my 70p bag of Morrison’s bread flour instead of just three. Wow – a loaf for less than 30p. Can’t be bad.
Chewy and tasty - somewhere between ciabatta and an English crumpet.
Indian food has a wealth of ways for using potatoes with splendid results.
Potato parathas. These are fascinating and incredibly easy. A blob of spicy mashed potato is placed on a disc of thin flour dough, gathered up into a dumpling shape, then carefully rolled out into a pancake. It should be fried, but I paint them with a little oil (to make them less fattening! Yeah – right!) and cook them in the oven until they are puffed and golden.
I make samosas and saag aloo, too. I make my own thin pastry for the samosas, which hubby always complains about and says I should use bought filo. My home-made ‘filo’ is about a quarter of the price, so he’ll have to put up with it being twice as thick.
The Red Cara seem particularly gooey and floury, and respond well to being modelled up into a potato crust. I use the finest possible setting on my mandolin to make almost transparent slices to stick around a greaseproof lined chef’s ring. ‘Burger in a crust’ is new invention of mine that I’m particularly tickled with right now! I’ve filled it with seasoned raw beef mince, and cooked it slowly, wrapped in greaseproof (or ‘en cartouche’, eh?). Don’t you just love those dishes that cook in their own juices? Cornish pastie, pork pie… This one’s the same. Right at the end, whip off the paper and crisp up the crust. So far I’ve cooked it with a hidden nugget of onion marmalade at it’s heart (cheese would be good, too). I’m going to experiment with minty lamb mince with a blob of redcurrant jelly in the centre, and perhaps a pork, apple and black pudding medley. I’ll keep you posted…