Roast potatoes. They’re a bit of a religion here, especially at Christmastime. They have a special, chunky shape, and are brown and crispy and potatoey and hot. I but wasn’t aware of the extent of the obsession until I read this article in the Guardian that tried them 12 different ways, starting with allegedly gold-standard recipes by four god-like chefs: Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Heston Blumenthal. The variables were type of potato (Britain has a variety of trains of white potato, such as Maris Piper, Desiree, and King Edward), fat (once again with the gratuitous animal fat, preferably goose), oven temp, parboiling method, and – believe it or not – whether you shake the pan partway through cooking. The funny thing was that the test cook recommended that elements from three of the chefs – but not Nigella – would produce the best roastie, but then he didn’t take it to the next level and actually try the combination. Though he did say that groundnut (peanut) oil worked better than the traditional goose fat, which you buy in a jar for a couple of pounds, and is hard to find outside of the holiday season.



Filed under food

4 responses to “Roasties

  1. Jim Leiermann

    The fascination here with TV cookery, anno Delia, has standardised what was once a variegated and vibrant cultural phenomenon. The thing I remember about roast potatoes from my childhood is that each grandmother’s, each aunt’s, each niece’s (inevitably female then), tasted different. This has passed.

    There was huge variation: some were crisp, some soft. Rayburns seemed to impart one subset of flavour (and pattern of caramelisation), gas ovens another. They smelt different, too: with onions; with onions and carrots; with parsnips. With the joint or in a separate tin, with water or dry. Etc, etc.

    • Thanks, Jim – the TV cooks fascinate me and I plan to do several posts on different characters, and on the whole phenomenon really. Meanwhile, back to roasties – I made some last night with plain “white potatoes” from Tesco and olive oil (though I feel a little bad that I didn’t put them right in the pan with the roast chicken), and they were very interestingly sweet, almost like parsnips! So it will be fun to try different kinds and methods.

  2. Silvie

    And I have a tub of “Delia Cheat” which is flaked rock salt flavoured with rosemary – which I sprinkle on mine. Great with beef, but I sprinkle it on anyway, whenever we have them.

    Hmmm…my individual flavour then?

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