Tag Archives: potatoes

Our own potatoes! And…?

Our first batch of King Edward potatoes seemed to be reaching the end of their growing season, so I thought I’d dig some, and ask Mr Veggie Box to bring us extra mushrooms this week in place of a portion of potatoes too far. Scrabbling blindly around in the dirt, my fingers pulled up something that was the right size and shape…but turned out to be green. Not sickly, aged-potato, solanine green, either, but proper lime-green. I think I can guess what it is and how it got there (I haven’t cut it open yet). Your thoughts?

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Colcannon

With potatoes on the brain this morning, I remembered that I had a lovely Savoy cabbage in the fridge, as well as the aforepictured bag of el cheapo Tesco potatoes, and thought of the colcannon recipe I’d tagged recently from Onepot’s Blog. Because it sounded a bit posh – black beans, really? – I also worried it wasn’t the most basic or authentic, so I googled around a bit (my Google search now has a UK bias – who knew?). The first one I grabbed was from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. These two could hardly have been more different; the main features in common were onions, cabbage, and potatoes. But the techniques were generic enough that I figured I could mush the approaches together, so I did.

I’ve learned recently that food pics look much better in natural sunlight, so because it’s a relatively sunny day I decided to take the seemingly involved step of documenting the process. (WordPress glitch – can anyone advise as to why the figure captions came out formatted differently, and one pic is bigger?) Enjoy…

Prep: chop an onion, a quarter of a Savoy cabbage, and two large potatoes.

Sauté sliced onions in olive oil, and boil potato chunks in salted water.

Braise cabbage in cooked onions - first sauté for a couple of minutes, add a little water, and put a lid on the pan to steam the cabbage for about 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the potatoes and mash them with a couple tablespoons of butter and a quarter cup of cream, plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir the cabbage into the mash. You could stop here and eat as is. What I did, though, was to heat up some oil in the frying pan and put the whole mixture in…

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What I don’t know about potatoes…

I throw around a lot of flippant comments about potatoes, because they’re so, you know, humble, starchy, peasant-foody, ground-dwelling, whatever, but truth be told, I love them, and would be happy to eat them every day, especially… fried. Yes, I’ve said it. Chips, crisps, homefries, hashbrowns, roasties (which, let’s be honest, are basically fried) put a potato together with hot oil, salt, maybe some onions, and you can stop right there. I think it’s my Russian and British Isles ancestry, but seriously, forget about tomatoes, what did Europeans eat before potatoes?

Anyway, here I am in a country that loves potatoes as much as I do, and I go to the produce aisles at Tesco and feel a little lost; here’s what you get when you search for “potatoes” on their home-shopping website. All the potatoes are generally about the same color – white and thin-skinned – but different sizes – some enormous – and shapes. They have a number of different names on them: Charlotte, Maris Piper, King This or That. Some of the bags tell you that such-and-such type is better for mashing, or for baking (“jacket potatoes” – baked potatoes with different fillings  – were a phenomenon in recent decades, and I think there was a chain of shops dedicated to them). Honestly, none of these potatoes look like baking potatoes to me, though I haven’t tried it yet. Shouldn’t “jacket” potatoes actually have a jacket?

Like, say, a russet potato with its rough, brown skin?

And if they don’t have a jacket, if I’m making them another way – e.g., mashed, roasted – do I really need to peel them at all? Even the biggest potatoes I’ve seen here, which weigh over a pound, have skins like new potatoes.

Here’s a page on uses for different varieties of potatoes from the UK Potato Council website; around 80 varieties are grown commercially here! (I can name maybe four grown in the US; two of them are from the last decade or so, and probably come from elsewhere anyway, but you can find a little more variety if you go to a farmer’s market.) I can’t tell yet whether all these UK varieties have been around for generations, or are a product of the British-pride/locally grown food movement.

As I write this it occurs to me that I’ve had a local expert available to me, whom I must consult: I will ask Angela, Andrew’s mum, who grew up in Ireland, if she’ll come with me to the supermarket one day and help me sort through all the potato varieties. So much to learn!

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Roasties

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.

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