To be honest, I don’t really care what people think about potatoes – I love ‘em! Call them potatoes, ‘spuds’, ‘tatties’, whatever you like, they are probably the most useful and potentially tasty tubers on the planet. It’s up to you and how you cook them, even though nutritionists worldwide will throw their hands up in horror at the thought of their overuse.
Yes, I agree that they are packed full of the worst kind of carbohydrate – the evil one that is digested far too quickly through your system, but for many years some time ago, they were responsible for keeping members of large families alive during famines, poor incomes and a multitude of other reasons for being in food poverty. However, they are also nutrient rich with vitamins and iron, so don’t worry too much about the carbs!
Ways to Prepare Potatoes
Recently, a top food magazine set their chefs and readers a challenge to come up with all the ways to cook a potato – they racked up a total (and cooked them all) of an astounding 59 ways! I don’t think I could stare a potato in the eye for a while after that, but expel them from my diet forever? I would truly get withdrawal symptoms. Boiled, baked, roasted, fried, jackets, layered, mashed, rosti (that leaves 51 still) – I don’t mind – just give me potatoes on my dinner!
Ready to make soup?
Potatoes in Soups, Stews, Casseroles and Curries
Sorry, whoops, I unintentionally forgot how great they are in soups, casseroles and as a side in curries (I adore Bombay potatoes with spinach, onions and loads of spices). If you don’t like them in chunks, use them as a thickening agent, they do wonders for a casserole or soup that is a little on the watery side. Pureed or creamed are good, if you happen to have dodgy teeth and can’t bite anything remotely hard! They certainly are the men for all seasons served on your plate.
Using herbs, spices and seasoning will lift your potatoes into another echelon entirely, almost making them the focal point of a dish, with other ingredients paling into insignificance. You may think I have finally lost the plot, but honestly, treat your spuds with love and respect and you will benefit.
The Brits love them, the Germans can’t imagine life without potatoes and even the nations who have plenty of food supplies still find a space for spuds on their plate. As we head towards January and ‘Burns Night’, the Scottish inhabitants are already in deep conversation about what particular variety of potato to use in their ‘neeps and tatties’, the accompaniment to the ubiquitous haggis. For those of you who have no idea what neeps are, they are, in fact, turnips. Sound horrible? Try it, with lashing of real butter and seasoning! (At this point, it has become all too much for diet-conscious food professionals to bear, so get out the smelling salts).
What are ‘Bangers and Mash‘?
Whilst writing this article and during conversation with my chef colleagues, we discovered an amazing fact about our ‘millennial generation’, which all but caused me to weep uncontrollably for several days after. Go into any pub, gastro pub and even a top restaurant such as one of Gordon Ramsay’s establishments, and you will find ‘sausage and mash’ or ‘bangers and mash’. Quite simply a sausage is a sausage, but also a colloquial banger, and mash is well, mashed potatoes. Around 50% of 24–40-year-olds, DIDN’T KNOW WHAT MASH WAS!! To compound this deeply disturbing revelation, ‘Toad in the Hole’ is a derivative of the sausage, just cooked in batter, so these tasty babes poke out of the batter from a savoury cake-like mix – yum. But 25% of them thought that the ‘toad’ was actually a real toad! Honestly, did they not go to school? Learn some British culinary history, darn it!! I won’t get on to ‘Spotted Dick’, another traditional dish, it would be all too much for me in one go.
Before I go for a lie down to recover from these startling facts, a word of encouragement for the humble potato. How many times on the way back from work does your mind turn to supper and the fact that you don’t have a lot in your fridge until you do your supermarket shop at the weekend? It’s Friday night, the kids will be starving, and you need sustenance. Have you got any potatoes? Surely so, they will be your saviour.
One of my ‘turn to when all else fails’ recipes is Cheesy Potato Cakes with Brown Butter, Spring Onions and Crispy Chilli Oil. Luckily, I tend to have some ready-cooked potatoes covered in the fridge, they are delicious if they are cut into chunks and boiled in their skins, saves a wealth of time and a great way to use up spuds that may be just about beginning to render themselves useless. Don’t waste them, cook them up and keep in the fridge. I created my recipe a million moons ago, but I notice that it has been ‘copied’ so many times by other chefs and even features in newspapers and magazines. Ottolenghi, who I admire and respect has his version, which recently appeared in the Irish Times – what a place to have it considering the Irish have such a penchant for potatoes!
Potatoes will continue to live on, in spite of the ne’er sayers!