Britain has a real love affair with the potato. It can be used in so many delicious ways. Emma Freud celebrates seven favourite recipes for scrumptious spuds
If you were stuck on a desert island with only one food, what would it be? For me, it would have to be potatoes. On average, each person in Britain eats three potatoes every day – but they are so entrenched in the fabric of British food culture that I worry we don’t give them enough applause. So here is my own little love letter to potatoes...
As if crisps aren’t wonderful enough, it turns out they’re even better between bread. When Belfast opened the UK’s first crisp sandwich café in 2015, its stock sold out in two hours. Keighley in West Yorkshire hosted the first English version, and a Walkers- sponsored pop-up followed in London. HipChips just opened in Soho selling upmarket crisps with sweet and savoury gourmet dips.
Try Emma's own salt & vinegar crisp recipe in your own crunchy sandwich.
The ultimate indulgences of carb-on-carb plus butter-on-fat make chip butties so wrong they’re perfect. Four ingredients: floury white bap, butter, ketchup and thick-cut chips. Meddle with this formula at your peril.
Take your chip butties to the next level with these chunky chips with caramelised onion & garlic.
Reader, I’m not going to lie, I have found it hard to do full justice to this most magnificent of side dishes: mine were always insipid. There, I’ve said it. However, everything improved once I got my head around this hack: after you’ve boiled the potatoes, drain them, return to the pan and cover with a cloth for 10 minutes. This dries them out, so that when you add butter they absorb it and taste buttery, rather than absorbing their cooking water and tasting watery. Tiny step – big difference.
Learn the best way to make creamy, irresistible mash with our handy technique video.
Easier than you think. Grate a potato, squeeze out all the moisture, add rosemary, salt and pepper, then pan-fry like an omelette until crispy. Once you’ve flipped it, top with grated Gruyère or a fried egg. It’s the new pizza.
Try this ultra-crispy, golden brown oven-baked rosti cake.
I’d thought it impossible to improve on a baked potato. I was wrong. Steam the spud for 20 minutes to infuse with moisture, then bake for 40 minutes in a hot oven to get the perfect combo of fluffy inside and extra crispy outside.
If you want a filling, simple supper, try our jacket potatoes with home-baked beans.
Boiled, squashed and then roasted
My favourite new method, this is a real game changer: Boil small potatoes in their skins, then drain and cover with a cloth for a few minutes. Put each potato into a clean tea towel and squash so it slightly bursts, then place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter over grated garlic and chopped rosemary, and roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes until golden and a bit crispy: the joy of a boiled spud, the texture of smashed potatoes and the crunch – but not the fat – of a roastie.
These crispy squashed baby roasties are just the ticket for a Sunday side.
We’ve arrived at nirvana – layered potato slices with lots of cream, garlic and melted Gruyère – to be served on feast days on my desert island. Classic Dauphinoise tips: 1) If your life is too short to peel potatoes, try potato peeler gloves, which have rough, abrasive palms. You peel by rubbing, though be warned – they look like murder weapons. 2) Don’t demean the Dauphinoise by calling it a ‘side’ – it’s the main event. A glass of wine is the side dish. 3) Wear elasticated trousers when you eat them, for obvious reasons.
Our lemony potato gratin is well wroth the effort, try the recipe for yourself.
And finally – a cooking challenge: some foods are at their peak only when cooked brilliantly using the most expensive ingredients. The potato is not in this category. Your steamed new potatoes and my steamed new potatoes are as good as a chef’s steamed new potatoes. But in the name of research, I spent a day searching for the perfect home-cooked chip. This is what happened...
Blumenthal’s triple-cooked chips vs my oven chips
For my chips, I cut, rinsed and patted the potatoes dry before drizzling with olive oil, laying on a roasting tray and roasting in a hot oven for 40 mins. I served with salt, garlic and rosemary. They took an hour. They were delicious.
To make Heston Blumenthal’s triple-cooked chips, I cut, washed, boiled, dried, froze, deep-fried and drained potatoes, then froze, deep-fried and drained them again, before sprinkling with sea salt. I started after breakfast and they were ready when my kids came home from school. They were also delicious.
Moral: homemade chips are delicious. And that’s really the point of potatoes – unlike desert-island rescue parties, they rarely let you down.
Check out these cheesy chips and indulge in Parmesan-coated, golden brown goodness.