Simple to use and with very healthy results, the diable is the new (well, old, actually) way to cook potatoes...
I find it hard to resist a gadget but as my kitchen cupboards and drawers are already bursting at the seams, anything I buy has to fully justify the space it takes up, and usually something has to go to make way for it. My latest find was certainly worth the reshuffle.
While poking around in the local quincaillerie, an ironmongers with a sideline in serious kitchen kit (and the place to go if you need a huge pan for turning a whole pig into pâté), I found a terracotta pot that looked rather wonderful so of course it went home with me. The Charentais diable (or devil) is used for cooking potatoes and chestnuts and it turned out to be one of the nicest and healthiest ways of cooking potatoes I've come across.
Although it's an old fashioned thing it fits really well into contemporary cooking because not only does it not need any water or fat in the cooking, it also requires very little effort. All I have to do is tuck the washed and dried potatoes inside, whack it in the oven or on the hob (I use a diffuser if I do that) and then forget about it for around 45 minutes. The spuds emerge all crusty and brown, and as no water is used, the flavour is concentrated and the texture sublime.
My beloved diable has a cheeky pot-bellied shape, which is not always the case, and it also goes by other names such as the phenix diable potato cooker or the diable potato baker though they all work in the same way. Now I think I'll go and roast a few chestnuts.
Mary Cadogan worked for Good Food magazine for 12 years as Food director. She now lives in the Charente region of France where she runs a cookery school.