• 1½ kg floury potatoes, such as King Edward or Maris Piper, cut into even chunks
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche


  • STEP 1

    Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes and boil for about 15 mins or until tender. Transfer to a colander and drain well, then return to the pan and set over a very low heat for 2 mins to dry completely.

  • STEP 2

    Heat the milk and butter in a small pan, then pour over the potatoes. Remove from the heat, then mash potatoes using an electric hand whisk or potato masher. Tip in the créme fraîche and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt.

Which potato variety make the best mash?

Any potato can be made into mash, and it's largely subjective: starchier potatoes make fluffier mash that absorb butter well, whereas waxier potatoes make creamier mash. Most people want a balance between creaminess and fluffiness, and to achieve this, you'll need to select just the right potato. A very floury or starchy potato, such as King Edward or Russett, will become wonderfully fluffy, but can absorb a lot of water in the cooking process, which ultimately dulls the final flavour. However, floury potatoes can be easier to work with than waxier varieties, as they're less prone to lumps and can be mashed more readily. The best variety should be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with both floury and waxy characteristics and a good, strong flavour. The red-skinned Desiree or buttery flavoured Yukon Gold are firm favourites. Maris Piper is also a good choice, being a good all-rounder.

Should you start cooking potatoes with cold water?

Cover your pan of potatoes with cold salted water, then heat to ensure they cook thoroughly and evenly. If you fill your pot with boiling water, the outsides of the potatoes will start to soften long before the heat reaches the centre, and you’ll end up with a water-logged surface and hard middle. This will result in lumps once the potatoes are mashed. It's also a good idea to select potatoes that are roughly the same size – chop any large ones to roughly the same size as the others. Cover the pan with a lid, too, to create an even cooking environment. The water needs to cover all the potatoes, or the uncovered edges will remain less cooked than those that are submerged. A gentle simmer as opposed to a raucous boil will encourage the heat to penetrate right to the centre of each potato.

Why cooking and draining are important

Cooks often underestimate the time potatoes need to soften before being mashed. You don’t want to boil them vigorously, but instead gently simmer them. This can take up to 30-45 minutes to yield potatoes that are soft enough to mash. Once soft, drain well in a colander, then return to the hot pan to steam-dry. This helps get rid of excess moisture, which helps improve the flavour of the finished mash.

Can you use an electric whisk?

  • The trick to creamy mash is to break up the potato's cells without breaking open the starch cells inside them. Traditional potato mashers crush the potatoes while avoiding cutting into them too heavily.
  • Don't add any milk, cream or butter until the potatoes have been thoroughly mashed: it’s easier to get rid of lumps when dealing with a thick mixture than a sloppy one. An efficient blender or food processor with a sharp blade might seem like a great idea to eliminate lumps, but it will just turn a fluffy mash into a sticky, gluey consistency.
  • If you're struggling with lumps, pass the mash through a sieve or similar. A tamis (fine meshed, flat strainer), food mill, large sieve or potato ricer all work well.
  • If you're looking for a balance between convenience and texture, opt for an electric whisk or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. These will break up the mash without cutting into the potatoes too heavily, providing a good compromise.

Can you reheat mashed potatoes?

Mashed potatoes can be reheated successfully in both a microwave or on the hob. If reheating in a saucepan, heat a small amount of milk (or cream), then add the mash, stirring it over a low heat until warmed through. The extra milk will stop the mash from sticking and compensate for any moisture that's lost during the reheating process.

Can I freeze mashed potatoes?

Yes. Mash freezes well for up to three months. It’s worth noting that the more butter and cream you add, the better it will freeze. Leave in the fridge overnight to defrost before reheating. If you’re in a hurry, follow the advice above on adding extra milk or cream while reheating so you don’t dry the mash out.

What to do with leftover mashed potatoes

If you find yourself with leftover mash, you can use it to top plenty of pie recipes. There’s cottage pie made with minced beef, its lamb cousin shepherd's pie, or sausage & leek mash pie. Mash can also be refashioned into tomorrow’s brunch by cooking leftover potato mash waffles, and make a deliciously different base for eggs benedict. A small amount of mash can also be added to baked goods, such as potato scones or potato farls.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, February 2012

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