The humble potato. A root vegetable, native to the Americas but grown all over the world, especially throughout the UK and Europe. If it is comfort food you are looking for, generally speaking a potato can be found in the recipe somewhere or somehow because they are simply soft, hearty, and filling.
A potato fact
Did you know that there are around 500 varieties of potato? No, I didn't either until I looked it up! Only about 80 are grown commercially though. And like the huge variety of potatoes you can grow or buy, there are seemingly an equal number of ways of cooking them, from baking or boiling to mixing them into cake batter and breads. Potatoes provide essential vitamins and minerals along with a satisfying array of flavours and textures.
A vegetable power house
This round and unassuming little vegetable is a culinary power house because its versatility is extensive. They are delicious on their own with minimal interference (think new potatoes dripping with butter) and able to take on nearly any flavour without losing their identity. Being quite cheap to buy and widely available, the potato is a staple of many cuisines world wide. So, what can you do with them?
Let's get cooking!
Here's 13 ways to cook a potato from the simple to the more advanced...
The staple of any meat and two veg type dinner. A Maris Piper is a good potato for boiling as they hold their structure well. Simply peel and boil in water until you can easily slip a knife through but they aren't too soft, around 15 minutes depending on the size of your potato.
Take this to the next level by using new potatoes, such as Jersey Royals, in their skins and boil until tender. Pour melted butter over the top and enjoy!
For a good creamy, indulgent mashed potato you need a floury potato, such as King Edward or Maris Piper. To feed 4, boil 1kg potatoes 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 then either use a masher or a ricer if you want ultra fine mash. Gently warm 80ml milk in the microwave and pour over the potatoes, along with a knob of butter and 2.5 tbsp crème fraiche and mix with a wooden spoon to a smooth consistency. Season to taste. Perfect to accompany a meat or fish dish or to top shepherds or cottage pie.
No Sunday roast is complete without roast potatoes is it? Here we are looking for a potato that is not too waxy, not too starchy, and doesn’t flake as easily as other potatoes when subjected to high heat. Desiree is a good choice but for ease of shopping, the Maris Piper is fabulous. Oil or duck/goose fat? Well, if you are vegetarian or vegan, oil is the obvious choice. However if you are not, then either duck or goose fat work wonders for your roasties because they both have a high smoke point so can be heated to quite high temperatures, perfect for achieving golden crispness, and both have a better flavour for roast potatoes than oil.
For the best roast potatoes, to feed 4, heat the oven to 200C and then carefully drop 1kg peeled and halved/cubed potatoes into boiling water and boil vigorously for 3-5 minutes. Whilst the potatoes boil, add 100g of your chosen fat or 100ml olive oil into a roasting tray and heat in the oven to melt. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then put back in the saucepan, give them a shake to fluff the edges up for extra crispiness and then shake 2 tsp plain flour over the potatoes and toss to cover evenly. When the fat or oil is really hot, remove the tray from the oven and add the potatoes (careful as they will sizzle and spit) and using a spoon, make sure they are all coated in oil and spread out. Season. Cook for 50-60 minutes until golden brown and gorgeously crispy, turning two or three times during cooking.
Wedges are the healthier alternative to chips as they do not absorb as much fat. Varieties like King Edward and Desiree potatoes are the best potatoes for wedges, since their relatively high starch content gives you that soft and fluffy inside. Their skin also doesn't hold moisture well, which makes for that ideal crispy exterior. Alternatively, sweet potatoes are a good choice.
All you need to do for 4 people is parboil 600g of potatoes, cut into wedges, for 8 minutes and then strain and leave to dry for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C and once the potatoes are ready, spread onto a tray and toss in olive oil. Season to taste and then spread the wedges out into one layer. Cook in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes. Fabulous with grilled chicken, fish or halloumi and salad.
You can also spice things up by adding a good pinch of chilli powder or paprika to the oil before using or go for a herby vibe by adding some rosemary and shallots.
In 2019, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine decided to find out which variety of potato is the best for baking by running a trial. After consulting breeders, growers, suppliers and chefs, 10 varieties of potato were grown, including old favourite ‘King Edward’ and the blight-resistant ‘Sarpo Mira’. The top ten, with best first were; Vivaldi, Sante, Sarpo Mira, Innovator, Carolus, Melody, Marfona, Estima, King Edward and Isle of Jura (should you be deciding what to grow next in the garden!). "Vivaldi’ was the overall winner and the outstanding favourite with taste testers. It has a great flavour, creamy texture and delicious skin. An excellent garden performer, too, producing a heavy crop of large, evenly shaped tubers."
Baked or jacket potatoes make a great light lunch served with salad and tuna mayonnaise for example or to accompany a main meal. For 4 people, pre-heat your oven to 220C then wash 4 baking potatoes of your choice. I like to cut round the potatoes so that a) they don't explode in the oven! and b), the skin slightly separates away from the cut making slicing the potato open to serve really easy but this is just my preference. Rub a little oil onto the skins and place on a baking tray straight into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes before turning the heat down to 190C and cook for another 40-50 minutes until you have a soft fluffy centre and a crisp, delicious skin.
No BBQ is complete without a dish of potato salad. Though I love potato salad any time of the year if I am honest! For this salad, you definitely need a way potato and for a change, why not try using New Potatoes, French fingerling, Red Bliss, baby potatoes, creamers, Red Adirondack or Russian Banana?
Now you can add all sorts to potato salad such as chunks of gammon, cold peas or mixed veg, you can use mayonnaise, yoghurt or salad cream and you can make it vegan by using vegan-friendly mayonnaise. Here though, we are going to stick with the classic potato salad. If you or your children don't like strong flavours such as raw shallots, capers or cornichons, just leave them out.
As this is for a sharing meal, this recipe makes enough for 6-8 people. Boil 800g of new potatoes for about 20 minutes until tender, then drain and set aside to cool. Now finely chop 3 shallots, 1 tbsp small capers and 2 tbsp cornichons and add them to a bowl. Dice your potatoes into good sizes cubes and add to the bowl. In a separate bowl, mix 3 tbsp mayonnaise with 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
and 1 tbsp white wine vinegar. Once well combined, pour onto the potatoes and before tossing to cover the potatoes with the mayonnaise dressing, add a small handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley. Now eat in the sunshine!
Yukon Gold potatoes make the perfect choice for sautéed potatoes because their flesh is creamy and the shape holds up well when tossed and tumbled around. Sautéed potatoes going wonderfully with pan fried salmon and a hollandaise sauce.
Again for 4 people, wash 700g potatoes and don't peel them, simply drop them into a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain then set aside to cool (can be done well ahead of time if you're cooking for a dinner party for example). Once cold, carefully strip the skin away and discard and cut the potatoes into thick cubes. In a frying pan, heat 4 tbsp of rapeseed oil until hot, add the potatoes and fry for about 15 minutes, turning regularly using a fish slice until you have delicious golden and crispy cubes. Sprinkle with sea salt and they are ready to eat.
You could add about 2 tsp chopped rosemary to the pan as well if you fancied a slightly different version.
Anna Potatoes is a classic French dish using only three ingredients so it is very simple to make. The Russet is a great potato for this recipe because it holds together well when sliced. I like to cook Pomme Anna as a side to pork and apple sausages with green vegetables.
Pre-heat the oven to 220C. In a food processor with the slicing blade fixed, slice 500g washed and peeled potatoes. If you don't have the machinery, use a very sharp knife and slice the potatoes by hand to about 0.5cm thick. Place in a bowl (don't cover with water as this washes away the starch that you'll need to maintain the layers). In the bottom of a hob & oven safe dish or skillet, brush with 1.5 tbsp melted butter. Starting in the middle of the pan, arrange the potato slices, slightly overlapping, in circular pattern, covering the surface, working outwards. Brush with another 1 1/2 tablespoons butter; season well with salt and pepper. Repeat for two more layers. Place on the hob on a high heat for 2-4 minutes until you hear the sizzling. Transfer to the oven and cook for about an hour until tender. You may need to cover with foil if the top starts to brown too soon.
The classic chip, a takeaway favourite with fish and loved by all. If oven chips aren't your thing and you want to make a good, handcut steak chip you'll need a starchy potato this is soft, with a dry texture. Look for King Edward, Maris Piper, Romano, Désirée, or Russet potatoes. What are you going to cook them in? Beef dripping gives amazing flavour to the chips but of course does not suit all tastes. Sunflower or ground nut oils make great alternatives.
Slice 800g of potatoes sort of finger size and you can leave the skin on if you wish. Then you begin a two stage process, in two batches to avoid decreasing the temperature of the oil too much. If you are not using a deep fat fryer, then your oil should be 8cm deep in the pan. We are looking for 140C at this point but if you don't own a cooking thermometer, drop a raw chip into the oil, and when it starts to float and fry the temperature you will have the ideal blanching temperature. Lower the first batch of potatoes into the oil carefully in a metal sieve and cook for about 8 minutes. You want soft but not coloured, then remove to a tray to cool. Repeat for the other half of the potatoes. Stage two: again taking the first half of the batch, turn the heat up to 180C or pop one of your cooled, blanched chips into the oil. When it floats and is golden the temperature is right to give you fluffy middled but crispy outside chips. Once cooked, turn out onto kitchen paper to drain then repeat with your second batch. Sprinkle with salt and away you go!
Potatoes au Gratin or Dauphinoise
Another French classic and makes a wonderful accompaniment to the main course at a dinner party; rich, creamy and indulgent. For this dish, you need potatoes that breakdown and become lovely and soft under that golden cheesy crust, so we need to ensure we use starchy potatoes. Desirée, King Edward or Maris Piper are the perfect choice and easy to get hold of too.
Not a dish for dieters, this gorgeously gooey recipe requires no more than garlic, cream, butter and cheese with perhaps a little seasoning. This recipe by Angela Nilsen is just wonderful. You will need:
300ml full fat milk
284ml carton double cream
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 sprigs of fresh thyme plus extra for sprinkling
1 shallot, roughly chopped (optional)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
25g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 4/fan oven 140C. Rub the butter all over the surface of a gratin dish, about 18x28cm/7x11in. Peel and slice the potatoes to a width of 3mm/1⁄8in. Lay the slices on a clean tea towel and pat dry. Keep them covered with the tea towel while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan. Add the garlic, thyme and shallot (if using). Slowly heat the milk and, just as it is about to reach boiling point and you see bubbles appearing around the edge of the pan, remove it from the heat. Strain the liquid into a large jug, sprinkle in the nutmeg and keep warm.
Layer half the potato slices in the dish, slightly overlapping the slices and sprinkling with a little salt and freshly ground pepper between each layer. You don’t have to be too neat with the lower layers, but keep some of your best slices for later, so the top looks good.
Pour half the hot milk and cream over the potatoes, then finish off layering the rest of the potatoes (arranging them a bit more carefully this time). Pour over the rest of the hot milk and cream. Scatter the cheese over the top and bake for about one hour, until golden and tender. Leave the dish to stand for about 5 minutes, then serve sprinkled with a few fresh thyme leaves.
This is a humble peasant dish originating in Switzerland and in its simplest form with a fried egg on top makes for a delicious lunch. You can beef it up a bit by adding bacon, onion and cheese but we're going to stick to the basics.
There seems quiet a lot of argument about what type of potato to use, floury or waxy, whether you parboil or not and what you cook the rosti in, butter, oil or goose fat but in the end, with a little experimentation, I think this is a great recipe which serves either 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side.
Parboil 2 medium-sized waxy potatoes in salted water until just tender then drain and set aside to to cool then chill for at least a two of hours. Now you can coarsely grate the potatoes and season. Heat 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp goose fat in a small, heavy-based frying pan until sizzling, and then add the grated potato. Cook for a couple of minutes before shaping the potato into a flat cake, pressing down as lightly as possible. Cook for a further two minutes then gently shake the pan to loosen the potato. Keep cooking for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp, then place a plate on top of the pan and invert it so the cake sits, cooked-side up, on the plate. Now add another /2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp goose fat to the pan and, when hot, slide the potato cake back into the pan the other way up. Cook for another 10 minutes, then serve.
Now fondant potatoes are not particularly hard to make, and go really well with a Sunday roast instead of roast potatoes but you do need to make sure they are cooked all the way through before serving as no-one likes a raw potato!
Maris Pipers are a good choice for a fondant potato as they stand up to lengthy cooking without water. Add a few simple ingredients, time and a love and you have a very tasty side dish.
To feed 4 people, slice the ends off 4 medium potatoes so they lay flat on either side. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and cut side down, fry the potatoes until you have a crisp and golden colour. Turn over to the same with the other end. It should take about 5 - 7 minutes either side. Now add 130g butter to the pan and let it melt. To complete the recipe, now add 3 cloves of garlic, seasoning and a couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary to the pan before pouring 130ml of good chicken (or vegetable stock if needs be) around the potatoes and herbs. Cover the pan and steam gently for about 30 minutes until you have soft potatoes.
Originating in northern Italy where potatoes took to the cooler climate better than grains, gnocchi is an Italian pasta which look like little soft dumplings. They go well with all sorts of ingredients such as mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes, cheeses and meats such as chorizo.
The best kinds of potatoes for gnocchi are floury or all-purpose potatoes. Desiree, Estima, King Edward and Maris Piper probably being to top four. They don't have a lot of moisture and can hold their shape well even after rolling them into dough.
All you need to make your gnocchi is 500g clean but skin-on potatoes, 130g plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 medium egg. In an ideal world, you also need a potato ricer but if not, a masher will do.
Firstly, in a large saucepan, boil the potatoes until tender then drain and set aside to cool. Once they are cold, gently remove the skin and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or mash thoroughly. Now on a clean surface, place your flour and salt, having mixed them together first and with your fingers, make a well in the centre. Pour in the potatoes and egg. Again, using your fingers, mix the ingredients together and bring to a dough. On another clean surface, flour it and transfer the dough across. Cut small amounts of dough to form ropes and cut into 2 cm pieces, then slide each piece on a fork and squeeze a little (but not too hard). Sprinkle with a little bit of flour and toss, so they don't stick together. Now rest your gnocchi for 20 minutes. To cook, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add your gnocchi. When it floats it is cooked! Now you can add your gnocchi to any sauce you like with a little of the gnocchi water to loosen, cook for a further 30 seconds, add a shower of grated parmesan as no Italian meal would be complete without and enjoy!
Now you'll never be short of potato cooking ideas!
I hope you have found our potato guide useful and of course, this is just the start. You can take these recipes and change them up in so many different ways, the variety is endless. Please feel free to share your potato cooking tips and recipes, we love to hear from you.