Posted 24th September 2010 by Josa Young
It's September, and this year's maincrop potatoes are coming into store. After a summer of new potatoes, which we love to use in salads, potatoes dauphinoise, or simply steamed with mint, it makes a nice change to get to grips with something more substantial.
The original potato grew in a single area of southern Peru, according to scientists who have studied the DNA. Humans apparently noticed that their meat and one veg was missing something for the first time around 7000 years ago and began to cultivate them for food. There were a good 200 types growing in South America by the time Sir Francis Drake brought them back to England in the 16th century. The tuber spread rapidly, providing a nutritious stable to millions of people all over Europe. Today the average Brit eats up to 500 medium sized potatoes a year.
It is very important, when cooking potatoes, to decide on the texture you require before you start. For a fluffy mash, to top Cottage or Shepherds Pie for instance, you need a nice floury potato such as Wilja, King Edward, Maris Piper or Desire. These varieties are also brilliant for baked potatoes. Try cooking them in the oven, then stuffing them with Chilli. Waxy potatoes hold their shape when cooked, so are good for gratins, Lancashire Hot Pot, Potatoes Boulangere or an autumnal potato salad, dressed with thyme leaves, finely diced red onion, vinaigrette and crispy bacon pieces. They are also good roasted, try goose fat or vegetable oil, or the dripping from a joint. Watch the video to get it exactly right. They are perfect when you just want simple peeled and steamed potatoes that hold their shape, dusted with finely chopped parsley and a little melted butter.
Small firm flavourful potatoes such as Charlotte and Exquisa, perfect for salads, are also still available. Try a more substantial main course potato salad with lemon, olives, anchovies and parsley. Be careful to keep all potatoes in the dark to prevent them sprouting, but not in the fridge as the cold develops the sugars and spoils the delicate flavour.