New Potato 101

A few cooking options here, all of which are very simple and all of which share the same principle: cook long and slowly. This showcases their silken waxy texture far better than a fast boil, which can break up the cells, leading to an inferior less indulgent mouthfeel. How you should cook your new potatoes depends on what you are serving them with. If you want them as a simple accompaniment, then just simmer gently in salted water. Always start them off in a pan of cold water, never hot from the kettle, which would result in the outside cooking much more quickly than the centre. Allow about 10g of salt per litre (the same as pasta cooking water) if cooking them whole, though if they are being sliced or halved beforehand, then halve this salt content as it will be more easily absorbed. Use a wide pan rather than stacked up, otherwise the ones at the bottom will cook quicker than the ones at the top as they are further away from the source of heat.

Once the potatoes are completely tender, drain and mix with some salted butter, olive oil, herbs, or dressing. Some Maldon salt to finish gives a satisfying saline punch, which is very different to the ingrained seasoning they have whilst cooking. Or at this point, they can also be crushed with a fork, then other flavourings added; if you do go down this route, they can take a lot of oil and herbs. Given new potatoes are something grown in this country, instead of adding olive oil, some virgin rapeseed oil would give a delicious nuttiness that would pair beautifully with the flavour of the potato skins and golden colour. What grows together goes together….that applies to home just as much as to foreign soil.

I also love new potatoes confit in butter. It isn’t cheap, but it is delicious. You can use any leftover butter to enrich a stew or as the base of a roux. Halving the potatoes beforehand exposes their flesh to the fat content, which seems to lead to better absorption. I prefer using half salted and half unsalted butter for the perfect seasoning level to cook the potatoes, and you will realistically need half a pack of each to serve 4 adults. Simply place the washed and halved potatoes in a gratin dish and pour over the melted butter. Top tightly with tinfoil to trap the steam, then cook at 150C for about an hour or until completely tender. At HIDE, we do this with ratte (or other) new potatoes but cook them for 8hrs at 85C for an amazingly indulgent melting result. Leave to cool a little before serving.

One final mention should go to a new potato salad. The pre-bought version, like supermarket coleslaw, fills me with fear: an unnaturally white mulch whose taste and texture are both unpleasant and vague. Yet if made at home with consideration, it is one of the very first things I want to eat in the Summer months. Remember to dress the potatoes in plenty of dressing whilst still warm, then once cool, mix in some homemade mayonnaise, some crème fraiche or yoghurt (to alleviate the richness of the mayonnaise), some whole- or coarse-grain mustard, roughly chopped parsley and sliced spring onions for on top.

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