Rediscovering the potato
Date: 15-01-2020 published by Nick Baines
For years the humble ‘tato has served the UK as one of the most reliable food sources we pull from the ground. However, despite its dependability, this tasty tuber is never revered in the same way as the freshness of new season asparagus or the glorious colours of beets.
But underestimate potatoes at your peril. From providing the cornerstone to Sunday roasts up and down the land, to bolstering leek in one of the nation’s best loved soups, our menus would be bereft without you King Edwards and Maris Pipers.
A tired mainstay of British cuisine and culture they are not. With today’s astronomical rise in vegetarian and veganism, diners and chefs are looking to tubers, brassicas and root veg with a renewed enthusiasm. Whether it’s dusting crushed potatoes in an abundance of sumac, or dressing them in vinegar laced chilli sauce, the heft of the potato provides gut-busting satisfaction.
It’s impossible to mention the versatility of the potato without turning our attention to your quintessential chippy tea. Fried in beef dripping is the connoisseurs choice, along with the coveted triple-cooking process. However, fries are something else entirely. Eaten by the fistful, these finely cut chips are being loaded with everything from gravy and cheese curds – thank you Canada – to sticky Korean sauces loaded with gochujang and anointed with a smattering of sesame seeds.
In all honesty, the frying of potatoes delivers some pretty outstanding results, the hash brown being a superstar of an example. This McDonald’s breakfast and fried chicken sandwich favourite is arguably one of the finest preparations of the potato, and due to it’s makeup, is ripe for weaving additional flavours and seasonings in. In fact, we tip the hash brown to be an area of vibrant creativity over the course of the next year, where savvy brunch cooks can introduce excitement to this breakfast staple.
Of course, the potato loves to be partnered with a fat, be it cheese, oil or butter. Joel Robuchon famously adds equal parts potato and butter to create his iconic mash – a dish that’s as high in calories as it is in order tickets. Whether you knock yours up to service the humble pie, or insert spring onion (champ) or cabbage (calcannon) to pay homage to the culinary traditions of the Irish, the potato is a literal god-send and a powerful ingredient to explore.
It has to be said that the potato delivers good margins to astute head chefs. With such a great yield, long life for storage and an abundance of easy ways to use up leftovers, wastage should be almost zero. Bubble and squeak can be riffed on extensively with the addition of spice rubs, herb mixes and even sausages.
There’s no disputing the popularity of the potato, even when it’s vilified by those following carb-dodging diets. At a time when plant-based foods are front and centre in the public zeitgeist, it’s time to be brave and start taking this sturdy ingredient in some new and adventurous ways.
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