Homage to the humble spud (+recipes)

By Jan Bilton

Potoatoes come in all shapes and sizes - and they're now being sold not only by variety, but for their end use. This is one of the most useful ideas since sliced bread.

Today there are more than 50 different potato varieties grown in New Zealand. However, only 10 or 12 are common.

There can be large differences in texture, flavour and shape and it is important to choose the right type of potato for your recipe. There is, for example, no way you can make gnocchi from a waxy potato - it requires floury potatoes.

General purpose varieties are Rua, Desiree and Moonlight, which can be boiled for salads or baked or mashed. These have a moderate starch level and are neither too waxy nor too floury.

Floury potatoes are low in moisture and sugar, high in starch and are ideal for mashing, wedges, roasting, chips and baking. Varieties include Ilam Hardy, Red Rascal, Agria, Laura and Fianna.

Most early season potatoes are waxy because the sugar has not been converted to starch - this happens when they age. Waxy varieties suitable for boiling, salads and soups include Draga, Nadine and Frisia.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place away from sun and artificial light. Prolonged exposure to light causes greening and warmth encourages sprouting. Remove your potatoes from the plastic bags in which they are packed to avoid condensation - wet potatoes will rot.

Potatoes are healthy. They contain vitamin C and B group vitamins, antioxidants, minerals such as potassium, iron and magnesium, and protein. And they are not fattening. One-hundred grams of boiled potatoes has just 355kj (85Kcal). It's the way potatoes are cooked that matters, or what you serve with them. Potatoes fried in oil - chips - have 744kj (per 100g).



Dressing: 1/4 cup each: rice vinegar, extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp each: dark soy sauce, sesame oil

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli paste

1 clove garlic, crushed

Salad: 8 baby boiled potatoes, quartered

1/2 cup sliced fennel bulb or crisp celery

1 small red capsicum, diced

1 head Shanghai cabbage, thinly sliced

1 shallot, diced

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing, until emulsified.

Boil or steam potatoes, until cooked, adding fennel or celery during the last minute of cooking. Drain, place in bowl.

Whisk the dressing again and combine carefully with the potatoes. Add the remaining salad vegetables, stir and serve. Serves 6


50g butter

1 each: onion, carrot, diced

1 tsp each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground turmeric

1 tbsp curry powder

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1kg boiling potatoes or general purpose potatoes, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken stock

1 & 1/2 cups water

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and white pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium. Add the onion, carrot and cumin seeds. Saute gently, until softened. Stir in the mustard seeds, turmeric and curry powder for 1 minute.

Add the garlic, potatoes, stock and water. Simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Tip half the soup into a bowl and puree until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan and add the peas. Simmer for 4 minutes.

Great served topped with chopped coriander. Serves 6-8


4 medium mashing potatoes

25g butter, optional

2-3 tbsp milk

salt and pepper to taste


2 tbsp each: diced sundried tomatoes and chopped basil

1/2 cup grated tasty cheese and 1 chopped spring onion

2 rashers chopped bacon and a dash of tabasco sauce

1-2 cloves crushed garlic and 4-6 pitted sliced olives

1-2 tbsp each Thai green curry paste and chopped parsley

Peel and boil the potatoes, until tender.

Drain well and mash with the butter and milk. Season and fold in one of the options.

Serves 4-6


1.25kg baby baker (floury) potatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium leek

1/4 cup each: finely grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley

1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese

150g smoked salmon pieces

6 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 190C. Lightly oil a 30cm flan dish or baking dish.

Wash and dry potatoes and cut into chunky, chip-sized pieces. Place in a roasting pan with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Add the washed and sliced leek and continue roasting, until just tender.

Place vegetables in a large bowl with the cheese and parsley. Combine carefully.

Place half the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dot with the salmon pieces then cover with the remaining vegetable mixture.

Whisk the eggs and milk with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over the ingredients to within 1cm of the top.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Cover with foil and bake for a further 20-30 minutes or until cooked in the centre.

Serves 6-8

- Hamilton News

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