Confessions of A potato ricer

My name is Laura and I have an obsession, with potatoes!

Those who know me best, will know, that to me the potato is the king! Whether they are Boiled, mashed, diced, hashed, roasted, fried, baked or chipped, potatoes are one thing in life my soul could not do without.

As a child potatoes were my food obsession. I had to have them with every meal from soup to lasagna the spuds were always the star of my show. My childhood was spent eating the most simple of potatoes either mash, roasties or chips but in the last few years my curiosity has gotten the better of me and my kitchen experimentation has helped me find new and amazing levels of potato deliciousness, you could call me a potato goddess? …Maybe not

I feel the biggest potato revelation I have made was the purchase of my potato ricer (seriously if you don’t have one, put some shoes on and go right this minute and get one!) As weird as it sounds it is a revelation and has changed my life for the better. I had read a lot of reviews and there are a lot of good ricers out there, I bought a Joseph Joseph one for £20 from Debenhams simply because it was one of the best rated…. And I wanted one that said  Joseph Joseph on the top because I am a complete and utter kitchen snob (have so many of their products because they are amazing!)

 

The first time I used the ricer was to make a simple mash potato and it was UNDOUBTEDLY the best one I have ever made …according to my husband, although I feel he is a little bias. My mashed potato recipe is simple

 

Mashed potato

 

2 kg of Maris Piper or Russet potatoes

40g (ish) of salted butter

80-90 ml of milk

Salt and pepper to taste

 

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An alternative mash. sour cream, spring onion and mustard. Delicious comfort food

I find that potatoes are a very personal thing to taste so you can add more or less butter or Milk. You should melt the butter and milk together before you add it to the riced potatoes as it stops lumps and means you aren’t adding cold things to the warm mash. I also have quite a few variations depending on the meal and I will add things like whole grain mustard, mature cheddar cheese, chives, spring onions, cabbage, rosemary, thyme, roasted garlic or even a bit of horseradish. A good mashed potato can take you places you never thought you would go. They can be eaten alone, alongside, or on top of any meal. I have also been trying variations of mixing them with different vegetables like carrot to top a cottage pie and puree pea on top of chicken or fish pie! … the potato possibilities are endless!

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken spud gun ( I know i’m hilarious) I really think potatoes should be with every meal! Yes I know they say everything in moderation and Carbs are the enemy ,but I really feel that food in general is happiness. The experience of cooking, baking, experimenting and trying new things is so warming to the heart and brings a smile to the soul so the act of denying yourself the things you love … is just plain silly. You can eat well and still be healthy.

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Made in Northern Ireland and grown just 10 miles from Dibney Cottage.

 

Chips are a big staple of Northern Irish cuisine, fish and chips is a crowd pleaser and a lot of people I know, myself included, grew up eating chips.  Wither oven cooked, microwaved or from the chippy they are a staple of life. So once again as my potato fascination continues I have endovered to make chips my own and create some unusual and delicious recipes.

You will never beat a good chip shop chip whither it is alongside a fish or with gravy, cheese or some sort so special sauce, however I do feel that the perfect potato cooked right at home can rival any take away around and is probably a little bit healthier too. I have heard all the hype about the triple cooked chip but who genuinely has time at home to cook a chip three times? Not me so i have developed a few techniques for making the perfect chip at home.

It has taken me a little while to perfect my own recipe for them but I tried them lots of different ways and this is the one I like best.

I usually get the oven onto its hottest temperature which is 250 degrees on my own. I then start with 1 kg of king Edward potatoes ( you can also use Maris Piper for these). Cut them into the size you desire whether thin or chunky. I usually cut them lengthwise to make the chips long and also usually make them a little on the chunky side, I find this makes them a little fluffier on the inside and crispy on the outside when cooked.

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Some Home made chunky chips

I generally use a little olive oil to drizzle over them just enough to cover them as if there is too much they are a bit greasy and the oven will be at its highest temperature so we don’t want any smoke alarm disasters. There is some debate as to whether you blanch them before cooking but i generally don’t. I usually soak them in water for 5-10 minutes to get rid of some of the starch and pat them dry before adding the oil. Top tip I picked up from Mary Berry is to put the chips oil and seasonings into a resealable plastic bag that way you can coat them all in the seasonings and add them to the pan without having to make more washing up for yourself! I also find this handy as you can make them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge before cooking if you are going to be in a rush or have guests over.

As for seasonings I generally just use whatever I have to hand and whatever is going to suit the vibe of the meal, sometimes it’s garlic and rosemary, sweet roasted garlic paste, chilli, Cajun spice, celery salt, oregano or BBQ seasoning. Generally i just go with the mood i’m in at the time I usually preheat the oven and get the chips laid out on the pan so they aren’t overlapping I would cook them for around 25-30 minutes turning them a few times as I go until they are ready.

This is just my own way of doing things and I find it works for me, you get a different chip every time but to be honest I still love a good chippy chip ( usually with cheese ,salt, vinegar and red sauce…. It’s Deliciously wonderful!) … As I say I just do things my own way, I am not a chef or a food scientist, i’m just a girl standing in front of a potato asking it to love her.

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Mary Berry tips makes my spud life so much easier to clean!

Most nights I will make potatoes and I love using little potatoes like jersey royals or new potatoes which I usually cut into cubes and roast in the oven in a little oil and spices. They are truly amazing with anything but I recently discovered the most beautiful recipe for them. I was inspired by my new-found fascination of indian spices. Indian cuisine  was never food that I had liked before due to a bad and greasy experience many years ago however as I have begun to explore more at home I have learned some delicate spice combinations that are much better than anything I had tried before.

The beauty of the cubes are the fact that they are small and cook in 15-20 minutes which is always handy when i’m in a rush. The spice mix I have concocted is a mix of paprika, cumin, chilli, fennel, mustard powder and some Turmeric once again I am no Jamie oliver so I don’t specifically stick to a recipe I just add what I feel is right and see what happens (if it tastes horrible you don’t have to eat it after all) sometimes it is just nice to experiment. These usually go down very well in our home and I serve them with a spicy chicken or sausages.

 

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Home made cubes with garlic and black pepper. Accompanied with a mayo, tomato sauce dill and lemon dipping sauce. just perfect to warm the soul.

The little potato cubes are usually a staple for us and I use them in lots of different ways adding different spices to them such as chilli, garlic or just plain with some salt and vinegar on them.

Potatoes to me represent more than just food. They are comfort, they are home and fill my soul with warmth. On a cold winter’s day I use potato in soups, traditional Irish Stew, potato rosti, hash browns, and so many other things. I love how versatile they are and how you can make anything from waffles to pasta with them

I travelled in Italy a few years ago and had the most life affirming food experience in Verona. It remains to this day, a city I am completely besotted with. For reasons I feel I cannot put into words Verona made me, me. Whilst there I went for dinner in this little restaurant which was near castle Vecchio. The name of it completely escapes me and my extensive google street view searches have turned up zero, so all I have are my memories to go on. It was the first place I ever ate Gnocchi and is still the best I have ever had. We had the most beautiful dinner there but the Gnocchi with broccoli and a creamy cheese sauce was the one thing I will never fail to remember, it was so comforting, you could feel the love that had gone into it and the way I felt eating it was like no other food experience I have ever had.

At the risk of being overly romantic about the food It made my soul shine, my face smile and it had potatoes! what more could you ask for in a meal? That night in particular was amazing for another reason upon leaving the restaurant I went outside to the most amazingly warm thunderstorm, being from Northern Ireland that isn’t something you get every day, it was like a scene from a film and I realised in that moment standing looking out at this amazing force of nature, that the person I was standing next to, was not the person I wanted to spend my forever with, I realised that life was so much more than what we had, that I could love so much more than I ever thought possible and the positivity I felt going forward that evening was life changing for me, you could say it was the electricity in the air or the romantic atmosphere of Verona that made me see things clearly, but I like to think it was the food, the power of the Potato.

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My own take on gnocchi. served with Cod, garlic green beans and a home made green pesto

So apart from potatoes filling my tum, warming my soul and affirming my life as a weird and slightly strange human being they are really a very versatile vegetable. I like to make them a little bit special at times too. One of my favorite dishes to do for a special occasion is potato gratin. The first time I made it in our home was the first time my family and Neil’s family met and I made dinner, a slow cooked beef brisket with green beans carrots and potato gratin. I find it to be a very elegant way of presenting potatoes, it is creamy, cheesy and just with a hint of nutmeg it is just the perfect dish for a special night. Although I do remember that night when I was lifting the gratin out of the oven and spilled some of the cream and milk mixture down in between the glass of my then brand new oven door, but no point crying over spilt cream, it’s all about making memories of how difficult it is to clean between the glass of an oven door!

 

Potatoes, incase I didn’t go on about them enough, are just great. They represent so much to me, they are nourishment, comfort, love and bring me so many happy memories and inspirations in my kitchen. From Jersey royals to King Edwards, Maris pipers to our very own Comber potatoes I love them all, The day I give up on spuds will be the day I cease to exist.

 

Love Laura

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