The Humble Spud
There are hundreds of potato varieties in the world, but Western Australia still only seems to have a few. Flavours have improved over the years, and we have a basic range. Some farmers we know have tried growing some cool varieties with pink and purple flesh but it’s hard for them to be farmers AND promote their produce.
Still in some shops often the run-of-the-mill varieties are simply labelled red or white. This doesn’t give the home cook much to go on!
Most potatoes fall into one of two categories, WAXY or FLOURY. Waxy have a higher water and starch content. Floury are lower in moisture and starch.
Waxy potatoes (usually white-skinned) are good for boiling, steaming, making sliced potato bakes, cooking in curries or casseroles and to use when making a potato salad. They remain intact if cooked with care (see tip below). BEWARE: they’ll make wallpaper-glue style mash and roasted potatoes will turn soggy a few minutes after coming out of the oven as the steam will soften the crisp exterior.
Floury potatoes (usually red-skinned) are the best for mashing, roasting, making oven-baked wedges and baking whole. they are drier than waxy so make fluffy mash. Roasted potatoes and wedges stay crisper due to less trapped steam. BEWARE: they’ll collapse if cooking in a curry or casserole, potato salad may become similar to mashed potato once dressing is mixed in and if cut into chunks and boiled ferociously with skins on, the skin will peel back and completely fall off if overcooked.
TIP: When boiling any potato variety, once water has boiled, maintain a simmer rather than a rapid boil. Especially at the end of cooking the potatoes will have softened and if they are being pummeled around the saucepan, they will start to fall apart.
I tend to leave the skin on my potatoes whatever cooking method I’m using. I like the texture and the flavour that the skin offers as well as increased fibre for improved gut health.
These are the 3 main varieties we offer in our WA Seasonal Produce Box selection.
- PRINCE OF ORANGE – all-rounder but more towards waxy
- ORCHESTRA – waxy
- ROYAL BLUE – all-rounder but more towards floury
Next-level roasted potatoes!
- Choose the correct variety of potato. Floury (usually red-skinned) potatoes make the best mash as they are not high in water. If waxy potatoes are used, even if they crisp up in the oven, they’ll quickly turn soggy in a few minutes once out of the oven due to the steam. My favourite are Royal Blue and the crisp golden result is consistent.
- Par-boil potatoes. Cut (peeled or unpeeled potatoes) into preferred size. Boil well-salted water in a pan which can accommodate amount of potatoes that are being cooked. The water just needs to be enough to cover the potatoes. Once potatoes are in the pan, cover with a lid and turn heat to high to bring water quickly back to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down so water simmers. Time for 6 minutes. Test with a paring knife and the first ½cm or so of the potato pieces should be soft. Don’t cook them right through.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 190°C (whether fan-forced or not). Place an empty roasting tin in oven to heat through.
- When potatoes are ready, drain in colander and replace potatoes into hot saucepan. Add a good pinch or two of salt, scattering it all over the potatoes (not just plonking it in one place) to evenly season the potatoes. Place lid on the pan, and (holding firmly with oven gloves if necessary), shake pan 3 or 4 times. The potatoes should, fluff up around the edges but remain in one piece. Don’t go overboard with the shaking until you’ve sussed-out the doneness of the potatoes! Although… once I roasted potatoes that were virtually mashed once shaken and they were quite lovely (but not exactly what I wanted!).
- Working quickly, remove hot roasting tin from oven and add a good slosh of olive oil (or vegetable oil if preferred) to cover base of roasting tin. Use as much oil as you think is necessary remembering it’s the oil that gives potatoes their golden crispness, so don’t be mean. If too much oil is used and there is quite a lot left in the pan once the potatoes are ready, simply spoon the spuds out with a slotted spoon and make a note to use less next time.
- Tip the fluffy potatoes into the pan and shake to create a single layer. It’s important to have some space in the tin for the air to move around. If the potatoes are piled on top of each other they’ll simply steam in the oven and not crisp up at all.
- Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size of potato pieces and amount in roasting tin.
- Remove from oven when golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
Now you know which potatoes to use, why not try my BBQ Roasted Potato Salad which is suitable to serve all year round. Enjoy!