Hotter Potatoes

As you all know, the potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world (behind rice, wheat, and corn) with amazing potential as a food source for future generations and a potential hunger solver – with the world population expected to grow by some 100 million yearly and with most of that growth in the developing world, the need for a nutritious and fast-growing food is more critical than ever – and closer to home, I can tell you that if you’re an aspiring chef then passing a critical test in a French culinary school means that all the students have to create an original dish featuring potatoes, no less.

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My favorite way to eat a potato is a baked one, like that pic above. I love simplicity!


First, I have to include this lovely Irish blessing, they do take their spuds seriously here.

May the frost never afflict your spuds.
May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.
May the crows never pick your haystack.
If you inherit a donkey, may she be in foal.

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I’ll start with this knock-out soup, a real heart warmer. If you’re vegetarian, just take out the Chorizo, it still makes a hell of a soup. For the heat add a chopped chili.

Potato, Kale & Chorizo Soup:

For 6 to 8 persons (halve the ingredients if you need less, but remember, the freezer is your best friend) you will need 2 pounds of potatoes (unpeeled, I like to get as much goodness a I can), 2 medium leeks, chopped roughly, 200 grams (8 ounces) of spicy Chorizo sausage, cut into little cubes, 1 bunch fresh kale, chopped up roughly, 6 peeled garlic cloves, 3 pints of chicken stock (veggie stock for the vegetarians), salt & black pepper to taste, plus 4 ounces of sour cream for the finish. Oh, and a dollop of butter to get things started and a handful of chives for the garnish.

Over medium heat, begin by melting the butter in a saucepan and soften the chopped leeks in it for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cubed potatoes, salt & pepper, cover with the stock and cook for 15 minutes. Then add the Chorizo and the chopped kale and simmer for a further 20 minutes. When it’s done, use your processor and add the sour cream slowly. Serve with country bread, and count your blessings.

Who doesn’t love potato puffs! This is the quickest way to make them. Kids drool when a platter of these arrive at the table.

Potato Puffs:

I never measure much when I make these, so from memory here it is: 3 eggs, separated, 2 cups mashed potatoes (I’m sure you know how to do that), 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and a pinch of mixed herbs for effect. This will make enough for 4 persons. First pic below is potato puff done in a communal glass dish, the second is done in individual shapes.

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Preheat oven to 175 C or 350 degrees F. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth and add the mashed potatoes (it helps if the mash is warm). Fold in the sour cream, the Parmesan, check seasoning, and add the herbs, then fold in the beaten egg whites slowly with a rubber spatula.

Pour into either a glass dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until puffed and brown, or make individual shapes and bake for 30 minutes. Note: when doing the potato puffs separately, it’s even better if you roll them in a dish of breadcrumbs.

The following recipe is a side dish, which can be eaten on its own or served with a baked fish or pork chops. Basically it’s a souped up gratin with attitude!

Gratin of New Potatoes & Pancetta:
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You can, if you wish, serve this dish in individual earthenware ramekins. For 6 to 8 persons: 2 pounds of new potatoes, sliced thinly, 8 to 10 ounces of pancetta, cut into little strips, 2 onions, peeled and sliced in rings, half a pint of fresh cream, salt & pepper to taste and a fresh nutmeg, to be grated as you layer the spuds & onions. I think this may be one of the few dished in which I don’t put garlic into.

This is quite simple: pre-heat your oven to 240 C or 464 F, wash & slice your unpeeled new potatoes, slice your onions and layer the ramekins with potatoes, onions and pancetta, making sure you salt & pepper to your taste as well as grated nutmeg. Resist the temptation to stick herbs or laurel leaves, and pour the cream into each. Top it up with pancetta (the fat will seep through the dish and give it an amazing flavor), and bake for 40 minutes if in one dish or 20 minutes if in individual ramekins.

Shortcuts:

If you’re in a hurry and want to eat something simple then look no further that these shortcuts:

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Warm Potato Salad with Brazil Nuts & Basil:

I make this for 4 persons, so it’s a pound and a half of russet potatoes, 6 ounces of Brazil nuts, broken into bits, a handful of basil leaves, chopped up, 4 ounces of butter, 6 tbs of a good virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and a fair amount of freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste.

In a small frying pan, over medium heat, melt the butter and throw in the broken nuts, and sauté for a minute, then add the basil, mix well, add the pepper and set aside. The trick here is to steam your russet potatoes with skin (shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes depending on your contraption), then peel and sort of mash lightly (oftentimes I leave the skin, depending how fast I want to eat). With a rubber spatula add the buttered nuts & basil and put it into a serving bowl. Drip the olive oil all over it along with the balsamic vinegar.


Roasted Potatoes with Chestnuts:

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again, this is easy peasy! Procure yourself with a pound of fingerlings, 6 ounces of chestnut meat (the frozen kind is quite good), 4 ounces of Gruyère or Emmental cheese, salt & pepper to taste. Pre-heat your oven to 240 C or 464 F. Slice the fingelings in halves and bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and place some cheese on each, with bits of chestnuts, and bake for a further 15 minutes. A wonderful side dish for any kind of main course.

And finally, have you ever tried a potato pizza? Pizza Bianca, as it’s known in Italy, is incredibly popular: it has no sauce and no cheese, it’s eaten more like a focaccia really. The combination of potatoes, rosemary and caramelized Vidalia onion is absolutely delicious as well as being nutritious and cheap to make; I have done it as finger food for parties, it takes little time to prepare and can be baked in ordinary ovens. If you want a thin crust use half Italian 00 flour with half whole wheat.

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For say 8 to 10 persons: 1 pound of flour (half & half, as described above – the remaining dough can be put into the freezer for the next time you need it), 12 ounces of Vidalia onions, minced up roughly, 4 medium-sized Golden Yukon potatoes, sliced paper thin, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a sprig of rosemary, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a pinch of sea salt for the dough, and 1 teaspoon of fact acting yeastn and lastly, 1 and a half cup of warm water (not hot).

First, mix the yeast with some warm water and half the olive oil. Stir well. For the dough, use a plastic bowl, add the flour, and gradually add the yeast, the rest of the oil and warm water. Add the salt and knead until done, it should take 4 or 5 minutes. Let it rise once before using. Pre-heat your oven to 260 C or 505 F.

In a frying pan, add a dash of olive oil, throw the onions and cook until golden brown. Add the brown sugar to caramelize them, cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes.

All you need to do now is to roll the dough to your preferred shape, arrange the sliced potatoes on top, sprinkle the onions all over, add the minced rosemary and bake for 6 to 7 minutes, depending how high your oven can go to. You can also use all kinds of pesto with this pizza, and you can substitute the onions for mushrooms if you wish. The permutations to the Pizza Bianca are endless. But remember the simpler the better. Always.

The pic below is of a Provencal Tian of potatoes & tomatoes with stoned black olives for balance. Just by looking at it, you can see how it’s done. Layer of potato slices, sliced tomatoes, a little basil and a handful of olives. Some even add anchovies to this. I do.

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And now a word from our sponsor:

Mineral content: If you eat potatoes regularly, you ensure a good supply of water and ions in your body. This is because, potato is rich in potassium. The concentration being higher in the skin and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin is always beneficial. Potato also contains calcium, iron, and phosphorus.

Vitamin content: Natural potatoes are known for the large amounts of Vitamin C present in them. Typically, 100 gm of potato will contain about 17 mg of Vitamin C. In addition to this, natural potato also contains Vitamin A, B and P.

Water content: Potato looks very big in size, but water accounts for about 70-80 percent of the weight of a potato. So the belief that you become fat by eating potatoes is a misconception. Of course if your potato servings contain large quantities of butter, or if you can’t keep away from those high-in-fat-and-cholesterol French fries, you are bound to become overweight.

Starch content: Potato contains about 17% starch and it is one of the best natural sources of starch. Potato sprouting leads to conversion of starch into sugar and hence you should avoid eating sprouted potatoes

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