Potatoes are a staple, a real mainstay of the kitchen but I think we can take them for granted in this part of the world. I grew up in a household that served them one way with Sunday dinner so get quite excited when they appear on my plate in their different guises. A smear of mashed atop your roastie, will wonders never cease? or the student days, carb loading the soup with a dollop of creamy mash. They are just as happy being the unassuming base to a dish as they are being the star attraction and have to be one of the most versatile ingredients you’ll lay your hands on.
They are such a lovely thing to grow. There’s no need for an allotment or a huge amount of space; a bin, large bucket or old tyres do the trick nicely letting you get all creative on what you grow them in. You won’t feed a family this way but you’ll get a taste of how good they can be. Try experimenting with a few varieties, a waxy salad potato for the summer months, a floury beauty for the roast, it’s astounding to realise the difference in flavour, texture and versatility that the humble potato brings to the table.
Here’s a skill that was passed to me by a somewhat scientific chef…a man who honed this technique over decades for a main component to one of the most perfect meals…
Lyonnaise potatoes a la engineer who knows everything…
You can use any type of potato for these, the trick is in the parboil – a floury potato requires less time than a waxy one.
Peel, wash and cut your potatoes. Try and be uniform here if you can, heck, we’ll follow the man’s instructions and get almost as precise as The Heston:
Cut into half moon sized pieces 1 centimetre in width.
Bring them to the boil in a large pan of water for three – five minutes from boiling point (a minute longer for each point on the waxy scale; 0 being floury and 10 being all you need is a wick and a match).
Remove from the water and drain well, remove any residual moisture with kitchen roll if you can.
In a large heavy bottomed frying pan heat exactly 0.5 of a centimetre of vegetable oil to medium high (not smoking). Gently add the potatoes covering the base of the pan evenly, (they will spit dangerously if there is excess moisture on them so please be careful) do not stack any, we want each piece sitting in oil to exactly halfway.
Meanwhile cut one large white onion into large (3cm x 1cm) and smaller pieces.
When the potatoes are a golden brown colour up to their midriff, turn them and add the onions. Cook for the same amount of time on that side. The larger pieces of onion will be translucent and the remainder nicely caramelised. Remove all from the pan and soak off the excess oil with kitchen roll. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to keep warm in the oven while you cook the accompaniments…. Steak your way, with wilted spinach and peppered mushrooms served with a generous smear of Dijon mustard and a splosh of wostershire sauce. Best Accompanied with a nice Pinot Noir and eaten on a Friday after a well worked, busy but rewarding week…. Much thanks old man!