Cooking potatoes

Cooking potatoes

Preparing potatoes

  • Most waxy varieties never need peeling before cooking. Generally the skins are eaten, but they can be removed easily once cooked.
  • Some recipes, such as stuffed baked potatoes, leave the skin on, but where the potato is braised in liquid, like gravy, it is more appropriate to peel.
  • Most of the potato’s nutrients lie just under the skin, so it is worth considering if peeling is absolutely necessary. Simply clean the potato thoroughly before cooking.
  • Whole boiled potatoes, even floury ones, can be peeled once cooked, and will be more flavorsome for having been cooked in their skins.
  • When you peel, use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to remove the thinnest possible layer. Remove any eyes.
  • Once peeled, cook as soon as possible – leaving peeled potatoes in water will draw out their nutrients.

Boiling

  • Place potatoes in a large pan of salted water and bring slowly to the boil. Test gently with the point of a fork.
  • When potatoes are just tender, drain, put back in the dry pan and cover with a lid. Stand potatoes for a few minutes to allow them to absorb a little more steam.
  • Add a few fresh herbs and some butter if you like. Alternatively, wrap potatoes in a clean tea towel and stand several minutes.

Microwaving

Whole with skins on:

  • Prick 1 potato all over with a fork; wrap in paper towel.
  • Microwave on high 4-6 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. If using more than one potato, increase cooking time.

Peeled and chopped:

  • Cook 2 medium or 4 small potatoes with 1/2 cup water, covered in a microwave dish, 5-6 minutes on high.
  • Stand 1 minute.

Frying

  • Use waxy varieties.
  • Cut potatoes into even-sized pieces and soak in cold water for 30 minutes. This will remove some of the surface starch. Drain and dry well.
  • Fry potatoes in clean, hot vegetable oil until they are just golden. Remove potatoes from oil, heat oil to very high. Fry potatoes again for a few moments to crisp them up.

Baking

  • Leave potatoes whole and unpeeled; scrub skins and prick with a fork. Wrap potatoes in foil if preferred.
  • Place in preheated hot 210 deg C oven 1 hour, or until soft when tested with a fork or skewer. Brush with oil occasionally.
  • Sprinkle with coarse salt for extra-crisp skin. Push a metal skewer through each potato before baking to conduct heat through the middle of the potato and cook it faster.

Grilling

  • Peel and cut potatoes into thick slices or wedges. Drain and dry.
  • Brush with a little melted butter or oil and cook under a preheated moderate grill until golden, turning once.

Roasting

  • Peel potatoes and cut into even-sized pieces. Cook in boiling water 5-10 minutes only.
  • Drain; score sides with a fork (this will crisp the outside beautifully) then place in a roasting dish with a little hot oil.
  • Cook in preheated hot 210 deg C oven 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

Mashing

  • Peel potatoes and cut into even-sized chucks. (The smaller the pieces the faster they will cook.)
  • Cook in boiling salted water until very tender.
  • Drain thoroughly, then return potatoes to pan while still hot and mash with a fork or potato masher until potatoes are smooth and fluffy.
  • Add butter to taste and beat in a very small quantity of hot milk, or cream.
  • Add a little more liquid, if necessary – potatoes should be creamy and soft, not runny.
  • Do not use the food processor – they become gluey.

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