Crushed new potatoes are a dish I’m happy to make my dinner, all on its own. Especially if the new potatoes are the king of the spuds: Jersey Royals.
Jersey Royals are the king’s choice
They are the harbinger of spring and all the exciting new season’s produce. They are something of a National Treasure in Britain, deservedly considered the best-tasting new potatoes. What’s so special about them?
Grown in Jersey, they have a Protected Designation of Origin. The potatoes are of the variety called International Kidney and are typically grown as a new potato. Which I’m guessing means they are never allowed to grow huge in the ground and that figures: we never see baking Jersey Royals in the shops.
In around 1878, a Jersey farmer named Hugh de la Haye showed friends a peculiar large potato that he had bought, which had 15 'eyes' (points from which new plants sprout).
When cut up and planted in a côtil (a steeply sloping field) above the Bellozanne valley, one of the emerging plants produced delicious kidney-shaped potatoes with a paper-thin skin, which they called the Jersey Royal Fluke. This was later shortened to 'Jersey Royal'.
In modern times the Jersey Royal is Jersey's biggest crop export, accounting for around 70% of agricultural turnover. Almost all of those potatoes are eaten in the United Kingdom, the export running into the amounts of around 30k tonnes worth £28.6m.
Like champagne or Parmesan, Jersey Royals are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Jersey Royals are known for their superbly sweet and nutty flavour, with paper-thin skin and waxy, cream-white flesh. Since their discovery in the late 1800s, they’ve been grown exclusively by a small group of growers in Jersey. The island’s unique microclimate creates the perfect conditions for this special spring spud to flourish.
They are in season for a short window in the spring and their creamy texture and nutty flavour make them a real treat.
How to handle the Royals
Personally, I don’t like to buy them pre-washed, sterile and graded by size in supermarket plastic packaging. Picking tiny ones from a box of soil-covered, grubby spuds larger and smaller on a market stall is part of the experience.
Washed potatoes also will not keep as well as the dirty ones – though if you’re impatient to cook and devour them later the same day, it’s a bit irrelevant.
What is more important, washed Jersey might be stripped off this paper-thin skin which I adore. So I’d much sooner buy them mucky, take the time and sacrifice my manicure scrubbing them with a vegetable brush, all for the sake of the most delicious treat.
The thing is, I’m a little idiosyncratic about eating new potatoes. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed spearing them on my fork one by one, first biting the skin off carefully, to then dip the naked spuddie in butter and eat it up. Simply divine.
How to prepare Jersey Royals?
As with all high value produce, the simpler, the better. Thoroughly scrubbed, plunged into plenty of cold, heavily salted water, they usually take about 20-30 minutes from the boiling point. You should let them cook through until they offer nearly no resistance to a prodding fork or knife.
Drain, let them sit in uncovered pan on the warm hob for a minute to steam off, then add a good knob of cold butter and let it swirl around the potatoes.
Herbs are also a great addition, with finely chopped dill, parsley or mint the best choice. A sprinkling of salt and the feast is ready.
But for an ultimate new potato experience, try this recipe below.
Crushed new potatoes
Obviously, use the best local new potatoes if Jersey Royal are not available to you. It’s a little like with strawberries: the best ones are the local, freshly picked ones. So whether it’s Idaho, Yukon Golds, Pink Fir or Ratte, you can prepare them in this way easily.
This method is excellent. Boiled until tender as above, steam them off then add the extras: herbs, garlic, something sour, something spicy, something borrowed, something blue – oops, wrong context.
But seriously, the combination of chopped herbs, be it dill or mint as mentioned above, with crushed garlic, chopped olives and a pickled chilli will taste fabulous. I wouldn’t go for a madly hot chilli there by the way but rather a gentle jalapeno or the sweet round peppers.
With those colourful additions, more salt and black pepper, a little butter or olive oil and a drizzle of good vinegar or lemon juice, put the lid back on and shake the pan energetically to slightly crush the potatoes to release the flavour.
If they don’t want to yield, you can press them lightly with a spoon or a fork before serving, with the juices scrupulously scraped out of the pan and drizzled over the plates.
More potato recipes
Cod and potato recipe, a simple dish and always a winner. Cod or any other white fish and potato bake with herbs is a one tray dinner; the cod is roasted on top of crisp and herby potato slices.
These oil poached new potatoes taste almost like steamed. Close to Greek style lemon and garlic potatoes in taste, they are not crispy but very lemony and flavoursome.
A warm salad of Purple Majesty potatoes, zucchini and radishes. Purple Majesty, which I call Goth Potatoes, taste delicious and contain tonnes of plant nutrients as well as antioxidants. This salad brings the best in Purple Majesty potatoes when simply boiled and tossed with zucchini, pancetta and radish.
More spring recipes
Grilled asparagus with flaked almonds and Parmesan, an exquisite side dish or starter ready in 10 minutes. It can be cooked in oven grill or on a barbecue.
Creamy leeks sautéed with wild garlic. Wild garlic aka bear’s garlic or ramsons turns up in April in woody, wet, marshy lands and down in the overgrown part of my garden.
Beetroot leaf tart is a great way to use beetroot leaves. Never throw them away! Beet greens are nutritious and delicious, the small young leaves on baby beetroot can be used raw in salads.