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Hasselback, hasselbain, ridgeback, hedgehog or - of course! - hasselhoff potatoes are an impressive dish of baked potatoes, Swedish style.
Spiky potatoes, known in Sweden as hasselbackspotatis, are cut like an accordion and basted with herby butter. Before and during the baking. Or is it roasting?
That’s the puzzle: are they roasted or baked, whole or sliced? Roasted you’d say, considering they are cooked in a considerable amount of fat. But they cook whole which would point towards baked potatoes. Oh – but not quite whole as they are sliced. Yes – sliced, but not quite through. Damn those Swedes!
The name does not mean anything spiky or hedge-hoggy in Swedish, though it could be poetically re-phrased as ‘potatoes with hasselled backs’; ‘hasselled’ being an old Norse word describing wavy, bumpy or ridged (I am totally making this up). Mundanely, the spuds were first prepared like that (hasselled?!) in the Hasselbacks Hotel in Stockholm. My guess is a dopey commie chef was slicing potatoes for chips and didn’t notice the chopping board was bumpy/there was a cloth underneath them/his knife was chipped. Thus the sliced-but-not-sliced, whole-but-not-whole, roasted-but-baked potato dish came to be. Yorn desh born der ritt de gitt der gue! Orn desh dee born desh de um bork! bork! bork!
Now they sell special spoons in Sweden to rest your potato on and insert the knife just to the rim of the spoon, not cutting through the potato. But an ordinary large spoon, wooden or metal, will serve just as well, all you have to be is careful not to slice through.
The name is now also universally applied to foodstuffs slit or notched like an accordion – or a hasselback. Hasselback sausages, hasselback tofu, apples or even bread (though I’m more used to call the latter simply ‘garlic baguette’). There is also the trend to stuff things into those slits, cheese being the firm favourite, and you can build the whole elaborate spiky dishes around hasselbacks, as seen in my hasselback gratin.
One word of advice – do not pick too large potatoes for the hassel-process: they take a surprisingly long time to roast (bake?) and by the time the middle is edibly tender, the ridges may have burnt. Bork! Bork!
hasselback potatoesServings: 3-4Time: 2 hours
- 1 kilo (2 pounds) medium sized baking potatoes
- salt and black pepper
- 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp. butter, softened
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley or a mix
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/gas mark 6.
2. Wash or scrub the potatoes. One by one, place the potatoes on a wooden or serving spoon. With a very sharp knife, make incisions almost to the bottom but leaving the base intact, about 2mm apart. Season all over with salt and pepper.
3. Heat an ovenproof baking tray on the hob with 2 tbsp. of the butter and all the oil, Add potatoes, sliced side down, when the butter is foaming. Fry for a minute, then turn them over, baste with the fat and transfer to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size.
4. In the meantime mix the herbs into the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. Remove the potatoes from the oven and baste with the herby butter. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
5. Check if they are soft inside by squashing them gently or prodding with a fork or knife. Serve immediately.