perfect roast potatoes
Wed, 24 September, 2014
The best roast potatoes are crispy, crunchy, with garlic cloves roasted amongst them, they are the ultimate trimming for the Christmas or Sunday roast.
Roast potatoes are the key element of Christmas lunch, Thanksgiving, Sunday roast and any traditional roast dinner, whether the roast is rare beef on the bone or nut and butternut squash. If the roast is not a success, blame the cow/sheep/squash and the diners will be forgiving as long there are enough golden, crusty spuds to go round.
But if the potatoes are soggy, bland or tough, the occasion will be a write-off. I'm joking. But not entirely. I and a bunch of friends go every year for a pre-Christmas Christmas meal, exploring local outfits and their party menus. Invariably, the do is only as good as its roast potatoes. We still go: 'remember those awful boiled spuds three years ago? that place went downhill.'
So if the roasties fail, you only have yourself to blame because it's easy. There's no rocket science. You can use whatever fat you like, see below, but oil is foolproof, and democratic for the vegetarians and carnivores alike. You can sprinkle fancy seasoning, but nothing beats salt, pepper and rosemary. If your supermarket's potato varieties bewilder, go for standard, loose and cheap; they're likely to be King Edward or your locality's equivalent. And just bear in mind my dos and don'ts.
- pre-boil them
- use lots of fat
- start them off on the hob so they start to sizzle in the tray
- season generously
- roast them in hot oven (tricky, I know, if you have a roast going at the same time on low)
- put them under the grill if no way can you spare the space in the oven
- keep them pre-boiled overnight and roast the next day – they’ll be nasty
- roast without pre-boiling, unless making new roast potatoes – a different dish entirely
- panic if they start to disintegrate when boiled – the rougher the surface the better
- be afraid of goose or duck fat – it’s excellent and does not give you a heart attack
- let them stand around when ready – meat can rest, potatoes can’t
- just stick sprigs of rosemary among the spuds for roasting – it needs to be chopped finely to give them flavour
perfect roast potatoesServings: 4Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 1 kilo (2 pounds) floury potatoes (King Edward, Maris Piper, Yukon Gold or Russet) peeled, halved or quartered if large
- 3 tbsp.vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp. butter
- salt and pepper
- a sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped very finely
- a bulb of garlic split into cloves, in skins
- a few sprigs of thyme
1. Put the potatoes in a pan with salty water and bring to the boil. Let them cook for 15 minutes until they start breaking. If really floury, some might disintegrate so watch them. Drain and keep warm and dry.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Drizzle a little oil over the potatoes, season well and add chopped rosemary.
3. Put the roasting tray on the hob, on medium heat and add plenty of oil and a little butter – the butter will make them extra crispy. When it starts to sizzle, add the potatoes and the garlic cloves. Turn them over and around so that they are thoroughly basted in the fat.
4. Keep on the hob for another couple of minutes so they almost start frying. Tuck the thyme in between the potatoes, transfer to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, turning halfway through. The garlic cloves might go quite dark but they will taste wonderful squeezed out of the skins.