Perfect for me means golden nuggets: crunchy, shiny outside and ivory fluff inside.
One of the key components to a roast dinner being truly memorable is perfect roast potatoes. I’ve spent a long time eating and cooking roast potatoes, and have tried all the methods from all the chefs – Heston Blumenthal, Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, the lot. In 2009 The Guardian published an interesting article comparing different celebrity chef techniques. Many spuds later I feel somewhat qualified to give the perfect potato.
First, the potatoes. You need lovely dry-matter-packed potatoes, such as Maris Pipers or Yukon Golds. Peel them but keep the skins, in a muslin cloth or brand new J-cloth tied at the top. This may sound bonkers but these peelings will lend a real earthy note to the final product. Cut the potatoes into golf-ball size chunks. Get some water on a really rapid boil and salt much more than you usually would. When you reach your salting limit, add a touch more (this is more chemical- than taste-based). Pop your pots in the water and dunk the skins in too.
Leave to boil until tremendously tender – up to but not as far as potato soup. This is a test of nerves. Drain and return to the pan to steam-dry, discarding the skins. If you dare, shake the cooked potatoes a little to break the edges.
(The potatoes can be frozen or fridged at this point, leaving you free to do the actual roasting when you’re ready.)
When you’re ready to cook, get the oven dead hot, around 220C. Pre-heating is the order of the day – don’t put the potatoes in then turn the oven on. Give it at least 10 minutes to reach the optimum temperature. A couple of minutes before the potatoes go in, add your fat of choice to a large baking tray. I favour a 50/50 mix of pork and duck fat. I add enough to barely cover the base of the tray. Put this back in the oven to get smoky, wibbly hot. At this point add the potatoes to the fat.
After 20 minutes, take the tray out, add a sprig of rosemary, a couple of bashed (no need to peel) garlic cloves and a few splashes of red wine vinegar. Add a slice of orange zest if you have it. Take a fork and gently press on the back of each spud. You want them crispy, right? That’s formed by the crags on the potato opening up, so this squishing makes as much surface area as possible. Try not to break them up, but if you do you get the by-product of little crispy bits in the tray. Season with salt and pepper here, toss it all together and pop back in the oven.
After another 20 minutes they will be approaching done. Keep tossing the potatoes in the oils and flavourings when you check on them, and pop them back in if you think they could do with a few more minutes. When they come out of the oven sprinkle over some crumbled flakes of delicious Maldon sea salt.
It sounds like a lot of work when you read it all back like that, but it makes the most fluffy-centred, crunchy and gravy-absorbent roast potatoes you can imagine. Give them a try on your next roast!
Have you tried my perfect roast potatoes? Let me know what you think.
“One of the gang cooked roast potatoes for their future in-laws …they were the best Roasties they’d ever eaten” – Love Potatoes
“Made them for family and my sister apparently hasn’t stopped going on about them since.” – @lukewhitt_
“Big Spud’s guide to perfect roast potatoes is absolutely excellent” – She Cooks She Eats
“Tasted brilliant” – Munchmun.ch
If you’d like to read further, I can recommend some potato-centric blogs:
The Daily Spud – this keen Irishman talks about little else!
Best Sunday Roast – A roundup of all different Sunday roasts, of course featuring many roast potatoes.
No More Recipes – an excellent blog with some tantalising photographs.
If you have links to other potato-friendly blogs please let me know in the comments – I’d love to check them out!