The humble spud. Where to start? How many foodstuffs can compare to the tuber that brought a whole nation to its knees – and I’m not talking about the Irish potato famine, but rather the introduction of potatoes to haute cuisine. People had been searching for a starch that was affordable yet amazing, could be roasted as easily as boiled, and in all preparations had the same delicious taste – the potato had it all.
Indeed, being first cultivated in Peru, it was this that the Spanish conquistadors searched for – not El Dorado, but El Potato (city of potato). Jealously hoarded by their Incan growers, a fierce battle would rage culminating in the genocide of an entire race just for the acquisition of a tuber, an event never duplicated until the great Jerusalem artichoke battles of the mid 1700’s #altfacts. Such is the way of the world – we were fortunate that the Spanish throne spread the potato far and wide, landing on British shores in the 1500’s and it has thrived here ever since. But why is it so popular?
Compared to their orange cousins the sweet potato, it is less saccharine – but this is truly an advantage, for it enables it to pair excellently with meat, and shun marshmallows entirely. Yams, the hairy, wrinkled uncles to our divine tuber are simply too repulsive when poorly cooked, and though their nutty flavour is admirable, they can be easily set aside when compared to a fluffy, golden roastie.
Ingredients - 8-10 medium potatoes - 1-2 tsp Olive oil - Butter - Rosemary - Salt This is probably the easiest way to cook potatoes. First, preheat the oven at 175. Peel and chop the potatoes into smallish pieces. After arranging them on a tray, pour some olive oil – not too much. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and a bit of salt. In my opinion, those are the only things you need to add, but you can experiment with pepper and chilli or God knows what other condiments you fancy.
Let the potatoes cook inside the oven for 15-25 minutes – you should check them from time to time after 15 minutes to make sure they don’t burn!
Ingredients - 4 baking potatoes - Bacon - Shredded cheese - 2 eggs - 1 bell pepper - Black pepper - Salt - 1 tsp olive oil Let the potatoes boil for 20-25 minutes in salty water. Before taking them out, check if they are cooked through. Insert a fork – it should easily go the whole way through. There is a fine equilibrium: if they are too HARD, you won’t be able too use them, but if they are too soft, they are useless.
After they are boiled, cut them into halves. I prefer to cut them in two cups, but I think it’s easier, at least at the beginning, to cut them lengthways. Use a spoon to scoop out the inside of the potato into a bowl. Be careful not to take all of it out – you still should have 1 cm or so on the margins. Yes, this is why you need big potatoes! Also, be careful not to smash them into pieces – it happens even to the best of us.
Add some salt and pepper to the bowl along with the potatoes. Truth be said, there are so many ways to stuff them that I can’t choose just one!
Method 1: mix the insides of the potatoes with the finely chopped bacon, pepper and onions. Fill the potato jackets with mixture. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and cook everything in the preheated oven (200°C) for 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cheese. Carefully, pour this mixture into the potatoes and let them cook for 10 more minutes.
Method 2: add the finely chopped bacon, pepper, onion (and some extra veggie, because now you have plenty of space inside; I recommend: slices of tomatoes and diced carrot) Pour some olive oil on the top. Put in the oven for ten minutes. Add the beaten eggs mixed with shredded cheese before letting them cook for extra 10 minutes.
Method 3: use your imagination! When I like to feel a bit more sophisticated, I fill them with unexpected things. Melon and crispy bacon are a nice combination, or spinach and cheese. Cook the spinach before and mix with a soft cheese like Feta cheese and then stuff the potatoes with it; sprinkle some extra mozzarella on top of it before baking. Or pears soaked in rum and a good old cheese. Really, the possibilities are infinite! The only limit is your imagination. P.S. if you don’t want to throw away the inside of the potatoes but really don’t have space for them anymore, you can just mix them with butter and make them into small balls that can be cooked in the oven for 15 minutes. If you really like cheese – I mean, who doesn’t? – you can stuff cheese in the middle of them.
Ingredients - 3 medium potatoes - 2-3 big carrots - 1 parsnip - 250g green peas - 1 pear - 1 beef stock cube - Pepper - Salt - Cumin Well, honestly, this one is a bit of cheating when it comes to potatoes, but it’s still a great way of serving Eastern Europe’s favourite food – and I can say that without being racist or xenophobic as I come from there.
The only thing you need for this one is a) a pot that can be used in the oven b) a bit more time – so, don’t try this if you are starving c) either luck to not start a fire when leaving the oven unattended (which I obviously don’t recommend, but hey, we are all humans and hence, we make mistakes – or some power to study in the kitchen and tend to the oven.
First, peel what must be peeled, wash what must be washed and then chop everything in equal sizes – now, you’ll be thinking: am I supposed to cut everything in the same size and shape as the peas? Ha. Ha. You are my guest, if you want, but I think that you know what I meant and I am not even bothering to further explain. You are a smart Imperial student, riiiight?
Put everything in the pot, add one or two cups of water, so everything is covered a bit. Spice it up. Let cook in the oven for one hour (more or less, depending on how big you cut everything and how fresh the veggies are), while you are studying those integrals and don’t leave the oven unattended. I mean, you can, but if you do that and the fire alarm starts, karma will strike back in the exams.
Obviously, when ready, serve with meat!
Ingredients - 6-7 medium sized potatoes - 2-3 Spring onions - 3 eggs - bacon bits - parsley leaves - 4-5 medium basil leaves - salt - pepper Hard-boil the eggs and the potatoes. Peel the eggs, and dice into medium cubes along with the potatoes. Chop the spring onions, the parsley and basil leaves. Mix everything in a reasonably sized bowl. Add the bacon bits and salt and pepper to taste.
Congratulations! Now you have a nice lunch you can either take to school or enjoy in the silence of your room. If you are an animal (which you probably are, unless you are a plant or an enormous bacterium), you might want to add some mayonnaise – I don’t, as I’m not a savage.
Ingredients - 400g small potatoes - 1 medium squash - 200g evaporated milk - 200g butter - Salt - Fresh parsley leaves Well, I know I said that this is going to be a recipe about mashed potatoes, but mashed potatoes are b-o-r-i-n-g without some great gravy and no one has time to make great gravy whenever they cook mashed potatoes. I always choose to mix the potatoes with some squash for extra tastiness but if you don’t like it, you can just get rid of it and still follow the steps.
Boil the (peeled) potatoes until they are soft. Peel and chop the squash. In a separate pot, boil the squash cubes. When they are soft, take the potatoes and the squash and mash them. Now, I know that you are a student and you might not have the right instrument, but you can easily use a fork. And a bit of brute force.
Add the butter and the milk to the mixture until it softens. You know, the more the merrier, so you should add as much as you can – just be careful not to make a soup instead of mashed potatoes.
To finish, use your already well developed skills at salting food. For extra deliciousness, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley leaves on top.