The common or garden boiled potato has slid out of fashion in recent years for various reasons. One contributing factor is the ever increasing number of tasty potato-style snacks available, making boiled spuds seem flavourless and boring.
Of course another problem has been all the fad diets over the last generation or two, often convincing us that potatoes are full of calories, or belong to the dreaded ‘carb’ family and should be avoided at all costs.
Steamed or boiled potatoes are in fact nutritious, delicious and worth their worth their weight in gold especially if you have a growing family to feed.
Re-introduce this underrated vegetable into your diet by adding a little pizazz!
Minty Spuds: Gently scrub new potatoes. Many of the nutrients in vegetables are stored just under the skin, so peeling should be a last resort. Cut into regular pieces, or leave whole if the potatoes are small enough.
Steam or boil until just cooked. Add a leaf or two of fresh mint just before the end of cooking time. Drain well, put drained potatoes back in the pan and stir in a little butter (or low-fat equivalent) and serve hot. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Potato Salad: Scrub or peel potatoes and dice. Steam or boil until just cooked. Drain well and leave to cool. When completely cold, stir in your preferred dressing; Mix half mayonnaise and half natural yoghurt in a bowl, or use a low fat soft cheese, crème fraiche, or any other preferred combination.
Taste the dressing until it’s just right, adding a little of this and that as you go. A finely chopped spring onion or shallot will add extra flavour to the salad, or stir in a handful of broken walnuts.
Mediterranean Spuds: Scrub or peel potatoes and cut into fairly small pieces. Steam or boil until just cooked and drain well. While potatoes are cooking, slice a sweet pepper into strips or cut into chunks, chop an onion and slice a courgette if you have one. Use up any odd bits of vegetables you have lurking in the fridge; e.g. a tomato or a few small broccoli florets.
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy based pan and gently cook the pepper and other vegetables until just cooked. Stir in the cooked drained potatoes carefully, add the juice of half a lemon and stir gently over a low heat for a minute or two and serve immediately.
Garlic Potatoes: Pre-heat oven to Gas mark 5 (375F, 190C). Scrub or peel potatoes and cut into fairly thin slices. Steam or boil for a few minutes. Don’t let them get too soft. Drain well and leave to cool slightly.
Chop or crush a few cloves of garlic, according to taste.
Lightly oil an ovenproof dish. Using a slotted spoon or fish slice, put a layer of potato slices into dish and sprinkle over a little garlic and some chopped parsley. Add another layer of potato and repeat.
Pour milk over the whole dish to about half way up. Milk could be mixed with a little single cream if preferred. Bake in the oven or 15-20 minutes until hot right through.
Optional extra: Top with grated cheese when cooked and grill for a few minutes until cheese has melted.
Mash: If potatoes are slightly over-cooked they can be mashed and used as a topping to shepherd’s pie type dishes. Or mix with cooked chopped bacon pieces, or cooked white fish and heat through in a moderate oven until hot right through.
NB: Always make sure meat or fish is heated through until piping hot.
A few mixed chopped herbs add a touch of pizazz to this basic mashed potato dish. Again, if preferred, you could top the cooked dish with grated cheese and brown off under the grill for a few minutes.
Potatoes are a nutritious family vegetable and these are just a few ideas to tempt the taste buds. Always buy good quality potatoes, or if at all possible, grow your own.
Potato barrels and sacks are available from all good garden centres, or online. They take up little space in the garden, or on the patio, and require very little time or maintenance to produce a good crop of organic home-grown potatoes every year.
And if you are inspired to grow your own, there’s a potato growing guide listed here: Mini Growing Guides