Perfect roast potatoes from England

by Dave Allan-Petale

One of the best things about the three and a bit years I spent working in country Western Australia was the food. There was none of that big city frou-frou to be found. Just simple white bread cooking from what is now a very bygone era.The best of the lot was a bowls club in the coastal city of Geraldton which had genuine 1962 prices on the bar and did a lip smacking Sunday roast.

While you waited for your plate to arrive you could play a few games of bingo (first prize was a big tray of meat) or go out onto the bowling greens with a beer and turn your arm over. When the dinner bell rang everyone ran or hobbled inside and got stuck in. For five dollars you got a generous pile of medium rare beef, gravy, greens and the best roast potatoes ever. You know the ones I mean. Quartered, roasted in fat and coated in salt so they’re crispy and soft all at the same time. You don’t find potatoes like that much anymore; it seems to be a dying art. But I found a recipe the other day that brought it all back.

The holy trinity…roast beef and gravy, roast potatoes and a crisp salad

Heston Blumenthal is one of my favourite chefs of all time. People say he’s bonkers and yes he does make some pretty far out stuff. But I love his creativity and the challenge he throws down to those who wish to follow in his culinary footsteps. I got the Heston Blumenthal at Home recipe book a while ago and though I love to thumb the pages I’ve not attempted much inside. But his recipe for roast potatoes looked easy so I gave that a go. Walk before you run so to speak.

Just get 1.25kg of Piper Maris potatoes or something similar – big potatoes with lots of heft. Preheat the oven to 180C then chop the spuds into quarters and throw them in a bowl under cold running water for five minutes so the starch washes away. Take 8 cloves of garlic, crush them with the flat of a knife, peel them and set aside. Bung the chopped potatoes into a pot of cold, salted water and bring it to the boil for 25 to 30 minutes until the spuds go nice and soft.

Wash the spuds under running water for five minutes before they go on the boil –  it seems excessive but it really does wash away lots of the starch so you get fluffy potatoes

Next, pour 5cm of olive oil into a roasting tray and put that in the oven for 15 minutes. When the potatoes have had enough heat on the hob very carefully drain them in a colander. Take the tray of oil out of the oven and carefully drop the potatoes and garlic in. Stir it all around so everything gets covered in hot oil then whack it back in the oven for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so.

Be very gentle when you mix the boiled potatoes with the hot oil – they are quite delicate and you don’t want to end up with roasted mush!

When the bell tolls take the tray out and throw in some thyme or rosemary then put it back in for another 20 minutes or until they’re crispy as you want them. When you can resist the smell no longer take them out, coat in sea salt and serve. Just like a woman named Mavis or Ethel used to make.

Crunch! There weren’t many leftovers

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