Potatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients appearing in just about any shape or size on the plate. Certain varieties of potatoes lend themselves better to certain methods of cooking than others. Keeping the skin on potatoes when cooking them not only enhances the flavour, but provides you with the all the available nutrients.
Boiling, Steaming and Mashing
Boiling or steaming potatoes is one of the most popular ways of cooking potatoes. If you want to keep the potatoes whole then new potatoes or waxy potatoes are best as floury potatoes will generally turn too mushy.
To boil, place the potatoes in a pan and cover in cold water. Add salt or other herbs and spices to the pan and place the pan over heat and allow the water to boil. Generally potatoes will take about 10-20 minutes to boil, although larger potatoes can take up to 40 minutes. Potatoes are ready when they are easily pierced with a fork or knife.
Steaming is often seen as the healthiest way to cook potatoes as the nutrients do not leak into the water, as they can do when boiling. If you do not have a steamer, you can bring a pan of water to the boil, then place the potatoes in a colander and set on top of the boiling water. Steaming potatoes will take 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato and again, they will be ready when tender to the centre of the potato.
Steamed or boiled potatoes can be eaten just as they are, or can be mashed. If going on to mash the potatoes, allow them to steam or boil for a few extra minutes to ensure that they are completely soft. This will make the mashing easier and will also prevent any lumps in your potatoes. Adding a little butter, milk or cream to the mashed potatoes makes them extra smooth and creamy.
Baked potatoes or jacket potatoes are one of the prime comfort foods. As the potato cooks, the skin acts as a seal, steaming the potato on the inside. However, it is important to prick the skin with a fork to allow some of this steam to escape, or you may find yourself with an exploding potato on your hands.
Massage a little olive oil into the skin of the potato and sprinkle with salt and then bake at 200ᵒC (400 °F) for about 60-90 minutes. The skin of the potato should be crispy, and the inside soft and fluffy.
Roasted potatoes are another great autumn or winter comfort. Although you can roast potatoes from raw, many people choose to parboil the potatoes, for just 7-10 minutes before roasting. After parboiling, fluff up the potatoes with a fork, as this will make them extra crispy on the outside. Rub some oil or butter, pepper, salt and other herbs or spices (as required) into the potatoes before placing them on a tray and roasting at 200ᵒC (400 °F) for about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato.
As with roasting, many people choose to parboil their potatoes before frying as this helps to ensure that they are cooked all the way through. For frying, potatoes tend to be cut into small chunks or thin slices. Heat a little butter or oil in a frying pan, and once it is bubbling add the potatoes. Keep turning the potatoes so that they brown all over but do not burn. Depending on the size of the potatoes, frying can take between 5 and 20 minutes. They are ready to serve when tender in the middle and crispy on the outside.