|perfect mash |
(Sainsbury's Heritage potatoes)
Many of us are scarred by the horror of school dinner mash - watery, lumpy and a peculiar grey colour, slopped on the plate using an ice-cream scoop. For years I thought I didn't much like mashed potato, until I had the real thing and realised that something so simple can be most sublime.
It is not much of a secret but the key to a good mash is to use a floury variety of potatoes such as the perennial King Edward or Maris Piper. I have also recently used a heritage variety from Sainsbury’s called Wilja and the wonderful red and white Apache potatoes, a new variety with a traditional flavour.
The second thing you will need to do is keep the potatoes dry. Once they are cooked, all excess water needs to be drained, and then steamed off and I mean every last drop!
Some cooks suggest that you bake your potatoes first, and then scoop out the flesh. Others suggest boiling in their skin, then cooling and peeling. While this all makes perfect sense and probably gives a good potatoey flavour, I prefer to the bull at the gate approach and plough right in. I find it easier to peel the potatoes first, but reserve the peelings which are placed in a sieve, over the boiling spuds. The peelings give the cooking water and thus the potatoes that extra punch of earthy flavour.
Skill level: Easy
1kg floury potatoes (such as King Edward and Maris Piper)
50g butter, plus more to dot over the cooked mash
hot milk (about 4 to 5 tablespoons)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the potatoes and retain the peelings. Rinse the potatoes to remove any excess starch and cut into evenly sized chunks. Put the potatoes in a saucepan of well-salted cold water. Bring to the boil, and then cook at a rolling simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Put the sieve of peelings over the potatoes. The water bubbling through the peelings will infuse the cooking water with extra potato flavour.
- When the potatoes are cooked through, drain well in a colander. Return the colander to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and half cover with a lid or with a clean tea towel. Any excess moisture will be lost as steam, which may take anything from 5 to 10 minutes.
- Either return the potatoes to the pan or to a clean mixing bowl.
- Using a metal masher and begin to mash the potato. Add all of the butter, which will begin to melt in the residual heat of the potato. Add a splash of milk and continue to mash. The more milk you add, the creamier (although wetter) it will be.
- Make sure you have removed all the lumps and that the mash is fluffy. (A wooden spoon is perfect for this final stage).
- Check the seasoning (you may need extra salt). I love mine with lots of freshly ground black pepper and a touch of allspice. (I keep a few allspice berries in my black pepper grinder).
- Never, ever use a blender or food mixer to mash your potatoes. It becomes gluey like wallpaper paste!
- Use a floury variety of potatoes.
- Steam off any excess water.
- Use a metal potato masher rather than a plastic one.
- I make double the amount of mash I need if planning on using the excess in fishcakes, cottage pie or rissoles. I set aside what I need before adding the butter and milk as I want the potato drier for the fishcakes, etc.
- Good things to add to mashed potato are cheese, wholegrain mustard, olive oil, cream, garlic, spring onions, Savoy cabbage, parsley and chives. But sometimes the lily needs to remain firmly ungilded!