In October 1995, the Idaho Potato Museum tells us, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. Whether that means future astronauts and Mars dwellers can expect to be cheered by croquettes or hash browns nobody is saying but clearly the spud has a lofty future.
Meanwhile, back on our particular patch of Earth, it seems the potato is often mistreated. This might be because they’re not pricey or because they’re cast as a “side”. Perhaps it’s because potatoes – plain old spuds, not the tiny multi-coloured gourmet thingies - are not particularly trendy here? Of course, it can’t be long before they’re renamed “ancient tubers” and the price doubles, so cook with them quickly before they become the next super-food.
KOREAN-STYLE POTATOES FOR TWO:
This is one of the best potato recipes I’ve ever met. It’s Korean in inspiration and is a little like an undone rosti.
4 waxy potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste (more than you’d imagine)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely sliced green chilli.
Coarsely grate potato (uses the large side of the grater - the one you’d use to grate apple). Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. When almost smoking hot, add potatoes and spread over the base. After a few minutes, start tossing the potato. When no longer raw, but still holding shape and golden all over, throw in the cumin, salt, sesame oil and chilli and cook for a few more minutes. If the pieces stick together a bit, no matter. Serve immediately. Fried egg, grilled fish or brinjal are all wonderful on top.
Plain old mash is something that often goes wrong, even in restaurants. Here are a few guidelines to keep horror mash at bay.
Potatoes (use the measurement of X1 per person)
First up, floury potatoes are a safer bet than waxy – achieve this by bringing them to the boil.
Second, don’t let the potatoes overcook and become watery (cooking them whole in their skins makes this easier).
Third, heat the milk in small pot, rather than adding it cold.
Fourth, you must work fast. Drain the spuds immediately, peel – while hands are burning and you are, by this point, probably swearing – immediately, mash immediately, add butter and milk immediately (though gradually). The amount of butter you add is up to you but why be circumspect? It’s the potato, after all, which affects your waistline not the butter.
Last, don’t be shy with the salt.
SOME SPUD READING, and no, not John Van De Ruit’s tale of awkward adolescence…
Paul Gayler’s A passion for Potatoes is a fantastic ode to the spud. Ignore the mawkish title and order this recipe book online (published by Kyle Cathie).
Also, check out the genius one-step recipe for French fries at Smitten Kitchen (Yes, I know it’s Smitten Kitchen again, but she’s just the best.)
SPUDS IN JO’BURG:
My favourite potato dish in town is the wokked potato and cauliflower dry-fry curry at Bismillah, 78 Mint Road, bhindi Fordsburg. Add in the dry-fry dish and make the visit doubly worthwhile.