Being a third generation potato farmer, one of the most commonly asked questions fired at me is “how do you get the perfectly roasted potato?” (along with “do you eat potatoes every night?!”*) Well, I’m glad that you asked…because with Christmas less than a week away (nobody panic, are you panicking?!) it’s time to brush up on getting those roast ‘taters juuuuuust right. You want gorgeous crunch and lovely crisp edges, those scrumptious corners that truly make a good roast potato, with a fluffy pillow of potato goodness on the inside. Nom nom nom… Potatoes really are life. I’m so glad my forefathers were Irish Catholic potato farmers, oh the cliche, and not broccoli or Brussel sprouts farmers! No offence to those farmers, sorry guys, but potatoes? Who doesn’t love a good spud! Especially at Christmas with all the turkey and ham and pork crackling to boot. For some families Christmas has connotations and food memories of freshly shucked oysters or a whole snapper on the barbie, Nan’s trifle or Aunty Pat’s pavlova, hydrangeas and magnolias on the table, shortbread left out for Santa, and brandy cream to wash it all down. For us, it’s the new season potatoes arrival which heralds Christmas (…and lamb sales and chasing irrigators and gearing up for harvest…) There is nothing better than fresh spuds, dug straight out of the paddock and into my oven literally moments later. And Christmas is the time for the best potatoes in Australia, grown right here in Thorpy, to be making their way onto your Christmas lunch tables, to be shared with your family, from ours…
The Perfectly Roasted Potato
Potatoes – I am surprisingly not sold on any particular variety for roasting, it really depends on what you like! My advice would be to experiment, you’ll soon discover your roast potato groove (and the array of potato varieties available whilst you experiment!) For this recipe I used Colibans, which are a more floury potato (not waxy). I like this to get that cloud of fluffy potato inside the cooked spud. But at this time of year any new season potato is going to really rock the socks off being roasted in this way. Sebago’s will be similar to the Coliban, Dutch Creams are also good. If you want to support Thorpdale potato farmers, buy brushed (the dirty spuds!) potatoes in Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, green grocers from January to June. Chances are a Thorpdale potato farmer grew them.
Oil – I generally use a good extra virgin olive oil to cook my roast potatoes in. The alternatives would be butter or any sort of fat (duck or goose). Extra virgin olive oil gives a lighter flavour, but a butter or fat is pretty decadent and scrumptious for a special occasion like Christmas.
Salt – a good quality sea salt gets liberally thrown about over my roast potatoes. My mum once told me to treat roast potatoes almost like you would pork crackling – when you think there’s enough salt, add a bit more.
Herbs – rosemary is always my go-to with my roast spuds. But it often depends what I’m serving them with, if it’s roast lamb I generally use mint, or a lighter meal sometimes sage. Rosemary is classic, and readily available from my huge bush at the back door!
Firstly, preheat your oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius. Cut your potatoes into halves or quarters, or keep whole, depending on the size of your potatoes to begin with. The key is to keep them all fairly uniform in size so that they will cook evenly. Here is an example of the size I tend to aim for (and yes I have a freckle on the inside of my pinky finger):
Peeling them is a personal preference. For roast potatoes I don’t generally peel them, a lot of the goodness is in the skin. But with new season potatoes, freshly dug, these ones had pretty delicate skins anyway so I kept them on. A light scrub to get the dirt off and I broke some of the skin anyway. This could actually be beneficial in creating more edges for crispy goodness! Pop your potatoes into boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes. This par boiling is essential to getting great roast potatoes. This ‘pre-cooking’ of sorts releases the starch out of the potatoes, so when it comes time for the oven they can just concentrate on getting deliciously golden and crispy on the outside. Drain them in a colander – and now this is also a key element to getting them juuuuust right: give the colander a little shake around so that the edges of the potatoes rough up. This will create some texture and little edges to your spuds, those parts are key to getting crisp and perfectly roasted potatoes.
Put the potatoes onto a roasting tray, ensuring they are all one level, don’t pile them on top of one another. Bake in the 190-200 degree oven for 30 minutes. Pull them out and give them a little squash, just another little rough up, with the back of a spoon or a potato masher if you’re that way inclined (my mum always mashed her spuds with a fork, never a masher!) Throw some more oil or salt on the spuds if you think they need it, also some rosemary or garlic cloves. I like to add my herbs halfway through the cooking so as not to totally incinerate them! You will still get the flavour of the rosemary coming through.
Back in the oven, still at 190-200, for another 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re crisping up nicely, this may depend on your own oven and the size of the potato as to when exactly you will need to get them out. Mine usually take another full 30 minutes (but my oven isn’t a Rolls Royce of ovens and leaks heat like a sieve!)
And…that’s it. You should have perfectly roasted potatoes. Crispy edges with those yummy crunchy bits. Cloud of softness on the inside.
It really is that easy. Not rocket science. Completely humble and simple…just like our beloved spuds. They are so versatile, yet the simplicity of a well roasted potato can rarely be beaten. Especially on Christmas Day, where there can be a lot of anxiety and fanfare around food, when really…it doesn’t have to be a grand affair or complicated or extravagant. It needs to be made with love and shared around a table of family celebrating just being together.
Happy Christmas, from our potato farming family to yours. May it be humble and simple, merry and bright.
*Not every night…but most. And your family should too! Potatoes forever!