There’s a spud for every dish and every season.
Choosing potatoes for a salad or a curry is easy, with so many varieties for general use at our disposal. On the other hand, sourcing consistently appropriate potatoes for more demanding dishes, such as chips or gnocchi, can be problematic.
A convenient way to classify potatoes is by placing them in one of two groups: floury or waxy. Floury potatoes have a lower moisture and sugar content but are high in starch, making them ideal for baking, mashing and frying. Varieties include spunta, kennebec, sebago, toolangi delight and coliban. These are suitable for gnocchi and chips.
Waxy potatoes are lower in starch and contain more water. They can be almost as sugar-laden as sweet potatoes. Firm-fleshed, they hold together well, making them ideal for boiling and prolonged cooking in dishes such as casseroles and curries. This group includes pink eye, desiree, kipfler, royal blue, bintje and pink fir apple.
While variety is important, so too is where the potato is grown. You might make great gnocchi one week with perfectly dry sebagos grown in one part of the country, while the next batch, grown somewhere else, could be frustratingly waterlogged.
POTATOES WITH ONIONS AND PANCETTA
Simmer potatoes in their jackets in salted water for about 30 minutes until tender. Drain and cool a little. Peel and slice thinly. Heat olive oil in a wide pan and fryonion and pancetta until golden. Add potatoes and fry until coloured. Squash potato roughly with a fork, add thyme and fry on moderately high heat, constantly scraping and stirring so they don’t catch and burn. This should take about 10 minutes. There should be a mixture of soft potatoes with crispy bits. Season and serve as a side dish with scallops, roasts or braises.
Serves 6 as a side dish
Wine Verdicchio if serving with scallops.
POTATO, BEAN AND LAMB STEW
Peel potatoes and chop into 2-3cm pieces. Place in a container of cold water until needed. Roughly chop onion, leek and celery to fit into a food processor along with garlic and rosemary. Pulse until vegetables are finely chopped, ensuring they aren’t processed to a liquid. Heat half the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot and add chopped vegetables. Keep stirring on moderate heat until vegetables have softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add drained potatoes, along with beans, and keep stirring and frying in the pot for a few more minutes. Add cold water to cover vegetables by about 3cm, stir and bring to the boil. Turn down immediately to a very low simmer and keep cooking gently for 3 hours. Stir every so often to make sure it’s not catching and add a little water if too dry. Cut lamb into bite-sized pieces and stir in. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls. Finish with remaining olive oil.
Serves 6 as a hearty winter stew