Snacks and sides

Brigitte Hafner’s guide to making luxe mashed potato

Just make sure you choose the right potatoes for the job.
A white dish holding creamy mashed potato, with a grind of black pepper on top.

Brigitte’s luxe mashed potato

Ben Dearnley
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My mother has a German cookbook by Dr Oetker devoted solely to the potato. It lists more than 500 recipes, including many variations on potato dumplings, fried potatoes, potato soup, potato Rösti, and so on. The humble spud is a very versatile vegetable (not least of all if you happen to be Bavarian) and I have a weak spot for it. I love creamy mashed potato under my coq au vin. I adore cubes of potato crisped in duck fat or in dripping with roast beef, and pommes boulangère with lamb. You name it.

When it comes to mashed potato, you need to choose the right potato for the job. Floury potatoes – including coliban, kennebec, Nicola, sebago, spunta and bison – are high in starch and low in moisture and sugar, making them perfect for mashing, baking, roasting and frying. Their waxy counterparts have a higher moisture content and are low in starch, meaning they hold their shape when boiled or added raw to casseroles. They’re best for salads, or simply tossed in plenty of butter and salt. Kipflers, bintje, Desiree, pink fir apple, red pontiac and purple congo fall into this latter category.

I must admit that for my luxe potato mash, I go against common wisdom and use equal quantities of floury and waxy potatoes. The result is a more dense, flavoursome mash, which is more like a purée with its gloss and texture. I like to buy spuds from organic stalls or farmers’ markets, preferably with the dirt on – it protects the potato from degradation and light. A potato should have yellow or white skin under the soil and be firm. Potatoes exposed to sunlight will develop a green tinge, and shouldn’t be eaten. A common misunderstanding is that when a potato starts to shoot it’s not edible. This isn’t the case – simply snap off the shoots before using them. Potatoes are harvested year-round and cold-stored for many months. July is great time for eating them – many varieties are at their peak, and the weather especially calls for it.

Ingredients

Method

Main

1.Place potatoes in a large saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small sharp knife (12-15 minutes), drain and return to pan. Allow steam to evaporate, then beat in a little butter at a time with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and smooth. Add milk, whisk well until smooth and fluffy, stir in olive oil and season to taste. Serve immediately, drizzled with extra olive oil, if desired.

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