At the Table
As a Kiwi it is hard to imagine a life without potatoes. Much as I embrace the many other carbohydrate options available, potatoes are right up there as a favourite choice.
The best potato in my book is the agria and I have extolled its virtues in print before. For some of us with Irish forebears, it was the potato famine in Ireland that caused so many to leave those shores for places such as New Zealand. In the case of my Irish grandfather he took to farming here, so there is love of potato in the DNA.
In my last story I talked about the alternatives to potato in a balanced diet - pasta, rice and beans - but this story is to highlight the versatility of the humble vegetable and most especially baby new potatoes available now.
I also talked about the lack of much vegetable choice but in the last few weeks that has all changed. Zucchini, tomatoes and peppers have dropped in price and broad beans are producing. I am ready for them all.
Potatoes, packed with starch, come in so many guises: red, yellow, white, purple; small, big, oval, round. Apparently there are more than 1000 different types.
You could hardly get bored with that variety could you?
Most amazingly, people can survive on a diet of potatoes and only need to supplement vitamins A and D because potatoes have all the rest, as well as minerals and phytochemicals.
They must be cooked to be eaten, to swell the starch granules and make them palatable.
Believe it or not, China is the biggest producer, a country we would normally associate with rice and noodle eating and not potato eating.
They were introduced to Europe 500 years ago and now grow in a wide variety of climates and places.
You only need to look at the huge cultural diversity of potato recipes to realise the impact of this vegetable on the cuisines of the world. There are French, German, Swedish, Russian, English, Italian, American, Indian, Mexican and Chinese recipes and the list goes on.
The traditional Kiwi way to prepare new potatoes is to scrub, boil with a sprig of mint and then serve with knobs of butter and a sprinkling of salt. Melt in the mouth stuff but that it is not the only option and there are other great ways to prepare them.
Because they are so tender, they are wonderful in salads and warm potato salad particularly. Jersey bennes are an excellent choice as they are firmer than some other varieties and don't lose their shape. Other varieties such as baby new agria are great slightly crushed and mixed with herbs and best-quality extra virgin olive oil.
Always cook baby new potatoes whole and try to select them evenly sized as they will cook in a uniform way at the same time.
You can even roast them and they are delicious. My mother would be horrified to hear that. She would have thought it a sacrilege to roast a new potato but I can tell you they are splendid that way!
Here are three recipes for new potatoes that can be served with a range of different dishes - vegetarian, meat or fish.
And by the way, I can't wait for the agria I have in the garden to be ready to eat. Not quite yet but by Christmas I am sure.
NEW POTATOES WITH AVOCADO AND CHILLI SERVED WITH STEAMED ASPARAGUS
Scrub 3-4 new baby potatoes per person
1 avocado sliced into small pieces
2 tbs of medium hot chilli paste
2 tbs of cider vinegar
3 tbs of olive oil
red onion finely sliced
1 tsp salt
2 sprigs of mint
2 asparagus spears per person Boil the potatoes until tender and drain the water. While the potatoes are still hot, slice in half and add the vinegar.
When they are still warm add the chilli paste, onion, finely chopped mint and the olive oil. Toss together and serve with steamed asparagus. This is great with grilled fish or chicken.
CRUSHED NEW POTATOES WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL AND FRESH HERBS WITH CRISPY BACON AND SAUTEED RED PEPPER
Scrub 3-4 new baby potatoes per person
3 rashers of streaky bacon
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp fresh herbs of your choice - could be italian parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, coriander.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Boil the potatoes until tender and then drain the water and let them rest for a few minutes to drain off any moisture.
Saute the bacon until it is crisp. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
Chop the red pepper into small dice and saute in 2 Tbsp of the oil until it softens and the oil turns red.
Chop the herbs. Gently crush the potatoes with a fork so they are still quite chunky.
Add the herbs, the oil and salt and pepper and toss. Serve with the red pepper and bacon sprinkled over the top.
ROAST NEW BABY POTATOES WITH ROAST SHALLOTS AND ZUCCHINI
Allow 4 potatoes, 1 shallot, 1 small zucchini per person.
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 sprig rosemary
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Scrub the potatoes and place whole or cut in half in a roasting dish.
Peel the shallots and place whole cloves into the roasting dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Add the sprig of rosemary.
Put in the hot oven. The potatoes will not take long to cook so by the time the shallot is just tender the potatoes will be done (about 20 minutes - check after 15).
Cut the zucchini into quarters and season well. Drizzle over with olive oil. Add the zucchini for the last 10 minutes.