Prepare for the spud-fest

JOSEPH BEAUMONT
Last updated 10:01 07/02/2013
New potatoes
SIMPLE PLEASURES: Everyone loves the gentle, earthy flavour of new potatoes.

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A pesky frost in early November plus a cool and wet spring hit Southland's potato growers amidships, reducing both size and yield, and pushing back the "big dig" by a month.

Having lost entire crops to frost myself, my sympathies are with those affected. But the good news for southern cooks is that our very own new potatoes should be with us by now and I see a spudfest coming on. Who could resist these little beauties? If you tire of them tossed in butter and chopped mint, or dressed - still warm - with a fresh-herby balsamic vinaigrette, there are plenty of other options.

Most new potato varieties are either waxy or "all purpose", meaning they keep their shape as they cook and are therefore suitable for boiling. Better still, there's no need to scrub them (unless unwashed), and no need to peel them.

Just pop the spuds into a pot or steamer for 10-12 minutes, making sure they are roughly similar in size, cutting up the larger ones if necessary, and follow the recipe. What could be easier?

First up, some great salad ideas. Dress still-warm new potatoes with a cider vinegar, olive oil and Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Toss and leave until cold. Add capers, chopped gherkins and finely chopped chives, parsley and dill. Toss again. Quarter 3-4 softly boiled eggs lengthways and gently mix into salad, or arrange on individual servings.

Cook new potatoes with a couple of bay leaves. When cool, dress with olive oil and lemon juice and lots of freshly chopped mint and parsley.

Combine chunks of cooled new potatoes with coarsely chopped smoked salmon, sliced cooked asparagus and cooked peas (both cooled), and a quality mayo flavoured with freshly chopped dill and moistened with a little lemon juice.

Slice hot new potatoes and combine with chunks of fried chorizo sausage, chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped black olives, chopped parsley and olive oil.

Now for a few "hot potato" ideas, so to speak. Again, season as you wish.

Toss sliced hot new potatoes with pesto, preferably homemade.

Halve cooked new potatoes and fry in butter and olive oil until brown and crisp. Add cooked broad beans (skinned if mature), chopped ham or bacon, grilled until crisp, and chopped parsley. Toss. Sprinkle on 1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar.

Cut large new potatoes into wedges. Fry in butter and freshly chopped rosemary for 5 minutes then transfer the lot to a baking tray. Bake at 230 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown, tossing occasionally so they brown on all sides.

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Today's recipe is just the ticket when you want something peppy to go with cold meats and anything from the grill or barbecue. Great with fish and chicken too. Add vegetables or a salad and voilà.

CRUNCHY NEW POTATOES (serves 4)

16 medium new potatoes, unpeeled

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp paprika

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Boil potatoes for 10 minutes and drain.

Arrange on a baking sheet then crush each one lightly with a potato masher.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes until skin is crispy.

- The Southland Times

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