Hot potatoes

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing more comforting then potatoes, whether they’re mashed, baked or roasted.

But, when cooking with potatoes, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right variety for the job. Floury potatoes have a low water content, which results in a fluffy texture when cooked, making them good for mashing, roasting and baking. Waxy potatoes have a higher water content, which allows them to keep their shape when cooked. They are good for gratins, soups and salads. Their flesh is often more yellow in colour than the floury potatoes. There are also some all-purpose varieties.

Some popular waxy potatoes are kipfler, Nicola, bintje and pink eye. For floury potatoes, look for Sebago, spunta, pontiac, Toolangi delight and king Edward. Desiree is an example of a good all-purpose potato.

With around 4,000 varieties of potatoes, we are now seeing more unusual names popping up at farmers markets, the local fruit and vegetable shop and even the large supermarkets. Market stalls that specialise in potatoes are the best place to go for advice. Try out these recipes for some new ideas with an old favourite.

 

 

Warm potato salad with smoked almonds and lentils

 

photo Marina Oliphant

 

 

4 tbsp olive oil

2 brown onions, sliced thinly

2 tbsp mustard seeds

800g baby kipfler potatoes, scrubbed

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

sea salt and black pepper to season

400g tin lentils, rinsed and drained

1 cup picked parsley leaves

6 thin slices pancetta

½ (half) cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped

3 soft boiled eggs

mustard cress to garnish

 

Heat oil in heavy based frypan, add onions and mustard seeds and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, until caramelised. Set aside.

Place potatoes in pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

Remove from heat, drain and cut in half lengthwise. Toss potatoes in pan with onions. Drizzle over vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Add lentils and parsley and gently combine. Pour the warm potato salad into a serving bowl.

Grill pancetta until crisp, then cool slightly and break into large shards over the salad.

Scatter over the almonds and top with halves of soft boiled egg.

 

Serves 4.

 

Tip:

To soft boil the eggs:

Place eggs in a pot of boiling water and cook for seven minutes (for a 60g extra large egg), then drain and refresh in cold water. Set aside and peel carefully, when cool enough to handle. Smaller eggs will cook quicker.

 

Potato soup with celeriac, chickpeas and cabbage

 

photo Marina Oliphant

 

A warm and comforting soup for mid-winter. Cavolo nero is the dark leaf Tuscan kale. Substitute cabbage if this is not available.

 

5 waxy potatoes, such as Nicola

400g celeriac

3 tbsp olive oil

100g pancetta or bacon, thinly sliced

1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed

2 bay leaves

1 brown onion, cut into large dice

2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed

130g cavolo nero, finely shredded

1.25 lt chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp chopped parsley

bread to serve

 

Peel potatoes and celeriac, cut into large cubes and place in a bowl of water to cover. Set aside.

Heat oil in large pot, add pancetta, fennel and bay leaves and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add onion, drained potatoes and celeriac and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add chickpeas, cavolo nero, stir and cook for a few minutes.

Add stock and cook for 30 minutes over low heat until vegetables are soft.

Season with salt and pepper and scatter over parsley.

Serve with thick slices of buttered toasted bread.

 

Serves 4.

 

Mashed potato cakes with smoked ocean trout and wasabi leaves

 

photo Marina Oliphant

 

A great way to use leftover mash, and much better than potato cakes from the local takeaway.

 

400g cooked potatoes

100g marinated goats feta

salt and pepper to season

1 tbsp plain flour

1-2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp sour cream

4 slices smoked ocean trout

handful fresh wasabi leaves

 

Mash the potatoes with a masher or fork until they are roughly mashed. Crumble up the feta and fold into the mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Form into flat potato cakes and lightly dust with flour.

Heat oil in non-stick pan and cook potato cakes for a few minutes until golden on each side.

Remove from pan and place on serving plate. Top with a dollop of sour cream, slices of ocean trout and finish with fresh wasabi leaves.

 

Serves 2.

a really good hamburger

photo Marina Oliphant

 

The humble hamburger is shaking off its bad “fast food” reputation. Attitudes are changing as good quality burger joints are popping up and glamorous burgers are making appearances on smart restaurant menus.

A great burger is a combination of many different elements. First, start with the meat. Get some top quality steak minced coarsely by your butcher. Chuck is my choice as it has a good meaty flavour with enough fat that it remains moist when you cook it (and is very forgiving if it is a little over cooked). The coarse mince gives an open texture, which makes for a tender patty. Purists may opt for nothing more than the meat and a little salt to season, but I find this is more difficult to form into a stable patty. Add whatever flavours you prefer. Make sure to refrigerate the patties as this helps firm them up before cooking.

The next part to consider is the bun. Choose a bun that is soft enough to encase the burger, but stable enough to hold it all together. In my opinion, it needs to be toasted, as this not only contributes flavour and texture, it stops the bread going soggy from the meat juices.

Now, for the filling. Again, use good quality ingredients and you can’t really go wrong. Crisp lettuce and ripe tomatoes will do the trick and balance the richness of the meat.

For the sauce, I have opted for a simple beetroot relish.

And no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t go past some fat chips on the side.

Use Russet Burbank potatoes and make sure you par cook them first, then fry twice for super crunchy chips.

Although I probably can’t convince you (or myself) that my burger ticks all the healthy boxes, when made with really good quality ingredients, it’s a delicious treat.

 

Classic Hamburger

 

Go to the effort of getting freshly minced meat from your butcher. Try chuck, oyster or even wagyu, if you’re trying hard to impress. Ask for a coarse grind.

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

600g good quality coarse minced chuck steak

dash worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp tomato relish

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 slices good quality cheddar cheese

4 rashers bacon

4 soft burger buns

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

8 fresh lettuce leaves

beetroot relish to serve (recipe below)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes until softened and lightly coloured. Set aside to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, mix mince with worcestershire sauce and tomato relish and season with salt and pepper. Add cooked onion and egg and mix well.

Take a small spoonful of mixture and cook this to test the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.

Shape remaining mixture into 4 large patties with your hands. The patty should be slightly larger than the bun, as it will shrink when it cooks.

Place the shaped patties on a flat plate, cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to help them become firm.

Place a large heavy based pan over high heat, add 1 tbsp oil and gently place burger patties in pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook burgers for 5 minutes on one side, then carefully flip over to cook the other side. Place a slice of cheese on top of each, to melt as the burger cooks. Cook on second side for a further 4-5 minutes.

As the patties cook, grill or panfry bacon rashers until crispy. Place on top of burger patties.

Split bread buns in half and grill the cut sides until crisp and toasty.

Assemble the burgers, adding lettuce, tomato and relish.

Skewer with a jaunty sprig of fresh rosemary for a fancy garnish.

Serves 4.

Fat chips

 

photo Marina Oliphant

 

Cut the potatoes thick, so you get the contrast of the crunch with the light fluffy potato inside. Look out for Russet Burbanks. The sugar content causes them to caramelise and brown when frying, resulting in a superior chip.

 

1.4 kg Russet Burbank potatoes

vegetable oil for deep frying

sea salt to season

Peel potatoes and cut into thick 1.5cm lengths.

Place in a medium saucepan filled with cold water and bring to the boil.

Cook until tender when a sharp knife is inserted.

Remove from heat, drain well and pat dry.

Place in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towel and refrigerate until cold.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 140C.

Cook chips in batches for 3-4 minutes, until sealed and slightly coloured.

Remove and place on wire rack to drain.

Increase heat to 180C and return chips to the hot oil. Cook for a further 5-6 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove and drain on fresh paper towel.

Season with sea salt and serve immediately.

Beetroot relish

 

photo Marina Oliphant

 

It’s not really an Aussie burger unless it’s got beetroot. Here is a quick relish, which adds a sweet and sour flavour to the burger and cuts through the richness of the meat, bacon and cheese.

 

3 medium beetroots (about 400g)

1 orange, juice and zest

½ (half) cup brown sugar

1 cup vinegar

Wearing protective gloves, peel beetroot, then coarsely grate in a food processor or box grater.

Place in medium pot with the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups.