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JimmyT’s comfort food kitchen: mashed potatoes

Mash-potato.jpg

I’d been wondering how many people have actually read my Comfort Food Kitchen recipes so I checked and was astonished to find out that last week 109 of you went for guacamole while 87 previously checked out the cullen skink (trust me, if you like smoked fish, you’ll love it).

Meanwhile, only 53 went for macaroni cheese. Go figure.

Okay, none of those figures would be described as remotely having gone “viral” but considering this is a website about apartment living, I was pleasantly surprised.

And, on the principle of KISS (keep it simple, stupid) I’m staying with the basics for now.

Many years ago a friend and I fantasised about starting a restaurant that was all about potatoes.  You could order them in any of their myriad forms – fried, roasted, mashed, dauphinoise, baked, scalloped etc etc – while the accompaniments would simply be presented as beef, fish, chicken, so as not to compete with the main event.

And, of course, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, not least because they are very easy to make.  They are also very easy to make badly.

The worst thing that you can do is make them too watery.  Then they are just pale mush.  But get them right, and they are the food of the gods.

In days gone by, I would peel potatoes, halve or quarter them and then boil them into submission. These days I am more likely to cut them into 2cm cubes and par-boil or even microwave them into a stage just before al dente. 

If you are boiling them in water, that’s when to add the salt as the potato will absorb it during the cooking process. Some recipes recommend you cook the unpeeled potatoes in their skins, then peel them. 

Go for it if you feel confident about being able to peel boiling hot potatoes. This will keep the potato flesh drier (avoiding watery mush) but I prefer to dry the cooked potatoes in the pan before mashing.

Either way, you want them to be a little undercooked so that they are just (but only just) holding tines of your fork. Now, drain off the excess water put them in a pan and add a generous knob of butter and a shake of salt.

Mash them up using a potato masher, add milk (heating gently all the while) and add several good twists of freshly ground black pepper.  Continue the mashing and stirring process with a fork. You want to get a reasonably smooth consistency but with a few tiny lumps.

Do not use a blender. “I like my tatties with a bone in them,” as my old friend Alex used to say.

What you have now can be a work of art or a blank canvas.  You can add cream, chopped and blanched onions, garlic, chives, cheese, truffle oil and even cooked sausage meat.

But I just like peppery, buttery mash. If you want something a bit special, have a look at this recipe for Paris Mash, the closest I could find to how I would do it myself.

By the way, vegans can use olive oil instead of butter, and a plant-based milk, and still make a great mash –  it’s all about the potatoes.

Enjoy.

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