Many of you will know that I have a love-hate affair with the potato. Mashed potato, as far as I am concerned, is the Mark of The Beast; this, I've finally worked out, is a relic of my early days at Dotheboy's Hall. Here, their idea of fun was: soggy fishfingers (courtesy of The Good Cap'n Birds Eye); powdered mashed potato ("Mash Get Smash", that's the stuff the Martians eat), and watery tinned peas. The horror of it!
The kitchen was staffed by two Irish septuagenarian hags in dark blue polyester housecoats; fags dangling from their pursed lips. I'm sure Lord Woolton Pie was on the menu, an economical wartime relic, which survived until the early 70's. The boys did the washing up. This was a voluntary affair, a "volunteers please step forward, sort of thing", and if you were lucky you were promoted to foreman. These plongeurs were paid ½ p a day. The foreman got a penny. That's why I don't like mashed potato.
But roast potatoes, cooked properly, could be a good plan. The other day I found a discarded copy of the London Evening Standard (a rare event, as since it's gone "free" you can't get hold of a copy anywhere), and there was an excellent article about that bald wunderkind Heston Blumenthal, including a recipe for his "perfect roast poatoes".
Now, I'm a huge fan of Heston's, admiring his enquiring historical mind, his sense of the miraculous, and his lack of histrionics; all a refreshing antidote to the current crop of pock-marked prima donnas, otherwise known as "celebrity chefs". So, here's how to make perfect roast potatoes, courtesy of Heston Blumenthal:
Cut them up so that there are plenty of corners and edges, then cook them in well salted, simmering water until they are just about to fall apart. The trick is to cook them until they're fluffy, but at the same time you do want to keep them in one piece; so you'll need to watch them like a hawk.
Strain the potatoes off, and let them steam-dry. Put them into a pan with either olive oil or beef dripping. You will need a centimetre or so of oil at the bottom of the pan. Cook them in the oven at about 180°C or 190°C. Start turning after half an hour. They'll take between 60 and 90 minutes. Just before they're done, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt.