The oily raggers best friend

Potatoes must be the best value veg around – and a good friend to those living off the smell of an oily rag.

The potato industry has gathered together a lot of information about our humble friend and our relationship with it. Here are some snippets from their website

93% of households cook potatoes at least once a week, 83% at least 2 times per week, and 44% at least 4 times per week. In other words, it’s still a basic part of our diet. The majority of people mash, roast, or boil their spuds.

Most people buy potatoes as a 4kg and 5kg bag from their supermarkets for convenience. Those who bought from fruit and vegetable specialist stores did so because of because of the low price, freshness, and quality (these are the oily rag shoppers!).

All we oily raggers need to know is that they are cheap, good for you, and because there are endless ways to serve them, as a culinary ingredient they remain a favourite of those feasting off the smell of an oily rag.

A gardening tip for potato growers – save a few potatoes either from your own garden or from a bag bought from the supermarket. Keep them in a dark place until they sprout and hey presto! you have seed potatoes and can plant them. Don’t forget to put some in old tubs or washing machine bowls on your porch if you want to beat the frosts.

When buying or growing potatoes, look for the Ilam, Hardy, or Desiree varieties – all are good for boiling, baking, deep frying and using in potato salads.

When frying cooked potatoes, dip each slice in flour before cooking in very hot fat – they will brown better and taste yummy.

Before baking potatoes, push a metal skewer through the centre. The skewer will act as a heat conductor and reduce the cooking time by half.

Buy potatoes in bulk and split with friends; you’ll be feasting for next to no cost.

Always remove potatoes from plastic bags as soon as possible after purchase. Don’t refrigerate, but store in a cool place – warmth causes potatoes to sprout. Exposure to light causes the growth of green patches which contain poisonous alkaloids. If present, cut them away. Don’t use potatoes that are completely green.

Here are some favourite recipes.

For potato cakes and croquettes, you need: 3 cups of mashed potatoes, pinch of nutmeg, 2 egg yolks, 1 beaten egg, 1 cup breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. Beat mashed potato, egg yolks and seasonings together. Spread onto a plate to cool. Shape into cakes or croquettes or whatever takes your fancy. Dip into beaten egg, then coat with breadcrumbs. Let stand for 15 minutes before frying in oil until golden brown. Variations include adding grated onion and chopped parsley; sliced spring onion and chopped tomato; grated cheese; mashed carrot; or tinned fish.

Here’s a recipe for an easy to make potato salad. Take 1kg peeled and diced potatoes, 2 medium-sized peeled and diced carrots, 2 cup cooked peas, 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon finely chopped mint, 2 cup mayonnaise and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Cook potatoes and carrots in boiling salted water until tender, drain and cool. In a bowl combine mayonnaise, onion, mint and cayenne. Carefully fold in potatoes, carrots and peas. Chill before serving.

Baked potatoes. Scrub potatoes and dry thoroughly. Make sure you remove the dirt from the nooks and crannies – the sound of grit grinding between one’s molars is most unpleasant! Bake in a hot oven (200C) for about 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft when pressed together with one’s fingers. When cooked, remove from oven (a quick stint in the microwave will also do the trick) and cut a cross in the top. Press the sides to open up the cut, and place a knob of butter and a dash of seasoning onto the exposed flesh. Dig in! You can also top your baked potatoes with one or more of the following – grated cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, chopped chives, chopped mint, chopped parsley, chopped thyme, chopped spring onion, chopped gherkins, chopped green or red pepper, caraway seed, ground nutmeg, paprika.