Simply cooked new potatoes are the ultimate seasonal dinner.
I spied the first jersey bennes of spring in the Otago Farmers Market on the last day of October. Covered with fine Oamaru dirt, these baby spuds, nestled in their little box, were just asking to be turned into the ultimate seasonal treat. I had to buy them.
The best way to enjoy the first taste of new-season jersey bennes is to carefully scrub them so the skin remains intact, then cook until tender in gently simmering salted water. Drain, then return to the saucepan with a generous knob of butter. Toss over the heat until well coated, then tip into a serving bowl and cover with a handful of finely sliced mint and a grind or two of black pepper. If you are brave, cook that first kilo of potatoes and serve as dinner. Nothing else is needed.
In the first few weeks of the season, very fresh jersey bennes are best eaten as soon as possible; they are not like larger, later varieties that keep for ages without spoiling. Later in the season, you can get more adventurous and add them to salads, pies and curries, or slice and cook with a little bacon. Like all potatoes, they must be stored in a dark, dry, airy place.
This soufflé potato pancake was on the menu at Wellington’s casual restaurant/cafe Field and Green last week. The eatery was set up about six months ago by Laura Greenfield and partner Raechal Ferguson, who recently quit their London jobs to head to New Zealand. After searching the country for the perfect site for their business, they chose to revamp an existing restaurant in Wakefield St. Greenfield previously cooked at Sothebys’ London kitchen, catering to the whims of well-heeled international auction-goers. Field and Green’s food is simple, seasonally sourced and deliciously fashionable in a traditional manner. Dinner is offered two nights a week.
Greenfield uses red-skinned potatoes to make these pancakes, which are very light and airy. Agria potatoes also work well, as they fluff up to match the airiness of the soufflé.
Note: “Half and Half” is a mixture of cream and full milk excellent for sauces and these pancakes. It’s available in some supermarkets.
LAURA GREENFIELD'S SOUFFLÉ POTATO PANCAKES WITH LEMON THYME SAUCE
75g unsalted butter
25g shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
20 sprigs of thyme
zest and juice of 2 lemons
150ml cream or Half and Half
salt and white pepper to taste
45ml milk and 45ml cream (or 90ml Half and Half)
150g mashed potato
45g self-raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
2 eggs, separated
3 pinches salt
3 pinches white pepper
3 pinches grated nutmeg
vegetable oil for frying
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the shallot and gently cook until translucent but not coloured. Add the garlic, thyme, zest and juice. Bring to the boil, then add the cream and cook until the sauce has reduced to a thick pouring consistency. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Set aside.
To make the pancakes, preheat the oven to 200°C. Warm the milk and cream, then pour into a large bowl with the potato. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture. Add the egg yolks, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix until smooth. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold in.
Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with oil, then heat. Spoon enough mixture into the pan to make a 10cm pancake, then cook on a reduced heat until golden. Turn over and cook for another minute before placing it on a large oven tray lined with parchment baking paper. Repeat this process 5 times. Place the tray in the oven for 7 minutes or until the pancakes are risen, golden and firm to touch. Serve with the sauce and spring carrots, asparagus and broccoli or sliced avocado.
Wine match: chenin blanc
Baking gives potatoes a depth of flavour that’s richer and sweeter than if they’d been steamed or simmered. Use medium-sized jersey bennes or the first of the small red potatoes. The dish on page 44 is perfect with steak or grilled fish.
NEW POTATOES WITH OLIVE OIL, ROSEMARY AND PAPRIKA
750g medium new potatoes
100g new season extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp young, fresh rosemary leaves
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Scrub the potatoes until clean, leaving the skin intact, then cut in half. Choose an oven dish that will fit all the potatoes snugly in the oil. Toss the potatoes in the oil. Sprinkle over the salt, paprika and rosemary, then toss again so the potatoes are well covered. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and golden. Serve immediately.
Wine match: sauvignon blanc or fume blanc
Know your potato
Potatoes are our most popular vegetable, with 97% of Kiwis eating them – one in five of us eat them every day. The varieties are generally classified as waxy, general-purpose or floury, but weather, climate and soil can dramatically affect their texture.
As the season progresses, potatoes change. The new ilam hardys being harvested are quite waxy, but as they age, they become good general-purpose potatoes. Late in the season the natural sugars convert to starch, which makes them floury and more suited to mashing and baking.
Waxy varieties – draga, nadine, frisia and jersey bennes – are ideal for boiling or to use in salads, casseroles and curries.
General purpose ruas, red desiree and moonlight can be used in any dish.
Floury potatoes, such as late ilam hardy, red rascal, agria and white delight, are perfect for roasting, mashing, wedges and fries.
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