Food writer Lauraine Jacobs serves up recipes for a spring potato salad and roast new season potatoes with streaky bacon.
Throughout the year, often related to the seasons and weather, there are different varieties on sale. They are generally labelled waxy or floury, with details given about their suitability for various cooking methods, although some are labelled “all-purpose”. As potatoes age, their sugars convert to starch and they tend to lose that early waxiness.
New potatoes arrive in late spring. The earliest come from the Far North, where the mild climate gives them a headstart. The best way to enjoy these sweet little spuds is to scrub them gently, leaving the skin intact, then cook in gently simmering water or steam with plenty of salt until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain, then add a generous knob of butter to the saucepan and toss them over the heat until well coated. Serve in a bowl with a handful of finely sliced fresh mint and a grind or two of black pepper. As a friend says, dare to serve that entire first kilo of spuds with nothing more than lashings of buttery, herby garnish as a complete dinner.
Try to eat new potatoes as fresh as possible. If you’re keeping them longer than a week or two, they need to be stored in a cool, dark place, preferably a refrigerator, to preserve their flavour.
Many people love potato salad, but for the best results, it should be served at room temperature. The following salad recipe uses spuds from North Otago growers Oakley’s. If you can’t find their colourful selection, choose other waxy varieties, then cook until just tender. Overcooking results in soft, mushy spuds. Add favourite salad leaves and herbs to this warm, pretty salad.
Spring potato salad
1kg mixed coloured new potatoes (purple hearts, gourmets and special reds)
1 cup broad beans or spring peas
1 bunch asparagus
2 cups mesclun leaves
garnish: ½ cup fresh herbs, broad-bean
leaves and herb flowers
1 tsp floral honey
1 tbsp dijon or seed mustard
1 lemon, zest and juice
salt and pepper to taste
5 tbsp pressed citrus olive oil
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Wash the potatoes well. Leave small ones whole, and cut any of medium size into quarters. Place the potatoes in a steamer over the boiling water, add salt to taste, then cover with a lid. Steam for 15-20 minutes until tender, but not falling apart.
Pod the broad beans or peas, then blanch in simmering water. Cool immediately to retain the colour.
Cut the asparagus into 8cm lengths, then plunge the spears into simmering salted water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then cool rapidly under cold running water. Drain.
Shake all the dressing ingredients together in a glass jar. Refrigerate until needed.
To assemble the salad, wash and dry the mesclun leaves, then arrange on a serving platter. Spread the potatoes evenly among the leaves, then the beans or peas and asparagus. Drizzle over the dressing, then garnish with the herbs, broad-bean shoots and flowers.
Wine match: chardonnay
Roast new season potatoes
500g baby new potatoes (perlas or jersey bennes)
6 shallots, peeled
6 slices streaky bacon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ cup fresh sage and thyme leaves
½ cup pitted black olives (Salvagno from Sabato)
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Wash the potatoes well, then shake dry. Spread them in a single layer in a medium baking dish or roasting pan.
Peel the shallots, leaving the root ends intact to hold them together. If large, cut in half lengthwise through the root.
Cut each bacon rasher in half, then roll up neatly. Tuck these rolls and the shallots between the potatoes. Add the oil to the dish, then toss the potatoes so all surfaces are covered.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, smoked paprika and herb leaves. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, then add the olives. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
Serve hot straight from the dish or tip into a serving bowl. This dish is a great accompaniment for roasted or barbecued meat.
Wine match: pinot noir
New season ideas
With the festive season almost upon us, new potatoes make perfect cocktail snacks.
- Simmer medium-sized baby potatoes, drain, then cut in half. Spread with spicy chutney and top with a small dollop of sour cream.
- Select larger potatoes, then cook and cut into slices. Top with cream cheese, lemon zest and fresh dill or chives.
- Roast baby potatoes with plenty of salt and pepper, then cut in half and tuck ham and mustard between the halves. Reassemble using a cocktail skewer.
- A bowl of steamed or roasted baby potatoes can be accompanied by your favourite spicy dip.
This article was first published in the November 9, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.