In Praise of Potatoes

I simply cannot imagine life without potatoes. To me it is the ultimate comfort food – a creamy, buttery mash with just a hint of nutmeg. Or a grand accompaniment to a succulent roast – potatoes oven roasted in goose fat.

And then there is real slap chips for relaxed days. And now I’m not talking about the sterile little things drilled to perfection, crunchy little sticks neatly packed in cute little boxes. Oh no, I love the real thing – slap, with plenty of salt and drenched in real malt vinegar.

But, enough of that, the reason why I love potatoes so much, is because it is so versatile in its simplicity. And these three very different recipes showcase just that.

Potato flatties with chilli and garlic oil

Serves 4

½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed (do not chop)
8 medium-sized potatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pour the oil in a small sauce pan, add the chilli flakes and garlic and slowly heat over very low heat. Let it stand to infuse while you prepare the potatoes. Boil the potatoes in their skin. (I usually add just enough water to the potatoes to cover them, bring it to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Depending on the size of your potatoes, it should be perfectly cooked without bursting open.) Drain the potatoes and place on a baking tray lined with foil. Use a meat hammer or wine bottle (or similar) and wack each potato until it bursts open. A good way to vent your frustration after a heavy day, but be careful not to turn it into mash! Pour the oil through a sieve and pour onto each crushed potato. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the tray under a preheated grill for about 10 – 15 minutes. Watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn.



Curry & coconut potato soup

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 x 2 cm piece of fresh ginger
10 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 -3 cm cubes
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
1 x 400 g can coconut milk
a handful chopped fresh coriander leaves (and stalks!)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra coriander leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir through. Sauté for about 1 – 2 minutes. Add potatoes and mix well. Fry for a minute or so before adding the curry powder. Mix well. Add the lemon zest and stock. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Add the coconut milk, coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes more. Use a hand blender or food processor to make a smooth mixture. Heat through, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.


Lamb and  potato casserole



Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
800 g stewing lamb
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
10 -15 cherry or other small, dwarf-sized Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 medium-sized potatoes peeled and cut into 5 cm cubes

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (that can go in the oven) over low heat. Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent. Raise the heat, add the meat and brown on all sides. Mix the tomato puree with the stock and add to the pot. Stir well and boil for about a minute while stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper to taste and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, Add the potatoes, mix well and cover the pot. Place in a preheated oven of 190⁰C for 1¼ hours. Serve.

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