ASK anyone and they will tell you the best way to cook the perfect roast potatoes. Some will have watched and learnt as their parents and grandparents made memory-making and mouth watering roasties, others will swear by the time they followed the latest hot chefs twist on this all-time classic.
Traditionally, of course, roast potatoes are enjoyed with a Sunday roast, providing a unique texture and flavour point on an often brimming plate.
One of the best ways to enjoy a roastie, in my opinion, is just before closing time, after a few drinks, on a winter’s evening.
At least, I still have the memories of the pub in Bournemouth during my university days that would bring round dishes of hot, crispy and salty roasties that provided a surprisingly welcome and filling snack after an evening’s fun. You’ll need to trust me.
For what seems like a simple dish, there are many little tweaks and variations for you to try until you find the method that is just right for you.
I have my own method, honed through trial and error over many years and I swear that they are the best you’ll try. And you will, no doubt disagree.
I use maris piper potatoes, but King Edwards work well.
Vegetable, sunflower, rapeseed oil
If the oven is not already on, turn it on now.
The first trick is to peel your potatoes by slicing the skin off with a sharp knife (though I do also like leaving some skin on). You are looking for sharp edges – smoothness will not do.
Cut them into half, depending on the size of the originals. You don’t want them too small or too big.
Wash the peeled potatoes, place in unsalted water that just covers them and heat until boiling.
Leave them to boil or simmer vigorously for 5-10 minutes (if they start to break away at the edges remove from heat) and then drain using a colander.
The potatoes can be left in the colander to steam and cool. Keep the pan handy.
Meanwhile, place the tray you will use to roast the potatoes in the oven for a few minutes to warm up, then pour in either vegetable or rapeseed oil. Leave the oil to heat for a few minutes. You want the oil and the oven really hot.
Tip the potatoes back into the pan, then take the tray out of the oven and carefully pour the hot oil over the potatoes trying to cover as many of them as possible, though there is no need to worry too much.
Now pour the potatoes and any residual oil back into the oven tray and add a very generous knob of butter. If you can, this is the time to try and get every potato surface covered with a little oil.
Then put them into the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning occasionally. They should be crispy on the outside, golden brown, fluffy on the inside and they will definitely smell wonderful.
What about the top chefs?
Now, you’ve probably read that and screamed, why, what, where, and more. This is my way and there are so many variations. Top chefs have their own trusted methods.
Heston Blumenthal rinses his potatoes for 5 minutes before parboiling. He adds rosemary, thyme and garlic to the roasting tray and uses beef dripping, cooking them for almost 90 minutes.
Gordon Ramsay suggests shaking up the edges of the potatoes, coating them in semolina and using goose or duck fat for extra crispiness.
Nigella prefers her roast potatoes to be small, suggesting this measure helps to maximise the crispy coating to fluffy filling ratio. She is another semolina convert, suggesting it is better to use than flour, though I hadn’t heard anyone suggest flour, until I saw the recipe on the Good Food Guide website.
She also likes to give them a shake in the colander to scruff them up a bit.
Waitrose suggests scraping the parboiled potatoes with a fork to help rough them up. It is the rough surface that the oil crisps.
Jamie Oliver likes to go full on rogue when it comes to his roasties. He parboils for 7 minutes, crushes the potatoes slightly with a masher and adds a number of flavour combinations – rosemary and garlic, clementine and sage or thyme and bay. And seasons ahead of the roast.
Tom Kerridge is perhaps closest to my recipe though he salts his water and poaches them for 10 to 15 minutes before roasting.
So there you go. The simplest of dishes with such a wide variety of methods to try.
How do you cook yours?