Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Humbled by Earth gems

Humbled by the potato

2,855,000,000 potatoes were grown in NZ last year with over 7 million serves of hot chips being served up across the counter each week to hungry mouths, this easily puts the humble potato right at the top of the food chain
Novembers means that we are now able to purchase potatoes fresh dug in Marlborough, however it pays to know your IIam Hardy’s from your moonlights and red rascals.  You need to be prepared to change your cooking method to match the type of potato you have at that particular time of the year.  No matter how clever you are as a chef or cook, if you have a floury potato it will not hold together when boiled and will not give you a good salad. Similarly, if you try and mash a waxy potato your mash will be gluey.   Obviously personal preferences comes  into play, for example if you prefer your mash to be less fluffy, just select a potato that is less floury but the key is to use th right potato for the right job
My favourite way of using potatoes is to keep it simple, purchase direct from the grower or plant some in the back yard as even the most novice gardeners can reap the rewards of just a few plants.  Know what you are buy, there are many different varieties so it pays to ask the best cooking method and at this time of the year the little earth gems are best just boiled or steamed with skin on,  a little salt, olive oil or butters to glaze and served hot to the table
While potatoes are best eaten fresh in NZ,  The Spuds in South America  prodcue “Chuño” as they have done so since the time of the Incas. The potatoes are spread on the ground on frosty nights. During the day they are covered with straw to protect against the burning rays of the sun, this way the potatoes go completely white. After exposure to several nights of frost, women and children trample on the potatoes to get rid of moisture and wear away the peel. The potatoes are then put in a stream with running water for a few weeks in order to wash out the bitter taste. Finally they're dried for about 14 days and can be stored without problems for up to 4 years."  While this may not catch on here is was essential to preserve the harvest so that it could sustain the villages through the harsh winters and hot summers.  Something tells me that 7 million serves of chips per week means that “Chuño”  is not exactly going to be the next fast food of NZ

4 Easy New  Potato Variations
Remember to salt your potato boiling water well (the water should taste pleasantly salty) – this a necessary step on the path to tasty taters!
Dill  or wild Fennel  (gathered from the roadsides around Marlborough) New Potatoes – boil up some new potatoes and then toss with freshly chopped dill or fennel and butter, and salt to taste
New potatoes with Rocket or Basil pesto – toss boiled potatoes with a couple of spoonfuls of pesto and a little salt to taste
Olive oil potatoes – dress boiled potatoes with a little Marlborough extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, garlic and fresh herbs of your choice
Stock potatoes – potatoes boiled in a light chicken 

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