I’ve developed a penchant for potato salads. Warm ones. The kind where the freshly-cooked spuds, still steaming from the pan or crisp from the oven, are immediately mingled with a selection of other ingredients, tossed with a dressing, then devoured.
The principal reason for this relatively sudden tuber-titillation is I’ve at last discovered a good source of them. Every Sunday in the basement of one of the large shopping centres near my workplace a market is held selling all variety of organic produce, from soaps to shoes. In one corner there’s a little – but bountiful – farmer’s market and one stall in particular always has a good tub of spuds. They’re the waxy variety and as such perfect for jumbling into a salad.
Back home, laden with brown paper bags (aside from the environmental benefits, the crinkle of these carriers is aesthetically superior to the slippery shuffle of plastic), I begin preparing the potatoes. Scrubbed and washed I then cut each along the diagonal, quartering those of slightly bigger size so all the pieces are of similar proportions.
Into a pan of cold salted water they go, with a sprig of mint, and brought up to the boil. The smell of mint and boiling spuds is evocative of summer days in Somerset and I think I add the herb for that reason alone. I either par-boil or fully cook the potatoes, depending what I’m going to do with them afterwards.
The first salad I made was a combination of the freshly-boiled potatoes, delicious peppery rocket and a kind of camembert (both these bought from the same market), all tossed together with quite a robust dressing of olive oil, salt and cider vinegar. The cheese melted superbly and the rocket had a snap to it that only the freshest variety has. Didn’t neeed anything else apart from a glass of white wine to wash it down.
After that I began to experiment more, with dressings – I’ve used combinations of all or some of: lemon juice, grain mustard, different flavoured vinegars and oils, capers, olives, different herbs, sun-dried tomatoes. I’m planning an Asian twist soon, using miso and soy, among other flavours.
For my most recent confection I par-boiled the spuds, drained them, then returned them to the pan with a lid on. Here I shook them around, to rough up the edges. I was going to put them in the oven and I wanted that kind of crispiness this sort of treatment gives. While the potatoes were roasting in oil I made a basic pesto of basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan, all the ingredients whizzed up until I got a smooth paste.
When the potatoes were verging on being ready I added some small tomatoes, halved, to the oven. I have a thing about crisp potatoes and softening tomatoes cooking together. At the end I sprinkled over some dukkah – a spice and nut mix used in Egyptian cookery – just to lift the whole thing. I’d had a jar in my cupboard for a while and was looking for a good opportunity to use it; this was it.
Spuds and tomatoes on the plate, rinsed baby spinach ripped over pesto drizzled on with a little more oil just to loosen things up. Once again, nothing more needed except a glass of chilled white wine.