Back to Basics: Potatoes

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Potatoes are great (although I do have a very strange friend who won’t touch them…). Honestly. They are cheap, filling and very easy to get a hold of. They are actually the 4th most consumed food in the world. You can buy kilos of the damn things for only a few pounds in any supermarket. Some useful information to start, then I will show you just how just how versatile spuds can be.

So, storing your taters. To get them to last the longest possible time, keep your potatoes somewhere dry and dark e.g. in a cupboard, under the stairs or in a cellar. You can just keep them in the bag they came in – poke a hole in the bag to let a little air in – or transfer them to a basket, but don’t put them in an airtight box. Don’t put them in the fridge, don’t get them wet and don’t expose them to light because if you do they will go soft, green or sprout (sounding a little like Gremlins now…) If you follow these simple rules there is no reason that your bag of potatoes won’t last a month plus.

When preparing them, you can peel the taters but I honestly recommend keeping the skin on most of the time because that is where the good nutrients and vitamins are – it also tastes amazing. A normal potato will give you 45% of your vitamin C, ~20% of your potassium and 10% of vitamin B for the day. You can also leave the skins on sweet potatoes so long as you wash and scrub the outside before you cook them.

So, what can we do with potatoes? In one word: Loads.

  • Chips: I often make my own chips rather than using oven chips or deep frying them. It takes longer but they taste nicer and are far healthier for me – also most university halls don’t like it when you use oil and deep fry things as it is very unpredictable. For one portion, use one medium potato – very easy to remember! Chop your potatoes into thick slices, like chips, and part boil them for around 8 minutes, or until the edges have started to go see through. Once done, dry them off with kitchen roll and put on a baking tray. Spray with Frylight (or whatever you are using) and cook at 180C for about 15-20 minutes – the time depends on how thick your chips are. Cost: one potato, less than 30p

 

  • Jacket Potato: Perhaps the easiest method of preparing a potato. Turn on the oven. Put potato in oven. Leave to cook for about an hour then take out and eat. If you don’t have the time to do this, stab it with a knife a few times then put it in a microwave for 10 minutes. This doesn’t give the same crispy skin (my favourite bit) but if you have time you can shove it in the oven for another 15 min to crisp it up. You can serve it with all manner of toppings: classic baked beans and cheese; tuna and sweetcorn mayo; chilli con carne; salad etc etc. Literally whatever you want. Average cost: potato + filling, probably no more than 80p

 

  • Potato skins: These can be a killer calorie-wise when brought from a shop. As a kid I absolutely loved those bacon, cheese and sour-cream potato skins that always came out in BBQ season. Turns out they aren’t that hard to make. You cook the potato like you would for a jacket and take it out when it is ready. Leave it to cool for a few minutes then scoop the flesh out from the middle into a bowl. You can put whatever you want into the middle – another favourite combination of mine is fried onions, ham, cheese and ketchup (I know it sounds odd but really it is great). Just mix all the ingredients in with the flesh then shove the mixture back into the skins. You can then put them back in the over for a few minutes to crisp up the top or, at this point, freeze them to use on another day. Average cost: potato + filling, probably no more than 80p

 

  • Sweet potato, potato and carrot tangine: I mentioned this recipe in my post on couscous and it’s great. Check it out here

 

  • Peanut Stew: One of my flatmates introduced me to this recipe last year, and it is yummy. Start by frying a chopped red onion with 1tsp ground ginger and garlic to taste. Add in 4 chopped chicken breasts and stir til that has browned. Season with salt and pepper then pour 1.2L of chicken stock over the top. Add in 3 chopped small potatoes (either normal or sweet potato) and cook for 15 minutes. Then stir in 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and any other vegetables you happen to have (green beans, sweetcorn, carrots, red peppers). Cover the pot and cook for another 20 minutes. Average cost: 85p a portion (makes between 4 and 5 meals) N.B without chicken it will cost considerably less

 

  • Veggie Thai Curry: This is the sort of recipe that can easily be adapted to fit whatever vegetables you have in your fridge/cupboard etc. Chop all of your vegetables (e.g. onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes etc.) and put into a saucepan/pot with enough stock to comfortably cover all the vegetables. Add in a tsp or two of green Thai curry paste and simmer over a medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Just before serving pour in some coconut milk  (this is something I do by sight and taste. I keep adding it in until the spices aren’t too harsh and my mouth isn’t tingling) and serve with rice. Average cost: 85p

I hope this has given you some ideas as to how turn the humble potato into something special. Have a great day!

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