Good grief, you hardly thought I would let Christmas go by without tackling the subject of roasties, now, did you?
Though I may have spouted on at some length on the topic of roast potatoes last year, my 12-step roastie program didn’t really address the question of how our most popular potato varieties stack up when it comes to roasting. I’m here today to fix that.
Inspired somewhat by last year’s piece in the Guardian Word of Mouth blog which compared three varieties of British potato, roasted using formulae from four well-known chefs, I loosened my belt and set about the task of roasting several different kinds of Irish spud.
Step one was a trip to my local fruit-and-veg emporium…
Given that my homegrown potatoes are long gone, I am doubly appreciative of the fact that I can source five different varieties of Irish-grown potato at this little shop, not five minutes walk from my house.
The potatoes on sale in this little outlet are representative of the ones you’re most likely to find in this country at this time of year: Rooster, which are by far the most commonly available spud in Ireland these days, followed by Kerr’s Pink, along with Records, Maris Piper and the not-so-commonly-grown-but-fabulous Golden Wonder. My line-up of roastie candidates was thus set, so off to the kitchen with me.
The basic roasting method used in all cases was as set out in some detail in last year’s post, and can be summarised as follows:
- Preheat your oven to 200C and preheat your roasting tin and chosen oil or fat also.
- Peel the potatoes (keeping the peels) and halve them (or quarter them if large) and rinse well.
- Bring well-salted water to the boil (use about 1.25 tsp fine salt / litre), add the potatoes and their peels (ideally tied up in a small piece of muslin), bring back to the boil and boil gently for about 5-6 minutes.
- Drain, discarding the peels, and return the pot to a low heat for about a minute. Shake the pot to and fro to roughen the edges of the potatoes.
- Pour the heated oil or fat over the potatoes and into the oven they go. Turn once during cooking and, after about 45 minutes, your roasties are done.
For the fat, I experimented with olive oil, groundnut oil and clarified butter. Of course, many folks swear by goose fat or duck fat, so use that, if that’s your thing.
And the results? Well…
- Maris Piper: These were the worst of the lot. They had a soggy interior and, even though the outsides browned nicely, were not crisp. Disappointing.
- Golden Wonder: The driest and flouriest of all. They roughed up better, were nicely crunchy outside and dry-ish inside with very good flavour.
- Rooster: These crisped up well, while the texture inside was creamier than Golden Wonder and had decent flavour.
- Kerr’s Pink: They were similar to Rooster in crispness and texture, except with an earthier flavour which I didn’t like as much.
- Records: These crisped up very well, though they were not quite as floury as Golden Wonder inside, and had very good flavour.
And the winner?
Frankly, it was a close call between Golden Wonder and Records, though I think Golden Wonder had a slight edge in that battle. Roosters, which will, no doubt, be the choice of most Irish families, came in a very creditable third, followed by Kerr’s Pink, with Maris Piper a dim and distant fifth.
In all cases, my own personal preference for the fat to use remains olive oil, as I like that hint of olive taste in the crust. If that’s not your thing, groundnut oil will give similar results without the olive taste. Clarified butter seems to result in marginally more browning of the crust, though I think I still prefer to add butter to the roasties after they’re done, rather than before.
What surprised me most, though, was that, despite having gorged my way through a rather large number of roasties in order to bring you this news, I am still looking forward to eating them on Christmas day. Better still, I know exactly which roasties I’ll be having.