I was struck lately by the seemingly relentless drive to label the recipes found in many cookbooks and (their often accompanying) cookery programmes as “simple” and “fast” – from Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers and Simple Cooking to Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, and a whole host of others in between. They all, in one way or another, address the perception that, as a race, we 21st century consumers have less and less time to cook and less and less of the kitchen skills required but, ironically, more and more time to watch cookery on TV.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for simple and fast, and I have been known to watch my fair share of television cookery – but if, perhaps, there were more books and programmes that stepped back from recipes and concentrated on teaching skills and techniques, that might actually make things simpler and faster for us in the long run.
Roast Potatoes With Bay Leaves
If simple’s what you want, then simple is what you’ll get with these spuds.
A couple of weeks back, I received a tweet from my good fried Jenni about “a tater thing” she’d made – namely a potato baked with bay leaf. It was, she declared, really, really good, an endorsement which placed it firmly on my must-make list. It also reminded me of a recipe in Eveleen Coyle’s Irish Potato Cookbook for roast potatoes with bay leaves which I’d been meaning to try. So finally, today, I did just that.
What you see below is Eveleen’s recipe, more or less, but the essence of it – and the technique that you need to remember – is that you cut a slit in a potato, insert a bay leaf and then roast or bake it, just as Jenni did. Simple, yes, and really, really good.
- 800g baby potatoes (or any small, evenly-sized potatoes)
- salt, for parboiling the potatoes
- 2 tblsp olive oil (or substitute rapeseed oil)
- bay leaves, one for each potato
- coarse salt
You’ll also need:
- A roasting tin large enough to fit the potatoes in a single layer
- Preheat your oven to 200C
- Scrub the potatoes and leave them unpeeled.
- Bring a pot of about 1.5l water to the boil, add 2 tsp salt and the potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered, for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow them to dry off and cool slightly.
- Add your oil to the roasting tin and place in the oven to heat.
- Cut a slit in each potato and insert a bay leaf.
- Remove your tin from the oven and toss the potatoes with the hot oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and return to the oven. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until tender and browned. These are lovely on their own with some salt and butter or serve alongside any kind of roast meat – Eveleen Coyle notes that they are particularly good with game.
- Instead of roasting the potatoes in oil, you could do like Jenni did, and bake them without oil but with a little butter added into the slit along with the bay leaf.
- This serves 3-4 as a side-dish