Tuesday, 16 August 2011

How to cook purple potatoes

Having whinged about veg boxes for years, I'm now giving them another try. Why? Because I've found a really good scheme on my doorstep. Well, 7 odd miles away at the Barley Wood Walled Garden in Wrington.

This week's box (amazingly good value for £10) included purple potatoes so I've been debating for a couple of days what to do with them. My friend Elly had told me they disintegrated quite fast and ended up paler than she'd expected but I wanted to see if I could keep more of the shape and colour. (A similar challenge to my recent chiogga beets experiment.)

My initial idea was to buy a bunch of beets and combine them with the potatoes which I hoped would stain them a deeper red but when I cooked them (slowly, and for a shorter time than conventional potatoes) they actually looked quite pretty on their own.

I dressed them with a mustardy dressing, scattered over a few pieces of the red onion I was cooking with the beets, crumbled over some feta-like sheeps cheese in oil that had been lurking in the fridge, drizzled over a few drops of balsamic and a little extra oil and scattered over some parsley. A few edible flowers would have provided the perfect finishing touch.

I did however prefer the flavour of the roast beet and potato salad combo (see top of post) wich streaked the potatoes with an amazing magenta colour. I also added in the roasted potato skins, a super-thrifty touch which accentuated the potato flavour and crunch. My husband and I were discussing what would go well with this and came up with Stilton (or other blue cheese) and leek tart, German style sausages or other salty/smokey porky products and smoked mackerel. Not all on the same plate, obviously.

Anyway, try it for yourself:

Roast beetroot, red onion and purple potato salad

Serves 6-8

2 large beets or 3 medium-sized ones
500g purple potatoes
2 red onions
About 2 tbsp chopped parsley
A few chives
For the dressing
1 good tsp Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic crushed with 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp light olive oil or 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 3 of sunflower oil
A little balsamic vinegar (optional)
A pinch of cumin
Freshly ground pepper and more salt if you need it

Set the oven to 190°C. Cut off the beet leaves*, scrub the beets clean and wrap loosely in lightly oiled foil. Place on a baking tray and roast for about an hour to an hour and a quarter, depending on size until you can pierce them with a sharp knife.

About 20 minutes before the beets are ready peel and cut the onions into quarters or eighths, place on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and roast for about 15-20 minutes. Set the beets and onions aside to cool.

Meanwhile scrub the potatoes and cut into even sized pieces (small potatoes whole, bigger ones into halves, still larger ones into quarters, etc). Place in a saucepan cover with boiling water and bring to the boil. Add salt and simmer (not boil) the potatoes for about 10 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a knife. (They don't take as long as conventional potatoes.)

Make the dressing. Put the crushed garlic and mustard into a bowl, whisk in the wine vinegar, ground cumin, salt and pepper then gradually add the oil or oils until the dressing thickens.

Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle and remove the skins. (You'll probably already find them peeling away as above). Put the skins on the baking sheet you used to roast the onions, trickle over a little oil and crisp them up in the oven. Remove and cool.

Cut the potatoes into large chunks, tip into the dressing and turn them carefully so they are well coated without breaking up.

Peel the beets and cut into large dice and add to the potato along with the roast onion, most of the crisp potato skins, parsley and chives if using. Tip onto a plate and decorate with the remaining skins and a scattering of herbs.

I reckon the basic purple potato salad would also be good with raw rather than roast onion and perhaps a few capers if you wanted to ring the changes. And you might get an even better texture and colour if you steamed them.

* You can use the leaves as suggested in my recent post here.


Sarah said...

How much does a box weigh? Here organic boxes are pretty pricey and as my boys are picky about root vegetables plus a bunch of others I object to forking out for a bunch of stuff it'll be difficult to use.

Prices: 3-4kg= €12, 7-8kg= €30, with no choice.

Personally, if I want to pay over the odds for fresh veg I can go to the smart little greengrocer's in the village who's a real specialist and has delicious veg.

Fiona Beckett said...

I've always been resistant to veg boxes for exactly that reason, Sarah, but am giving them another go because the supplier is so local and the veg so fresh. Probably purple potatoes wouldn't be every small boy's dream tho' ;-)

I paid £10 for a largeish box with 8-10 different fruit and veg

Colleen said...

Those look wonderful! I never thought of roasting the potato skins, what a great idea.

Fiona Beckett said...

I hadn't either, Colleen, but it suddenly occured to me. They really gave it a much more intense potato-y flavour (always good with me!)

Sarah said...

I never realised that you lived so close to Wrington (very close to where both me and my boyfriend grew up and went to school!). The Walled Garden is fantastic and has a lovely cafe restaurant which I can recommend for lunch. Delish!

Fiona Beckett said...

Been there and blogged about it recently http://foodandwinefinds.blogspot.com/2011/07/barley-wood-sticky-toffee-apple-cake.html Amazing isn't it?