WHAT you serve as the main dish for Christmas dinner is up for debate, but there’s one thing you’ll find on almost every table: roast potatoes. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, they’re a certified festive crowd-pleaser. And yet nothing is more disappointing than soggy spuds that lack flavour- so what’s the best way to prepare them? Here, chefs give their top tips for the ultimate roasties:
Add baking powder for extra crunch
Nadiya Hussain has a top tip for getting her potatoes ‘really crispy and crunch’, she says.
“When you have parboiled for seven to 10 minutes - until they’re cooked on the outside - drain them and give them a smash around in the pan.
“At that point, season them really, really well - and then get some baking powder. Sprinkle on some baking powder, and you will hear your potatoes sizzle. Swish it around, and that reaction when you’ve got that sizzling baking powder - that hits the hot oil and you get that instant crunch.”
Hussain recommends around one-and-a-half to two teaspoons of baking powder per kilo-and-a-half of spuds.
Nadiya’s Everyday Baking by Nadiya Hussain (Michael Joseph)
Combine with other root veg
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is all about boosting the flavour of potatoes with other vegetables.
“I like roasting lots of veg at Christmas, not just the potatoes,” he says.
“So I often do a tray of roots - which might be parsnips, potatoes and carrots - but I will also sometimes roast sprouts and shallots and even celeriac together. Because then you get different textures, different levels of sweetness.”
To really get those potatoes golden, Fearnley-Whittingstall recommends making sure the oil is really hot before the spuds go in.
River Cottage Good Comfort by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury)
Roast them up Italian style
“I do my roast potatoes very different from everybody else,” admits Gino D’Acampo.
“Everybody will parboil the potatoes, shake them up, then put the oil in the tray very hot. I don’t do anything like that.
“I do a recipe - Italian roast potatoes. I get new potatoes - the small ones - I leave the skin on, I put them on a tray, then I slice some red peppers, yellow peppers, green peppers, then I put cloves of garlic and lots of rosemary on top, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix everything together, it goes into the oven at 180 degrees for one-hour-and-20-minutes, shake them every 20 minutes - the job is done.”
Gino’s Italy: Like Mamma Used to Make By Gino D’Acampo (Bloomsbury)
Add a stock cube
Joe Swash starts his potatoes the usual way - parboiling them, shaking the spuds about and putting them in preheated oil - but then he has a secret weapon for taking them to the next level.
“Sometimes I’ll get a chicken stock cube and put it in the oil just before I put the potatoes in,” he says.
“The potatoes suck up the stock - it gives it extra flavour.”
Joe’s Kitchen: Homemade Meals For A Happy Family by Joe Swash (Pavilion Books)
Inject them with even more flavour
Nisha Katona’s first tip for the best roast potatoes in the world is to use olive oil, calling it the ‘best thing ever’.
Then it’s about loading the dish with as much flavour as possible.
“Loads of olive oil, garlic puree, salt and brown sugar, and toss your potatoes,” she advises.
“Toss them, then roast them and you are instantly getting all of that flavour in the salt, the sweet and the garlic - all of that massive flavour onto these potatoes. It’s my favourite thing ever.”
Meat Free Mowgli: Simple, Nutritious & Ultra-Tasty Plant-Based Indian Meals by Nisha Katona (Nourish Books)
Prep in advance
Christmas day can be hectic, as you desperately try to pull off the perfect meal among the chaos of unwrapping presents and pouring morning bubbly. That’s why Mary Berry recommends a bit of preparation, saying you can cook your spuds “ahead - slightly under- then on the day you can re-roast them”.
Her roasties recipe is a classic one: “I like them cut up reasonably small. I bring them to the boil in salted water on the stove, just for about eight or 10 minutes, then drain the water off and shake them in the pan so they fluff up on the sides. Then you can either toss them in a bit of semolina if you’ve got it or a little bit of flour. I use not a lot of oil - it can be sunflower or something like that - toss them in that, and then roast them.”
Cook And Share by Mary Berry (BBC Books)