How to make the perfect roast potatoes
In Europe and the USA there are any number of potato types to select from, such as Desirée, King Edward, Maris Piper etc., but in South Africa our choice is very limited. Try to buy potatoes that marked “suitable for roasting”, “Mediterranean” or at the very least “all-purpose potatoes”.
The secret to good roast potatoes is the heat of the fat. Duck fat adds great flavour and has an extremely high smoke/heat point; therefore, ideal to get the tatties crisp and beautifully brown. If you do not have duck fat, use vegetable oil – you may have to cook your potatoes for an extra 5 minutes to get them well browned.
You will need
5 large potatoes
Juice of half a lemon or 1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
2 generous tablespoons of duck fat (now available at most good supermarkets and grocers)
2 bunches of fresh thyme
3 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon Muldon salt (or ½ tablespoon of table salt as it is much stronger than Muldon)
1 teaspoon of black pepper
Adapt the quantity of flour and fat depending on the number of potatoes. Use only enough fat to form a 1 centimetre layer of fat on the bottom of the roasting pan. Too much fat and you will get soggy potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 200oC
- Peel and cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise or in quarters if they are large
- Place in a bowl of cold water to clean them thoroughly and remove any starch
- Place the potatoes into a pot and add water to just cover the tatties
- Add 2 teaspoons of salt and the lemon juice or 1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)
- Bring to the boil uncovered and turn the heat down to medium so that the potatoes simmer gently
- Set the timer for 7 minutes
- Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the stove and drain the potatoes well in a colander or large strainer
- Stand the colander and potatoes in the hot pot with a lid and return to the empty pot back on the hot plate which is switched off – allow to steam and dry out for 3 minutes
- Toss in the colander to rough up the surface of each potato and sprinkle over the flour a little at a time or until each potato is well coated (you can also rough them up with a fork if you like)
- Add the duck fat to a roasting pan and pop it in the oven for about 2 minutes to get the fat to sizzling point
- Remove from the oven and very carefully place the potatoes into the fat – roll them around to coat thoroughly
- Jamie Oliver suggests gently smashing the potatoes with a masher to flatten them slightly. He rightly maintains that this creates a larger surface area – more potato that touches the pan, the crispier they will be. Try it
- Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Add one bunch of thyme (whole) and bay leaves to the pan. Reserve the other bunch of time for garnish
- Don’t overcrowd the pan
- Place in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes
- Give the pan a shake, turn the potatoes over carefully and return the roasting pan to the oven and bake for a further 35 – 40 minutes or until the potatoes are perfectly crisp and golden
- Drain on kitchen towel and then place in a warm bowl for serving
Points 2 to 15 can be completed the day before your dinner. Allow the pan to cool, cover with foil and place in the fridge until needed. Not more than one night.
- Make more than you think you will need. Guests always peek into the kitchen and nick the left over ones. Rule of thumb, half a large potato for each lady and for men bank of them eating one whole, large one.
- I have always found the quarters are best even if the potatoes are only medium in size. Small pieces of potato really crisp up beautifully.
- Do not overcrowd the pan. The potatoes need space between them to roast or they will steam, become moist and soggy.
- Use duck fat as it can reach a high temperature without burning – perfect for roasties.
- Roughing up the potatoes creates extra surface space in which to “capture” the fat. This will make the potatoes extra crispy.
- Half way through cooking, add a whole bulb of garlic – this will add flavour and is a wonderful accompaniment to any dish. The best way to remove the garlic is to squeeze each clove like toothpaste and it will squij out easily.