Recipe: Oh Spud, How Do I Love Thee?

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Here, James Beard Award-winning culinary guru Nigel Slater counts the ways and supplies an easy recipe that will elevate the everyday.

A letter to an old friend … the potato:

Dear Mashed Potato,

I don’t see you much any more, but I still think of you. I imagine you sitting in fat clouds on a white plate, a pool of shining gravy lapping at your edges. Heavy with butter, maybe hot milk, or cream or olive oil, you always were my go-to food, the recipe that sorted me out, put my world to rights, tucked me in at night.

I still see you, of course, as an occasional smear on the plate at a posh restaurant dinner, like seeing a picture of your first love in a photo album. Or when I am making the crust of a shepherd’s pie, to be browned in the oven in deep furrows like a freshly ploughed field. I see glimpses of you in fishcakes too, or in ham croquettes on the counter of tapas bars.

You were loved in all your guises: as an almost liquid pool under a fillet of red mullet or thick slices of lamb; beaten with cheese to an unctuous and buttery mess; hidden inside the brittle, salty skin of a baked potato; or piled, lumpy and cold, into a pan with shredded cabbage only to emerge as a sweetly singing bubble and squeak.

But most of all, I remember you as you were when I first fell in love with you, whipped to a waxy cloud with masses of butter, pure and simple.

Today, we shall once again meet up, as you are folded with roasted caramelised onions and the sort of matured Cheddar that makes your lips tingle. Better still, you will be made not from boiled or steamed potatoes but from roast. The mash will be soft and fluffy, but with pieces of crisp roast potato crust in there too.

An old friend loved all the more for being an occasional visitor.

Green spears, Glossy mash

A pile of mash, so loose and silky it is on the verge of becoming a purée. The season’s asparagus, grilled and glistening with olive oil. The bright notes of lemon zest. A treat today, but something I could happily eat all summer long. By the way, I use Maris Pipers for this very soft mash, but a waxy-fleshed potato such as Charlotte would be good, too; unorthodox, but capable of giving an even smoother, more velvety mash.


Griddled Asparagus on Lemon Mash

250 g     asparagus

Olive oil

For the Mash

850 g     potatoes

1 ½          lemons

300 ml full-fat milk

5 tbsp    olive oil

Peel the potatoes, cut them into large pieces, then bring to the boil in a pan of lightly salted water. Turn the heat down to an enthusiastic simmer and leave to cook for about 20 minutes, till they are tender to the point of a knife. Finely grate the zest of the whole lemon and put to one side.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan and set aside. Squeeze the lemons. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, then put them into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a flat paddle beater attachment.

Beat the potatoes at slow speed, slowly introducing the warm milk and lemon juice as you go, beating until you have quite a loose mash. Now beat in the olive oil. The mash should be very soft and creamy, with no lumps.

Brush the asparagus with olive oil, then cook for three or four minutes on a heated griddle, turning the spears occasionally so they colour evenly.

Divide the mash between two plates, and place the asparagus alongside. Generously trickle olive oil over both the asparagus and the mash, then finish with the lemon zest. Serves 2


Excerpted from A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater, photography Jonathan Lovekin. Copyright 2015. Published by Fourth Estate, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.