If there are tenets for Britishness, one must surely be that almost any bad meal can be saved by good roast potatoes. There are a million and one ways to roast a potato, so when you come to producing your own, it’s easy to get lost in a minefield of advice. What potato to use? Should I parboil or not? What fat should I use? First reach for your best saucepan set or perfect non-stick pan.
Consult the oracles of British cookery – Delia, Nigella, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall et al – and you’ll find they all suggest floury potatoes like Maris Pipers or Desirees, the reason being that their crumbly texture is vital for crispy exterior and fluffy innards. A short parboil in salted water helps to season and break down the potato, then blast them in the oven in hot fat to get that all-important crunch.
Animal fats like goose and lard add richness, but you can use vegetable or groundnut oil for a lighter flavour. Avoid olive oil, butter and anything that will smoke at high temperatures. If you are a modern kind of cook, you could also consider using an air fryer to free up oven space. Here's how to cook roast potatoes in an air fryer.
Easy roast potatoes
TIME 1 hour
1kg floury potatoes (Maris Piper, King Edward or Desiree ideally), peeled
100g duck/goose fat
6 cloves garlic, in their skins
A few sprigs of rosemary
Flaky sea salt
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Half your potatoes and cut any larger ones into even-sized chunks – you want your roast potatoes to be roughly the same size.
Parboil the potatoes for 6-8 minutes – they should still be firm in the middle when tested with a knife, but you want the outside to be starting to break down.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Put the duck fat into a large roasting tin and preheat in the oven.
Drain the potatoes and leave them in the colander for a couple of minutes – the steam will dry them out, which helps give you a crispier surface.
When your roasting tin is hot, the potatoes are ready to go in. Be careful as the potatoes into the roasting tin – the fat might spit a bit as you do. At this point lots of chefs like to rough up the surface of the potatoes to help them crisp up – you can give them a gentle shake in the tin or use a fork. Put the garlic and rosemary in with the potatoes and make sure everything is well coated in fat.
Turn the oven down to 180ºC and roast the potatoes for about 45 minutes, but give them a good shake every 10-15 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.
When the potatoes are golden and crispy on the outside, they’re done. Drain off any excess fat using kitchen towel, finish with another pinch of flaky sea salt and serve.
Hasselback roast potatoes
Hasselback potatoes, or Hasselbackspotatis, if you will, originate from the Hasselbacken tavern in Sweden, and have become a beloved part of Swedish cuisine.
Aside from looking dead fancy, they’re also absolutely delicious – by cutting thin ridges into the potato you provide lots more surface area for crisping and give flavours ample chance to penetrate right to the heart of the spud.
If you’re looking for a show stopping side to impress this Christmas, this is the one.
TIME 45 minutes
1kg new potatoes
50ml olive oil
150g bacon lardons
4 garlic cloves
A few sprigs of thyme
Flaky sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin along with the bacon lardons, garlic and thyme and put in the oven.
Start prepping your potatoes. Cut widthways incisions into each potato, about half a centimetre apart and three quarters deep. An easy way to do this is to take a couple of wooden spoons and lie the handles either side of the potato – that way you can slice downwards and the spoon will stop your knife before you cut all the way through.
Put the potatoes in the roasting tin and baste them thoroughly with the oil/bacon fat so they’re covered all over. Arrange so the cut sides are facing up, season generously with salt and roast for 30 minutes, basting regularly.
Remove the potatoes and bacon from the roasting tin, and drain off the excess fat. Finish with black pepper and some more sea salt if you like. Serve.