UNDERGROUND OVERGROUND


Pretty soon now, potatoes should have been lifted and stored for the winter. Consequently, a wide range is now available and it’s a good time to experiment with the world’s favourite tuber.
Potato & parmesan soup with walnut-watercress pesto


I think the potato is a fantastic ingredient for any cook. They are so versatile, can be cooked in so many different ways and they are also a great vehicle for absorbing loads of other flavours. My favourite pairings for potatoes include truffles, bacon, capers, anchovies, watercress & caviar. The combination of warm roasted new potatoes topped with sour cream & caviar is simply awesome and must rate as my preferred canapé of all-time.

Potatoes were by no means an instant success in the western world; they were thought to have originated in Chile when prehistoric tribes took them to the Andes region of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. The potato had been cultivated for centuries in South America before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and took
them back to Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, although sir Francis drake is credited with discovering them in Chile and bringing them back to England in 1577. By the 18th century potatoes were still excluded from the great French tables and were thought to cause leprosy. In England the puritans distrusted them, as the humble potato was not mentioned in the bible, although it had become an important crop for the masses. The chemist Antoine August Parmentier was imprisoned in Prussia and fed nothing but potatoes during the seven years war. He returned to a starving France and set up soup kitchens in Paris to assist the poor. He went on to champion the use of potatoes and did much for their popularity throughout Europe.
Potatoes are nutritious, and when cooked without fat, healthy, high in energy-giving carbohydrate and low in calories.

When boiling potatoes always start them in cold water, as they tend to toughen when dropped into boiling water and add a good pinch of salt. Always start roasted potatoes over a high heat, get the fat hot and make sure they are completely dry before adding them to the roasting dish. Do not cover them and add the salt and pepper at the last minute because salt has a tendency to destroy the crispness of roasted potatoes and fried foods. For pureed potatoes, look for a good floury potato like maris piper and cook the potatoes in large pieces for about 20 minutes.


POTATO & PARMESAN SOUP
WITH WALNUT-WATERCRESS PESTO


Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled & diced
600ml vegetable stock
200ml milk
100ml cream
25g Parmesan, grated
a knob of butter

Cook the onions in a knob of butter until soft. Add the potatoes, stock and milk and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add the cream and blend the soup to the desired consistency in a blender. Stir in the Parmesan and season. Pour in the soup bowls and top with a spoonful of walnut-watercress pesto. Serve immediately.


Walnut & Watercress Pesto

60g watercress, stalks removed
5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp walnuts, shelled
1 garlic clove
 Juice of 1 lemon
Seasoning

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until you are left with a nice, green paste.








SAFFRON FISH PIE WITH CRISPY POTATO TOPPING

Ingredients
400g salmon filet, skinned & cut into large chunks
300g fresh haddock fillet, skinned & cut into large chunks
200g peeled prawns
1500g fresh spinach, cleaned
200g cooked peas

BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
500ml milk 
A few parsley stalks 
1          bay leaf, torn
 6         whole black peppercorns 
½         small onion, peeled and studded with 3 cloves 
40g      butter 
30g      plain flour 
A pinch of saffron
 salt and freshly milled black pepper

Bring the milk just to the boil with the onion pierced with the cloves, bay leaf, parsley stalks and the peppercorns. 
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes before straining. Then melt the butter in a medium saucepan, stir in the flour and saffron. Cook over a low heat for five minutes. When smooth, start adding some of the strained milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk until the sauce is thickened. Cook for 10-15 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked through. Place the salmon, haddock, prawns, spinach & cooked peas in an earthenware dish. Pour the saffron sauce over the fish.

CRISPY POTATO TOPPING
350g potatoes
60g melted butter
Seasoning

Boil the potatoes without peeling for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Peel the potatoes and grate the potatoes.
Place in bowl and add the melted butter and seasoning.

To serve:
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
Sprinkle over the fish and dot with butter. Bake in the oven and cook for 30 minutes until the crust is nice and crispy.





TUMBET

Mallorca’s version of ratatouille, “Tumbet”, is a wonderful vegetable dish consisting of layers of roasted peppers, aubergines and potatoes in a rich tomato sauce.

Ingredients:         serves 6

6         aubergines (sliced)
4         red peppers
2         green peppers
8         potatoes (peeled and sliced)
6         garlic cloves (crushed)
200ml         olive oil
500ml         fresh tomato sauce

Fry the potatoes in hot oil until golden brown. Add 3 garlic cloves and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the potatoes and place them in an earthenware dish, forming a layer.
Fry the aubergines in the same oil for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove and place then on top of the potatoes to form another layer.
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice them lengthways and fry them for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Place the peppers over the aubergine slices. Pour the tomato sauce over the vegetables and bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.



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