People wonder what the difference is between a potato purée and mashed potatoes. They are, in fact, the same thing, though the quality of the end-result will depend on the type of potatoes used, the method of mashing and the exact amount of butter incorporated.
Never use a food processor, as the blade whizzing at such high speed extracts the starch from the potato molecules, delivering something you could possibly use to hang wallpaper but nothing you would ever likely want to eat.
An electric whisk delivers good results, or you can put the potatoes through a potato ricer or push them through a sieve before adding the emollient elements of butter, olive oil or cream to finish the purée. An old-style potato masher still does the job best.
Potatoes which are good for baking are equally good for mashing and how light a purée you achieve will depend in part on the kind of potatoes you use. Perversely, potatoes described as Tor baking’ will often be the most floury and deliver the best results when boiled and mashed. At last, more varieties are available in supermarkets, so experiment and find the type which works best for you. Maris Piper and Golden Wonder are both good and are available all year round.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into uniform chunks, then boil in lots of lightly salted water until just done, about 20 minutes. Drain through a colander and return to the pan, shaking over a low heat to evaporate all moisture.
Mash the potatoes dry, then add the milk, beating it in with a wooden spoon. Next add the butter and beat it in. The amount used really depends on how creamy you like your mash. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Optionally, stir in some chopped flat-leaved parsley before serving.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.