Mashed potatoes

Everyone likes mashed potatoes. Put mash on the menu to go with a slow-selling dish, and it whistles out the door. This recipe with its inclusion of boiled onion is particularly fine, and was shown to me by Juliet Peston, for years my co-chef at Frith Street. She in turn got the recipe from her mother, and it almost certainly has its origins in Mittel-European Jewish cooking.

Like so many simple and delicious dishes, there is a certain rigour to the method. The right sort of potato is essential, the correct amount of water retained by the spuds when they are drained is also vital, but probably most important is not to over-work them during mashing, as this results in a starchy mess. I prefer an old-fashioned ‘masher’ but have got good results with food mills and potato ricers. Avoid food processors at all costs.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg large potatoes, peeled and cut into big pieces (red varieties like Desirée are the best for mashing)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 100 ml milk
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 100 g butter

Method

Put the potatoes and onion in a pan with enough water to cover them. Boil until the potatoes are tender, then drain, reserving about 100 ml of their cooking water. Return the potatoes to the pan and place over a low flame. Add the milk, cream and butter then mash. If the mash is a little dry, add more butter and cream; should this not agree with your diet, substitute the reserved water.

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