There are some basic rules to be followed to achieve perfection in this method of cooking; perfection being crisp on the outside, soft inside. Always use a floury potato. The results will only be as good as the ingredients and the fat is crucial so use a highly saturated fat – best is perhaps beef, though rendered chicken, goose or duck fats are good too, as is olive oil, groundnut or sunflower oil. Deep-fried potatoes passed off in hotels as roast potatoes are an abomination.
There is a division among cooks about whether to parboil. I prefer to boil peeled potatoes in salted water for about 5 minutes and then shake them roughly in a colander to break up the surface. Some people scour the potatoes with a fork. You can dust with a little flour if you like. Some people recommend a light coating of semolina, but I have not found that it makes much difference. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Never cook the potatoes round a joint of meat as this can make them soggy (and pan juices should be kept for the gravy). The fat must be hot when you put in the potatoes and they need to be roasted for a minimum of an hour in a hot oven –
Roast potatoes are lovely on their own. They don’t necessarily have to share the plate with meat.
‘The English at the rates the Irish do, can’t live … give them potatoes they’ll boyle and roast/And stroke up their mustachoes.’
Anonymous play written in 1675.
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