Perfect roast potatoes are simply one of life’s greatest pleasures – one of the soft and easy comforts that transports me straight back to a wicker chair in my elderly (and now devastatingly dearly departed) Aunty Helen’s conservatory in her house in Plymouth, where I spent the summers of my childhood being chased around the garden by a large and furious goose called Charlie. Aunty Helen – as any great Greek Cypriot woman is intuitively inclined to – would feed us from the moment we awoke beneath hand-crocheted heavy blankets until the moment we crawled, satiated and delighted, back beneath the same. It was at Aunty Helen’s that I learned about the birds and the bees, aged nine, leafing open-mouthed through More! magazine’s ‘Position Of The Fortnight’ from a pile of women’s magazines carefully concealed beneath a Reader’s Digest in the downstairs bathroom. And it was at Aunty Helen’s that the first seeds of a love of cookery were planted, standing in her galley kitchen that was filled with light, peeling so many spuds we caught the peels in a large beige washing basket; I was useless and clumsy, she was brusque but laughing with it.
I loved her so deeply, and I loved her roast potatoes most of all – especially the ones she would slice for a bedtime snack, sandwiched between two thickly sliced hunks of white bread with butter so heavy you could leave teeth marks in it, and a smudge of piccalilli to finish it off. These roast potatoes are the roast potatoes of my childhood, and a love letter to a woman I wish I could cook for now.