Oxfam Books: a favourite haunt for “new-to-me” recipe books. Today, I bought Richard Olney’s 1997 Good Cook’s Encyclopedia in perfect condition for £3.00. It has a wealth of reference information with great photos: want to pluck and draw a gamebird? shirr eggs? make a puff pastry basket? I love those kind of cookbooks, it seems such a comfort to know I have the instructions somewhere, even though I will never in this life pluck and draw a partridge (but I might yet attempt a souffle!)
The book has an interesting method for slow frying roast potatoes. In the spirit of relaxed, fuss free family cooking, I thought I should try it out. Usually, fried tatties in our house are the leftover boiled potatoes from the night before, served re-heated in a skillet with bacon and eggs for breakfast. However, this method is done from raw in a large, deep frying pan, with a lid, or a shallow pot in oil/butter so that they sort of steam, roast and fry all at the same time. My thinking was it would certainly save oven space on the weekends if decent roast potatoes can be done on the stove and not in it. We shall see!
Cut your potatoes into even chunk sizes. If using regular small potatoes, then there will be no need to trim them to size, and you can keep the skins on too if you like. Wash and pat dry your potatoes with kitchen towel to try to get rid of any starch; I used 500g of “new” potatoes, of varying sizes from a “Basics” range bag from Sainsbury that cost £1. I threw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves too as suggested.
Warm enough butter or oil (or combination of both as I used) in a suitable pot or deep frying pan to coat the potatoes. Add the potatoes and garlic cloves. Set over a low heat, I used the smallest gas ring on the lower setting but I might use a diffuser too next time. They are supposed to take around 30 minutes, during which time you wipe off the excess moisture a couple of times from inside the lid to stop water dripping back into the pan. After 30 minutes and checking the potatoes are soft, you then take the lid off and let all the moisture evaporate for another 10 minutes.
And the result? After 30 minutes they were perfectly cooked, and after a further 10 minutes, then drained on kitchen paper, they were superb. I thought they would be a bit limp and soggy, but not at all. They were slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy delish on the inside, more akin to the sweetness you would expect of a baked potato. They did not stay crispy for ages, but in our house, they would be eaten up immediately so that would never be an issue. Also, perhaps I had too few in too large a pan, so they coloured up a little more than I expected, and I did use too much oil/butter, the method says to coat and I probably drenched…But hey, am not complaining, these were fab and they suit my needs. I may just have expanded the old repertoire!
The Good Cook’s Encyclopedia is still available at Amazon, I can thoroughly recommend it if you need a decent “how to” manual and don’t trust the t’internet to tell you the right thing or get fed up with search engines constantly returning rubbish from amateurs like myself…