A perfect fluffy potato with a crispy sizzling coating is enough to get the nation’s mouths watering.
But while a beautifully cooked roast spud is still the ideal for the Sunday dinner table, the full value of the humble potato is often underestimated.
‘Certainly a lot of people don’t seem to give them the credit they deserve on the nutrition front,’ says farmer Nick Baird, who produces potatoes at New Barn Farm in Funtington.
‘They’re great for fibre – a jacket potato has more than a bowl of bran and new potatoes are good too because the skins are often left on.’
And even with their jackets discarded, spuds have plenty to offer, even if their nutritional image isn’t up there with the leafy greens.
‘As a nation we get about 20 per cent of our vitamin C from potatoes and there is more iron in a serving of new potatoes than in a pint of Guinness,’ explains Nick.
Not surprisingly, he’s proud of the crop he lovingly nurtures but he has some very good points. ‘I don’t think there’s a food that is more versatile. As someone with three young children, I think it’s one of the most convenient foods around. Obviously you can bake them, roast them, mash them. You can make chips and hash browns and have new potatoes in salad. And if you are careful about how you make these things and use the minimum of fat, it makes for a healthy meal.’
As a producer, he also points out that the potato is a pretty sustainable crop, using less water than other foodstuffs. And if consumers are buying British they’re avoiding clocking up too many food miles.
The other benefit is that they can last for months with the correct storage. ‘They need to be in a dark, cool, dry environment,’ says Nick, who says that sprouting spuds aren’t a problem. ‘Just cut them out and use the potato. But throw potatoes away if they’ve gone green,’ he adds.
Of course, whether they regard them as a major health-booster or not, most people love their spuds and are more than ready to answer the common question: ‘What’s your favourite way to eat them?’
‘I love a good roast potato,’ Nick answers. ‘Maris Pipers are the best variety for that. Par boil them for 10 minutes until they’re nice and floury and then cook them in a pan of olive oil. They crisp up beautifully.’
Chicken and potato pot
4 Medium potatoes cut into small cubes
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 small courgettes, thickly sliced
4 skinless Chicken breasts cut into small chunks
6 mini carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthways
6 mini sweetcorns cut in half lengthways
300ml chicken stock
50g tender stem broccoli
Handful of fresh herbs – thyme, coriander and parsley or you could use 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1. In a large pan heat the oil and add onion, garlic, courgettes and chicken.
2. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the carrots, corn, potatoes, stock and herbs.
4. Bring to the boil and fast simmer for 15-20 minutes with lid on pan.
5. Three minutes before the end of cooking add the broccoli to the top of the pan to lightly steam.
6. Serve in deep bowls.
Check out other recipes from the Potato Council at lovepotatoes.co.uk