Warm potato salad with crème fraîche and garden herbs © Lisa Barber

This is the season to (re)discover potatoes, the time when the highly prized "new earlies" come into their own, varieties such as Arran Pilot, Foremost and Maris Bard. Fragile-skinned, yet hard and firm and with a sweet and nutty taste, these flavoursome princes of the potato world are perfectly satisfying on their own, served with just a little butter or olive oil. However, they also enhance other foods beautifully. I can't resist simply boiled potatoes with grilled fish and a garlicky mayonnaise or steamed potatoes with a simple roast chicken or piece of grilled meat. In fact, I always prefer to cook them in this way rather than roast them, which I think can mask their delicate flavour and texture.

It seems most odd to me now but for two years I chose to cook almost completely without potatoes. They were, I decided, too heavy for my style of cooking. This time last year, however, I rediscovered their gentle, subtle beauty, when, on a farm in Gloucestershire, we picked little Red Dukes from the ground, boiled them briefly in well-salted water and ate them laced simply with a few rocket flowers and some new season's olive oil. It was one of my most memorable meals of the year.

Boiling or steaming are perfect for new-season potatoes but they can also be very successfully combined with strong flavours such as chilli, garlic and anchovies. And, as they are waxy and firm, their flavour and texture stand up well when added to soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. Just remember that, unlike older potatoes that cook best when added to cold water, always add new earlies to boiling water.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Roasted Roseval potatoes with Gorgonzola and ham

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as an accompaniment

500g/1lb Roseval potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of rosemary
12 very fine slices of speck or Parma ham
180g/6oz Gorgonzola dolce

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place the potatoes in a bowl and pour over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add the sprigs of rosemary. Toss together lightly with your hands so that the potatoes are well coated in the olive oil. Lay the potatoes in a baking tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until golden brown and tender; this will take about 25-30 minutes, sometimes a little longer. When tender, remove from the oven, slice the cheese into eighth-inch slices and lay on top of the hot potatoes, finish with the slices of speck and serve.

Warm potato salad with crème fraîche and garden herbs

This is a lovely dish on its own – I would happily eat it just by itself for supper –but it is also beautiful with salt-bakedwild salmon and a simple green salador cold roast beef.

Serves 6

1 kg/2lb "new earlies" (see introduction)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch of tarragon, leaves only
1 small bunch of chives
1 small bunch of chervil, fronds only
A few drops of sherry vinegar
200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche

Scrub the potatoes and boil in salted water in their skins until soft and tender. Drain and season with a little salt and pepper. Finely chop the herbs and stir them and the sherry vinegar into the crème fraîche in a bowl. Place the warm potatoes in a serving bowl and spoon the crème fraîche mixture over the top. Serve while still warm, with the crème fraîche melting and oozing over the top.

Jersey Royals with dried chilli, mint and anchovies

This is a good example of little new season's potatoes working with stronger flavours. They are very good with simple roasted, milk-fed lamb at this time of year or roast chicken.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as an accompaniment

500g/1lb Jersey Royals, scrubbed clean but left whole
Sea salt and black pepper
50ml/2fl oz olive oil
1 dried chilli, crumbled
6 good-quality anchovies, such as Ortiz
A small bunch of mint, leaves only

Place a pot of well-salted water on to boil. When the water is boiling add the cleaned potatoes. Cook until just tender; this will take only 10-15 minutes, so keep an eye on them. Drain, season and pour over the olive oil, roughly chop the chilli and anchovies and toss through the warm potatoes along with the mint leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve.

Little new potatoes with risotto

Serves 6

11/2litres/21/2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
200g/8oz unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
The heart of one celery, finely sliced
500g/1lb new potatoes, scrubbed clean and sliced into quarters
Sea salt and black pepper
400g/13oz arborio rice
400g/13oz cooked, wilted spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan
1 bunch of basil, leaves torn

Heat the stock in a small pan. In a separate, large, thick-bottomed pan, heat 100g/4oz of the butter until foaming. Add the onion, chilli and celery and cook until soft but not coloured. Add the potatoes and a good pinch of salt and cook for five minutes. Now add the rice and stir until each grain is coated with butter. Add enough stock to cover the rice and allow it to be absorbed. Add more, ladle by ladle, stirring gently but continuously. Continue until the rice is cooked through but still has an al dente bite. This should take about 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining butter, spinach and Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning and turn off the heat. Place a lid on the pan and let sit for five minutes before serving. To serve, tear up the basil and sprinkle on top.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer unearths the best of the season's potatoes...

A good source for heritage potatoes and potato seeds is Carroll's Heritage Potatoes (01890 883 060, www. heritage-potatoes.co.uk). Their Main Season, Ayrshire Earlies and Tiptoe Earlies potatoes are available from specialist greengrocers or via its website. Also available are seed potato varieties.

Skea Organics in Dundee Tel: (01382 320 453, www.skeaorganics.co.uk) sells heritage varieties as part of its speciality range. Call for local stockists.

Sunnyfields Farm in Hampshire (02380 861 266, www.sunnyfields.co.uk) is growing 18 potato varieties this year. Its season started late due to consistently wet weather but its first potatoes are now available via its box scheme, the farmers' and producers' market it holds at its farm every Saturday and from the farmers' markets it attends in Hampshire and London. Details are on the website.

Or, for details of potato growers and stockists in your area through a simple postcode search, check out the Big Barn website (www.bigbarn.co.uk).

Comments