Super tubers: Mark Hix celebrates the Jersey Royal season

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The long-awaited Jersey Royal season is upon us again. As far as I'm concerned, the ones that appear very early often tend to lack flavour, but right now they should be spot on.

Apart from simply boiling them and then tossing them in butter with mint and parsley, there are many more ways of dealing with these tasty little seasonal spuds.

Here are a few ideas for spring dinner and lunch parties; the possibilities are endless. Just check the condition of the skins out before you decide to serve them scrubbed or un-scrubbed as they can be a little bitter at times.

We shouldn't forget, of course, that we have our own varieties of delicious new potatoes such as Cornish earlies (sadly now out of season) and Carroll's Heritage Potatoes up in Northumberland which offers a wide range of forgotten varieties throughout the summer and winter.

Red mullet with crushed Jersey Royals

Serves 4

Nice buttery crushed Jersey royals make the perfect accompaniment to fish, and you can also flavour them with herbs like chives or fennel. I've used the bones here to make the sauce which ends up rather like a fish soup, as mullet bones have a really rich flavour which is an important factor when making a fish soup. You will only need the bones from one or two of the mullet here so I would freeze the rest and make a soup later.

4 red mullet weighing about 250-300g each, scaled, filleted and boned
A little vegetable oil for frying
300-400g Jersey Royals
60g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

The bones from the mullet
1 medium shallot, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
10 fennel seeds
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small sprig of thyme
2tsp tomato purée
100ml white wine
250ml fish stock
100ml olive oil

Chop the mullet bones and head, heat a little of the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the bones, shallot, fennel, garlic and thyme for a few minutes, stirring every so often. Add the tomato purée, wine and stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another saucepan and simmer until you only have a couple of tablespoons left.

Meanwhile, cook the Jersey Royals in their skins in boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes, then drain, leave to cool a little and scrape away the skins. Return to a pan and crush them with a fork, mix with the butter and season.

Heat a little more vegetable oil in a reliable frying pan or a non-stick one and cook the mullet fillets, skin side down first, for about 2-3 minutes on each side.

To serve, whisk the remaining olive oil into the reduced mullet stock and season. Re-heat the potatoes and spoon onto warmed serving plates, place two mullet fillets on top and spoon the sauce around.

Grilled asparagus with creamed Jersey Royals and shaved Parmesan

Serves 4

You are probably thinking that I've gone overboard on the asparagus recipes lately, but the season is short, after all – so what's the harm in plugging one of our great British ingredients while it lasts? Well-flavoured mashed potato adjusted to the right consistency makes a perfect dipping sauce. I've flavoured the potato with some Parmesan but you could also use any mature cheese. Thicker asparagus tends to be much better for grilling as the thinner stuff tends to wilt to nothing.

1kg thick asparagus with the woody ends trimmed
Vegetable or corn oil for brushing
200g Jersey Royals, peeled
1tbsp grated parmesan
60g butter
2tbsp double cream
Milk to mix
60g piece of Parmesan, shaved thinly with a sharp knife or peeler
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the Jersey Royals in boiling salted water, then drain and mash as fine as possible in a potato ricer or with a masher. Mix in the grated Parmesan, butter cream and enough milk to make the potato into a sauce-like consistency and season to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes or until it still has a bit of a crunch and drain. Heat a ribbed griddle or barbecue, brush with a little oil and lightly grill them for a few minutes. To serve, spoon the potato on to a warmed plate, place the asparagus on top and scatter with the shaved Parmesan.

Baked Jersey Royals with lobster

Serves 18-20 as a snack or canapé

These canapés might seem extravagant but you can make a lot of nibbles for pre-dinner drinks from just one lobster – and what's more you can get several bowls of lobster bisque from the carcass, so what may appear a luxurious purchase could turn out to be an economical buy.

1 lobster (500-600g), cooked
18-20 medium-sized Jersey Royals, washed
80g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp finely chopped chives

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Place the Jersey Royals on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes or so or until cooked. Remove from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Cut the tops off and carefully scoop the potato out, leaving the skins as intact as possible and dispose of the tops. Mash the potato with 60g of the butter and half of the chives and season. Meanwhile, remove the shell from the lobster and remove the meat, keeping it as intact as possible; slice as many pieces as you can from the tail and claws that will fit on top of the potato. If you have trimmings, then chop them finely, mix with the potato and spoon back into the potato skins. Place the slices of lobster on top, cover and reheat in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pan with the remaining chives. Spoon the chives and butter over the lobster and serve.

Jersey royals with bacon and wild garlic

Serves 4

You need to buy some really thin rashers of streaky bacon for this dish, or alternatively you could flatten the rashers with the side of a knife. If you haven't got access to wild garlic then you could use young spinach leaves instead just tossed in butter with a little crushed garlic.

20 medium-sized Jersey Royals
10 rashers of thinly sliced streaky bacon
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
A couple of handfuls of wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
A couple of knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 15 minutes or until just cooked, drain and leave to cool a little, then scrape the skins with a sharp knife. Lay the rashers of bacon on a chopping board and flatten them with the side of a knife. Halve the rashers and wrap them securely around the potatoes. Place the potatoes on a baking tray and spoon over a little oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until lightly coloured.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pan or frying pan and quickly cook the wild garlic leaves for a couple of minutes on a medium heat, stirring as they are cooking and seasoning lightly. To serve, spoon the wild garlic leaves on to warmed plates and place the potatoes on top.

On 26 May at 7pm the leading cheese expert Juliet Harbutt will be holding a cheese and wine masterclass at Hix Oyster and Fish House in Dorset. Tickets: £45 each. For more details contact Jo Verberne on 01206 756388 or e-mail jverberne@hixfoodetc.co.uk

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