Tatties divine: Mark Hix cooks with the humble spud

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Although the potato may be the most common of all the vegetables, it has many other interesting uses apart from mashing, boiling and roasting.

I can remember, during my college days, ploughing through endless Escoffier recipes in search of new potato recipes when we had to devise menus for our homework – and as I found out, you can create so many great dishes from the humble spud.

To complement the never-ending list of potato recipes, there are some great producers like Lucy Carroll up in Northumberland; she grows and sells delicious, seasonal heritage varieties which originate from as early as the 1800s and she even sells potato seeds so that you can grow them at home ( heritage-potatoes.co.uk).

Shetland black potato and smoked mackerel salad

Serves 4

Years ago, black or purple potatoes were regarded as a bit of a novelty and they were generally sold as black truffle potatoes. Now, thanks to Carroll's Heritage and a small handful of other innovative growers, we can enjoy some heritage varieties such as the Shetland black which both look and taste great and make a really interesting addition to salads.

500g Shetland black potatoes, unpeeled
300-400g fillet weight of smoked mackerel, bones removed
A handful of small tasty salad leaves
1tbsp freshly grated horseradish

For the dressing

2tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp Tewkesbury mustard
6tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water for about 15 minutes or until cooked, then drain and leave to cool a little. Meanwhile, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing.

Remove the skins with a small knife and cut the potatoes into cm slices.

Toss the potatoes in the dressing and season, then arrange on serving plates. Break the mackerel into chunks and arrange on the potatoes with the leaves, then spoon over any extra dressing from the bowl and scatter over the horseradish.

Shepherd's pie baked potato

Serves 4

This is one of the dishes we serve at Selfridges in the baked potato section, which is currently going down a treat with customers. Other favourite baked spuds include those filled with Mottra caviar and coronation chicken. A nice floury potato such as a King Edward works well for this dish.

4 large baking potatoes
500g coarsely minced mutton or lamb
Vegetable oil for frying
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 stick of celery, cut into rough cm dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tbsp flour
tbsp tomato purée
1ltr hot beef stock
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 glasses of red wine

For the topping

60g butter
Milk to mix
A tablespoon of fresh white breadcrumbs mixed with the same amount of grated cheddar

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wrap the potatoes in foil and bake for about an hour or so until soft, then remove the foil and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, season the minced lamb. Heat some of the vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan until it is almost smoking and cook the meat in small quantities for a few minutes, turning it with a wooden spoon, then drain in a colander to remove any fat.

Meanwhile, in a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat some more vegetable oil and gently cook the onion, celery, garlic and thyme for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often until they have softened. Add the meat, dust it with the flour, and add the tomato purée; continue stirring on a low heat for a few minutes.

Slowly add the red wine, Worcestershire sauce and the hot beef stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour until the liquid has thickened and the meat is tender. Remove from the heat, check the seasoning and leave it to cool.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the tops off about a third of the way down and scoop out all of the potato. Discard the tops or fry them for the kids as potato skins. Mash the potato with a potato ricer or hand masher then mix in the butter and milk and season to taste.

To assemble, place the skins on a baking tray and spoon the meat into the potatoes about two-thirds of the way up then spoon or pipe the mash on top.

Scatter with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the topping is golden.

Pink fir apple potato and chorizo soup with wild garlic

Serves 4

A bit of chorizo in a soup really gives it a lift and is perfect with the flavours of waxy potatoes such as pink fir apple and delicate wild garlic leaves.

1 large onion, peeled, halved andfinely chopped
1 cooking chorizo weighing about 100-120g, chopped into small pieces
A good knob of butter
1.5ltrs chicken stock
400-500g waxy potatoes such as pink fir apple, peeled and chopped into rough 1cm chunks
A handful of wild garlic leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently cook the onion and chorizo in the butter in a covered pan for 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onions are soft. Add the chicken stock; season and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue simmering for 10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Just before you serve, add the wild garlic leaves; simmer, and serve immediately.

Cheesy potato croquettes

Makes 8-10

I put croquette potatoes on my menus a few months ago because I wanted to celebrate a great dish that died out in the Seventies. I always make my croquettes with potatoes baked in their skins in order to extract the maximum flavour.

500-600g floury potatoes
150g mature cheddar, grated
2-3tbsp flour
2 small eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake the potatoes in their skins until soft, about 1-1 hours depending on size. Remove from the oven, cut in half and leave to cool for a while. Scoop out the flesh, mash until smooth, then stir in the cheese; season. A potato ricer is perfect for this. Mould the potato into cylinder shapes about 5-6cm long and a little fatter than a wine cork. You can make them larger or smaller as you wish.

Have the flour in a dish and roll the croquettes in it, holding them carefully with your fingers and shaking off any excess. Next, roll them in the beaten egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Fry the croquettes a few pieces at a time for 3-4 minutes until golden and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

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