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potatoes info
delia smith

Potatoes make a comeback
Well in a way this is true because in my younger days potatoes were the enemy of the perfect waistline in a less nutritionally enlightened era; it was starch that made you fat and starchy foods like bread and potatoes had to be avoided. Thankfully bread and potatoes have now been rescued from this scenario; fat has now emerged as the number one culprit and the major cause of being overweight. This means that large portions of potatoes (without fat) are nutritious healthy high in energygiving carbohydrate and low in calories only about 70 per 100 g and added to that they are the single most important source of vitamin C in our diet. So potatoes are very in at the moment and its therefore more important than ever to learn how to make the best of them.

The importance of flavour
Before you even think about how to cook potatoes as with many other foods the key to flavour begins in the market place or more specifically in the earth. I well remember growing my first crop of new potatoes and discovering that straight from the ground into the cooking pot they were both soggy and tasteless and ended up being a huge disappointment. Why? I had simply grown the wrong variety one with a high yield but absolutely no flavour.
This problem is a commercial one too and high yield disease resistant good storage varieties do not always produce good flavour. So for the cook choosing the right kind of potato is first on the list.

Thankfully there are now many more varieties of potato to choose from; we could even be in danger of designer potatoes like salad leaves as I have seen both black fleshed and purple varieties (neither of which have great flavour). But whilst we hear an awful lot about the texture of potatoes which is measured by two things waxiness and fluffiness and the suitability of either of these in certain dishes we hear very little about flavour. I would therefore like to see potatoes catch up with tomatoes on this with varieties grown specifically for flavour. But since we are learning how to cook potatoes here is not the place to study the long lists of various varieties that appear throughout the year but I would like to point you in the direction of a few varieties which in my experience are among the best available at the moment.

New potatoes
Jersey Royal (April to June) These of course have outstanding flavour more so when theyre a little more mature and larger than the tiny marbles that appear in early April. Choose them unwashed with the earth still clinging to them and they need to be as fresh as possible so that when you push a piece of skin with your thumb it slides away from the flesh instantly. These are the finest new potatoes of all for steaming and serving hot or cold in a potato salad.

Pentland Javelin (May to July)
These new potatoes also have a firm texture and excellent flavour and depending on the weather begin to come into season when the jerseys finish. I have also grown these and they have excellent flavour.

Salad potatoes
These now appear regularly all year and as their name suggests are best eaten cold. Some specialised salad potatoes though are more difficult to find: Ratte is an old French variety that has a delicate nutty chestnut like flavour and Pink Fir Apple a more intense potato flavour with a pink skin and a firm waxy flesh.

Maincrop potatoes

This has always been my allround reliable favourite because it has the best flavour of all commercially grown potatoes. It has a yellow creamy waxy flesh and bright pink skin. I use it for boiling jacket potatoes roast potatoes chunky chips and oven saureing and I even like Desiree made into mash because of its depth of potato flavour.

King Edward
This is an old favourite and is the best variety if you want floury fluffiness. Its not suitable for boiling as it tends to break but its wonderful for light fluffy mash and for jacket potatoes where you want a really fluffy inside. This is also my choice for potato gnocchi because it makes them extra light.

Waxy or floury?
The above potatoes all have good flavour but texture is sometimes a personal choice. I like to ring the changes and so sometimes I want say a firm waxy fullflavoured jacket potato so I choose Desire and sometimes a more floury one so it would be King Edward. The same applies to mashed potatoes and what I would recommend is that you experiment to find out what you personally prefer.


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