Like all of my fellow countrymen (and women), I enjoy the odd spud. But then who doesn’t? Spuds are great. They are super cheap and filling (making them a firm favourite during my student days), but they’re also unbelievably versatile. As a famous hobbit once said, you can “boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew” not to mention bake them, gratin then, fry them, ferment them, and the list goes on! Well ladies and gentlemen, this weekend I brought the humble spud to whole new levels of fanciness: I got me a potato ricer.
I can just hear my Dad now, saying that it was far from potato ricers he was reared and sure what’s wrong with an ordinary masher and a bit of elbow grease? Well Dad, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But with a ricer I promise you, you will make the most yumbo, softest, un-lumpy, creamy mashed spuds you’ve ever had in your life.
So, then all I had to do was think of something equally fancy to serve with the spuds. I figured beef bourguignon was almost posh enough. The spuds still held their own though, fair dues to them.
Bœuf bourguignon and posh potatoes
Both recipes are from Rachel Allen’s awesome book Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends and will serve six people.
For the beef bourguignon:
2 tbsp olive oil
200 g (7 oz) bacon, cut into cubes
18 shallots, pealed
1.5 kg (3 ¼ lb) stewing beef, cut into cubes
40 g (1 ½ oz) flour
400 ml red wine
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
2 stalks of parsley
zest of an orange
450 ml beef or chicken stock
18 small button mushrooms, tossed in a pan with some butter until golden.
For the posh potatoes:
1 kg (2 ¼ lb) floury spuds
50 g (2 oz) butter
200 ml warm milk
½ tsp nutmeg, grated
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 160 °C. In a large ovenproof saucepan brown the bacon with half of the olive oil. Once it is nice and brown, remove it all from the pot (but leave any residual oil) and set it aside. Cook the onions in the remaining bacon oil until they are lovely and golden, then set aside with the bacon.
Season all of the beef with pepper, then brown it with the remaining olive oil in batches. Once all the beef is browned, put it all back in the pot, add the flour, stirring all the time so all of the meat gets coated. Then pour in the wine and add the garlic. Stir again and add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and orange zest, you could tie these all together with a string (or in a piece of muslin) to make it easier to fish them out again once the dish is cooked. Next, return the bacon and onions to the pot and add the stock. Bring this mixture to the boil, then pop the lid on the saucepan and place it in the oven for 2 ½ hours. After this time the meat will be super soft and tender. Add the mushrooms and return to the oven for a further 40 minutes. Once the dish is cooked, remove the orange zest and herbs and season to your taste.
All Irish people know the best way to cook spuds is in their own skins. So, you’ll need to put a large pot of water on to boil with a good pinch of salt. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes clean. Cook the potatoes in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then pour the remaining water out, leaving about 4 cm in the pot and continue cooking on a low heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. But don’t test them with a knife, they will only start getting soggy once the skins are pierced. Also, keep a keen eye the water level. If it dries up, it’ll be the ruination of your posh potatoes.
Once the spuds are done, take them off the heat, but peal them while they are still hot. Mash (or rice) them with the butter, but don’t add the hot milk until the mixture is smooth. Add as much butter or milk to your taste, then season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Yumbolicious indeed. This is great dinner party fare, as it can be easily prepared in advance, and it will seriously impress people. And I guarantee you’ll never look at a spud the same way again!
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