A quintessential comfort food, there is nothing quite like a creamy mash potato with a winter stew or, better yet, sausages and onion gravy! While lumpy mash, or for me a distinctly smoky version*, may evoke childhood memories for some, the perfect silky smooth mash is not difficult to achieve.
*My mum was notorious for boiling the spuds dry (and then some). With four children to referee, bath, dress and feed every night, remembering to check the potatoes fell off the end of the list.
The type of potato you use is perhaps the most crucial decision. Potatoes can be classed as either waxy or floury. (All purpose fall halfway between the two.) Waxy potatoes (i.e. Nadine, King Edward) will hold their form and are great for boiling and salads but make terrible mash. A floury potato (Agria, Red Rascal), on the other hand, with a low water content which is high in starch is perfect, as it will result in a fluffy mash. While Agria is well known among many home cooks and chefs as a great mashing potato it can be troublesome for the growers. Gus from Bidfresh says, “Moonlight is highly and Ilham Hardy improves as the season progresses and after a little storage.”
Cover your peeled and chopped potatoes in plenty of salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Brad from Falls Retreat took his mash to the next level in our Festive Feasts edition by using chicken stock. I always pop a garlic clove or two in with mine. At this stage though the key is to ensure the water is well seasoned and that your potatoes are cut into even sized pieces; this ensures they cook evenly avoiding lumpy mash.
How big or small you cut the potatoes is up to you. The smaller they are the quicker they will cook (great if you are in a hurry!), but this means your potato may absorb more water.
Drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot and back on the heat for a minute or two to dry out.
Now it’s time to mash. For super fluffy potatoes pass them through a ricer (similar to a giant garlic press and an essential piece of kit if you want to make homemade gnocchi. You’ll find them at great kitchenware stores like www.thescullery.co.nz).
If you don’t have a ricer a good old-fashioned hand held masher will still give you great results. Avoid putting them in a food processor as this could result in glue instead of mash.
While the potato is still hot add butter, milk or cream. Kate Underwood from NZ Potatoes says, “You can’t go wrong with plenty of butter, milk or cream. I also quite like using flavoured olive oils to intensify flavour and maintain smooth texture.”
Many suggest heating the milk or cream first. This is sensible as it will keep your potatoes hot and the liquid will incorporate more readily with the potatoes, again avoiding those nasty lumps. I suggest if you are going to go to the trouble of heating the milk or cream to add some flavouring to it; a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme or even half an onion. Remove these before adding the liquid to the potato.
The more liquid you add the thinner your mash will be. So how much liquid you add is up to you and your desired end result. Some love a stiff, fluffy pile of mash while others prefer an almost sauce-like mash you can smear on the plate.
Mix it up
Once you have mastered the perfect mash start playing with flavour variations.
• Add garlic when boiling the potatoes and mash in with the potatoes for a mellow garlic flavour.
• Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil or flavoured olive oil
• Mix in sautéed onion and/or bacon
• Stir through finely chopped spring onion or chives
• Incorporate your favourite cheese
Make the most of leftovers
There are so many great uses for leftover mash potato, I often cook too much on purpose. Cold mash will keep refrigerated for around three days but also freezes well.
• Add to the top of mince for a shepherd’s pie
• Turn into hash with some sautéed onion
• Use to thicken soups
• Make tatty scones
• Turn it into Bubble & Squeak
Lemon Cake with Hidden Mash Potato
(This great gluten free cake is courtesy of NZ Potatoes.)
200 mls flavourless oil (they suggest canola, I would use sunflower)
200g caster sugar
175g ground almonds
250g mashing potatoes, cooked, mashed and cooled
zest 3 lemons
2 tsp baking powder
Beat oil and sugar until light. Beat the eggs in one at a time.
Fold in the almonds, cold mashed potato, lemon zest and baking powder.
Pour into a lined 20cm round spring form cake tin. Bake at 180°C for 40–45 minutes or until golden, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.