I was taught how to roast potatoes perfectly when I worked in a pub kitchen in London many moons ago. We used to make crispy golden roast potatoes to serve with drinks at the bar. The head cook who I worked under knew what she was talking about, and I have been making potatoes like this ever since.
Now that I have progressed somewhat down the culinary road, I have discovered a few new things, like using duck fat instead of sunflower or canola oil. This truly makes a very big difference in terms of flavour. Duck fat can reach very high temperatures which you need to get the potatoes really crispy, and of course, being an animal fat, it is laced with flavour.
I have been reading up on numerous recipes on how to make the best-ever-roast-potatoes, and there are a few similarities. Namely the use of duck fat and the technique of parboiling and fluffing up the spud before roasting.
One part where there seems to be some discrepancy is whether to heat the oil/fat up before you add the potatoes or not. In London we never did. In some recipes, the potatoes get dusted in flour before being roasted and in others, garlic and other bits were added.
At the Woolworths Christmas range launch lunch in July we were served duck fat roasted potatoes which were heavenly and I asked the chef how he made these. He never pre-heated the fat either.
I had also read about adding vinegar to the water when you par-boil the potatoes, something to do with preventing them potato from falling apart if you over-boiled it – so I used the juice of half a lemon instead, just to give it the mildest zing, although you don’t taste it specifically.
On the potato front, we in South Africa don’t get terribly many varieties as you do in the USA or the UK. Maris Piper are excellent for roasting (and making crispy chips). I like to use the Woolworths Mediterranean potatoes because they have a fabulous taste, but use the best that you can find that are suitable for roasting.
I made my own fat from rendering the fat off 3 ducks I roasted recently for my Spier Secret Festival dinner and the duck ragout I made. I have it stored in my fridge for all the Christmas roasting that is going to take place. Woolworths now stocks duck fat, so it is easy to come by. To keep these vegetarian use sunflower or canola oil.
So armed with all this knowledge over the years, this is my version of the roast potatoes.
This is what you need – adjust according to how many you need, and my suggestion is to make way more than you think.
- 1 kg potatoes (the best you can find that are suitable for roasting)
- 2 T table salt
- juice of half a lemon (optional)
- 80 - 100ml of duck fat (about 3 dessert spoons)
- a few sprigs of rosemary
- sea salt flakes (I love Maldon)
- Heat your oven to a temperature of 200 C.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks -if they are large cut them into 3 pieces with as many angles as you can. It is the number of angels that create the crispness. If they are smaller cut them in half slightly diagonally.
- Put the spuds in a pot with and barely cover with water, add the salt and the lemon juice, and bring this to the boil. Once it has reached a rapid boil, turn the temperature down to a simmer and cook your potatoes for 5 minutes.
- Drain in a colander and then return to the pot that they were cooked in and with the lid on, holding oven gloves or a tea towel shake the potatoes about so as to ruffle up the edges. I used a fork to further rough them up.
- Stir through the duck fat which will immediately melt over the potatoes, and tip them into a large baking tray, making sure you don't overfill, there needs to be some space between the potatoes. If you add to many the steam will interfere with the browning of them. Scatter over a few sprigs of rosemary leaves, salt and pepper.
- Roast for 1 1/4 hours or until they are at the desired crispy golden colour. I shook the pan around a few times and turned the spuds twice during the cooking time.
- Scatter over more sea salt flakes and a few sprigs of rosemary as garnish and serve with your favourite roast.
Just in time for Thanksgiving this weekend and Christmas next month.
I ate mine with my Sunday roast chicken, and the recipe for this delicious succulent roast chicken can be found here.
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