When I was at junior school, my teacher, Mr. Baxter, had a band called The Famous Potatoes. He was a great teacher and also the first person who told me I was creative; I think that’s what all teachers call children who aren’t so academic, but I like to think he was right.
When I think of potatoes, I often think of him. So for me, the humble potato is full of positive connotations, not to mention it’s incredible versatility as an ingredient.
Which is why in recent years it’s sad to see the potato, along with pasta, rice and carbs in general, suddenly considered as BAD by the healthy eating Police, with year-on-year decline in sales.
Research has shown that too many carbs that are not used, turn to sugar and subsequently fat, whereas healthy fats can provide energy without putting on too much weight. This implies that our bodies are taught to burn fat rather than carbs, so the fewer carbs we eat the more fat we need to burn; a bit complicated but it kind of makes sense.
And people are listening. Last year there was a reported decline in potato consumption in the UK, but with an estimated 5.6 billion portions continuing to reach plates in 2015, perhaps it’s time to refocus on how we serve up the nation’s second most popular carbohydrate after bread?
I have been saying for years that spuds aren’t simply fillers on the plate, they have to be celebrated for what they are: an amazing and versatile ingredient. There are hundreds of varieties all with an individual flavour and texture but most of us stick to a common few. You only have to look on Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes website to see the incredible choice http://potatoesforchefs.co.uk/varieties/ that’s out there.
On the menu at my new restaurant Sorrel (opening spring 2017), I will have a specific course of potato; it might be baked with oscietra caviar, or a savoury ice cream with chive crumble, a broth made from the skins, or crispy skins with truffle, parmesan and miso.
Once we start thinking about everything that can be done with the potato, the list is endless. But one thing is for sure, this can only be good for potatoes. Let’s stop seeing them simply as fillers on a plate, but eaten in moderation and achieving the best possible flavour.
Of course, at the end of the day I am only human, and there is nothing I like more than a Sunday roast with a big pile of roast potatoes like the legendary one we serve at The Anchor. I’m sure Mr. Baxter would approve.