I thought it would be fun to start a new series on here which I will call "Mastering the Basics." Cooking doesn't have to be complicated or mysterious. Once you have been able to master simple techniques and skills, you too can have people applauding your mashed potatoes, gravy, salad dressings etc.
There is nothing nicer on a plate then a perfect pile of soft, creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes. They go so well with many dishes and are the perfect holder to cradle lashings of delicious gravy.
They are not as hard to make as some people would suppose. Simple and straightforward, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
- use the proper potato. You want a floury type of potato, that is to say one that breaks down well once cooked. You do not want a waxy type of potato, or one that holds it's shape well when cooked. Some great examples of floury potatoes are Maris Piper, Estima, King Edward or Desiree (In North America use a Russet, Idaho or baking potato)
- Do not make the mistake of not cooking the potatoes long enough. Better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking. You cannot mash a hard lump no matter how hard you try!
- Never add cold butter or milk to cooked potatoes. Always use room temperature or melted butter and gently warmed milk or cream
- Add any liquid to the cooked potatoes slowly. Some days you may need more, some days you may need less. How much can only be determined by adding it slowly.
*Perfect Mashed Potatoes*
Serves 4 to 6
Simple and perfect!
2 pounds of large floury potatoes (In the UK a Maris Piper is ideal, in North America
I would use a russet or idaho)
4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup, or one stick)
4 fluid ounces of single cream or full fat milk (1/2 cup) gently warmed
fine seasalt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
Peel and quarter the potatoes then place the potatoes into a pot of lightly salted water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until fork tender. Drain well in a colander and then return them to the hot pot. Cover with the lid and give them a good shake, which will help to break them up. Add the butter and warmed cream or milk, adding the latter a little at a time, whilst mashing the potatoes, only adding as much as is needed to give you the correct consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The potatoes should be light, fluffy, creamy and ready to eat.
Note - I often use my electric handwhisk to mash the potatoes. This helps to insure a smooth mixture without lumps. I also have a potato ricer, which does a fabulous lump free job.
How many times have you sat down to a pile of mashed squash only to find it watery and well, to be frank, YUCKKY!! When I was a girl, I hated mashed squash. I always found it a bit slimey and well, YUCKKY!! I have come to love it as an adult though, but only after trial and error and having developed this fool proof way of preparing fluffy, sweet mashed squash, perfect every time, never watery at all. Trust me on this!
*Perfect Mashed Butternut Squash*
Serves 4 to 6
This is more of a method than a recipe, but the squash turns out perfectly cooked every time, and not at all mushy or watery.
1 (2 lb) butternut squash
a knob of butter
1 TBS soft light brown sugar
fine seasalt, freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste
You will want to cut your butternut squash right down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Place both halves, cut side down in a large skillet with a lid. Add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the squash. Place the lid on and cook over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Remove carefully from the boiling water and set aside to cool slightly.
Using a spoon, scrape out all of the flesh, discarding the peel, and placing the flesh into a serving bowl. Mash lightly with a fork along with a knob of butter, the brown sugar and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm until ready to eat.