MATT PRE­STON

Make the ul­ti­mate mash.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - MATT PRE­STON For more mash ideas, see de­li­cious.com.au

While we might not have the 3000 va­ri­eties of potato that Peru boasts, we do have about 3000 recipes for how to cook them. But to­day, I’m only con­cerned with the most no­ble of all potato dishes – mash.

Don’t take mash for granted and treat it as a mere side dish. Sure, it can be a per­fect part­ner for so many clas­sics like beef bour­guignon, Hun­gar­ian goulash or chunky bangers with sauce. Mash is also the silky top­ping for many a great shep­herd’s pie, cot­tage pie or fish pie, and where would potato cro­quettes, fish­cakes, or those Ir­ish potato pan­cakes, boxty, be with­out mash?

But let’s fi­nally el­e­vate mash to be­ing a dish in its own right. And let’s make it well. Here, with a lit­tle help from my friends, are five great se­crets of cre­at­ing per­fect mash.

CHOOSE WISELY

The right potato. You want a starchy, floury potato for a per­fect mash.

NOW YOU’RE COOK­ING

While most us peel, cut, then boil spuds for mash, ap­par­ently that is all wrong. This method risks in­creas­ing the wa­ter con­tent. I suspect top chefs don’t like that be­cause it means they can’t cram as much cream and but­ter into the mash.

Mash master Guil­laume Brahimi boils his pota­toes whole with the skin on be­fore peel­ing them. Matt Mo­ran, whose deca­dent Aria mash is a thing of leg­end, likes to dry roast his be­fore scoop­ing out the fluffy in­sides. Ir­ish­born Colin Fass­nidge likes to do the same, but bakes the spuds on a layer of rock salt.

UL­TI­MATE MASH-UP

For­get that old-fash­ioned masher. For silky mash, you need to pass the potato through a drum sieve, a mouli or a ricer.

If you want to re­ally get that mash su­per smooth, do as Matt and Guil­laume do and “belt ’n’ braces” it by us­ing a mouli and then a drum sieve. Guil­laume goes one step fur­ther still, stir­ring the potato flesh in a pan over a gen­tle heat to dry it out even more be­fore pass­ing it through the drum sieve twice – each time with a lit­tle bit more but­ter and very hot milk mixed through. If you don’t want to buy a lot more kitchen kit, try us­ing a masher and then a fine sieve.

One thing you must never do is blitz the pota­toes as this will split the starch cells and make gluey mash.

ADDED EX­TRAS

Guil­laume adds cold but­ter and hot milk in four stages of 50g each for ev­ery 600g cooked spuds, while Colin uses soft but­ter with hot milk and Matt adds hot cream to the hot pota­toes. All are metic­u­lous in sea­son­ing gen­er­ously but stay away from black pep­per (use white in­stead) other­wise it can look like some­one has ashed in your mash. And no one likes ashed pota­toes.

Ge­orge Calom­baris swears by a gen­er­ous glug of olive oil to help the smooth sa­tini­ness of his mash and his sko­rdalia. Gary Me­hi­gan also adds olive oil with milk and a lit­tle but­ter for his mash at home, but when mak­ing mash for cus­tomers, it’s but­ter all the way – and way too much of it to be any­thing other than very naughty.

At home, I like this sneaky tip from He­ston Blu­men­thal. Take some skins of washed floury pota­toes and sim­mer in a small pan with milk. There’s so much potato flavour and starch in the skins, it will turn the milk won­der­fully “pota­toey” while the starch makes it creamy and silky. Mix­ing this milk into your warm mashed spuds means you don’t need cream to make a won­der­fully creamy mash. You might need a lit­tle bit of but­ter for old time’s sake, though.

To make your mash truly deca­dent, try mak­ing aligot. For this French dish, mix 200g grated melt­ing cheese with 500g mashed potato over the heat. Use raclette, gruyere or equal parts sliced moz­zarella and grated tasty with a dol­lop of creme fraiche and a finely grated gar­lic clove beaten into the potato, un­til it goes de­li­ciously elas­tic.

MAKE IT YOURS

There are many ways to step up your mash. I love finely chopped herbs such as chives sprin­kled over the top. An Ir­ish­man like Colin will get wist­ful over champ (mash with but­ter and spring onions) or col­can­non (mash with cooked kale or cab­bage). For Colin’s col­can­non recipe see de­li­cious.com.au.

In the States, they are fans of us­ing but­ter­milk and roasted gar­lic, while my grand­mother topped a mound of mash with cubes of ba­con, ex­tra but­ter, lots of chopped chives and pars­ley (curly, nat­u­rally). In Bris­bane, I dis­cov­ered the dairy-free trick of adding a mashed av­o­cado to pota­toes in­stead of but­ter to make it creamy – and also a lovely shade of green.

Still, the best way to serve mash for me is with a great gravy. You can keep the roast chicken if I can have the gravy, peas and mash. At Scott Pick­ett’s ESP in Mel­bourne, he serves a sticky beef and truf­fle gravy that would be a beau­ti­ful de­gus­ta­tion course in its own right with mash. In these days of a grow­ing love of veg­eta­bles, maybe we’ll see that in a top restau­rant in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.

MASH MAS­TERS: Chorizo sausages with pump­kin and potato mash. For recipe see de­li­cious.com.au

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