Salad days

It's a Kiwi tra­di­tion – the Fri­day night fish and chips.

NZ Grower - - Potato Chat - By Niki Bez­zant

As sum­mer takes full swing, most of us will have pota­toes as part of our BBQ salad reper­toire. In my fam­ily it was al­ways my grandad’s new pota­toes, grown to be har­vested on Christ­mas day. Now he’s no longer with us, we’ll be buy­ing pota­toes, but they’ll be new, waxy and pe­tite and served sim­ply boiled and kissed with but­ter, mint, salt and pep­per.

There was a brief flurry of panic re­cently in the me­dia when sto­ries emerged of a potato short­age pos­si­bly mean­ing pota­toes might be miss­ing from many Christ­mas ta­bles, but luck­ily that turned out to be a false alarm. We will be pay­ing a lit­tle more for our Christ­mas spuds, but not as much as we would for pump­kin, which has risen to alarm­ing prices. But who­ever heard of Christ­mas pump­kin, any­way? A clas­sic way to use left­over Christ­mas pota­toes, if such a thing ex­ists in your house­hold, is that clas­sic sum­mer dish in its own right: potato salad. There’s some­thing fab­u­lously com­fort­ing and de­li­cious about cold pota­toes, creamy dress­ing and a few crunchy ad­di­tions that makes it pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one.

Cold pota­toes, in­ter­est­ingly, are very good for us. When pota­toes are cooled, the struc­ture of some of the starch in the potato changes to form some­thing called re­sis­tant starch. This is a spe­cial type of fi­bre which can’t be di­gested in the small in­tes­tine, and is fer­mented in the large in­tes­tine. There’s ev­i­dence that this is re­ally ben­e­fi­cial for our gut health in par­tic­u­lar. So potato salad, apart from its yumminess, has other added ben­e­fits.

My favourite throw-to­gether potato salad in­volves cold pota­toes, ob­vi­ously, with a dress­ing made from a half-and-half mix­ture of may­on­naise (I use the Ja­panese Kew­pie mayo) and plain yo­ghurt. I love the light­ness and tang the yo­ghurt brings, and the creami­ness of the mayo. Some­times I add Di­jon mus­tard. I also usu­ally throw in some bit­ter greens such as rocket, and pars­ley. A bit of salt and a ton of freshly-ground black pep­per does the trick for me. There are al­most in­fi­nite vari­a­tions of potato salad; you could eas­ily eat it ev­ery day of the sum­mer and make a dif­fer­ent ver­sion ev­ery day. It’s im­por­tant to use waxy pota­toes, though, what­ever else you do; th­ese are the ones that boil well and hold their shape when cooled.

One of the most in­trigu­ing potato sal­ads I’ve tried is the Ja­panese ver­sion. As with many Ja­panese foods, it’s quite dif­fer­ent from what we are used to. It’s a kind of a mushy, half­mashed salad, made with starchier floury pota­toes, of­ten cooked in dashi, the essen­tial Ja­panese stock made from sea­weed. It’s bound with the mys­te­ri­ously de­li­cious Kew­pie may­on­naise, and also con­tains rice vine­gar, hot mus­tard, car­rots, egg and spring onion. It’s some­times served in a kind of sand­wich or in a bun, or as part of a bento meal. The first time you come across it, it seems strange, but there’s def­i­nitely an ap­peal to its unusual tex­ture and punchy flavours. It’s def­i­nitely worth a try, and very sim­ple to make.

So my ad­vice this sum­mer is… cook ex­tra spuds, and en­joy a feast con­tain­ing potato salad.

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