Dressed to thrill
New potatoes need little more than salt to excel, but amaze with a dab of aioli, summer tartare, bravas or salmoriglio. And baked with tomatoes they yield to a sticky sweetness ...
The first new potatoes for me are as much a sign that summer is around the corner as strawberries or asparagus are. The little jersey royals don’t look like much, covered in their telltale mat of dusty brown soil but, after a good scrub, their golden skins are unveiled, so thin you can flick them off with a thumb. I remember digging up new potatoes as a kid – as soon as they were out of the ground I’d try to rub the skins off. They seemed so tiny, sweet and friendly; tiny jewels of the earth.
Most supermarkets sell jersey royals (and the equally good cornish earlies) already washed, which, while undoubtedly easier on a school night, does make them lose some of their wonder for me. It’s so rare we get to connect with exactly where our food comes from, and the dirt that grasps these potatoes does just that.
A fresh jersey needs little embellishment – boiled in salted water and dabbed with butter and extra salt is probably the way I like them best, but I do branch out a bit. I try to make the most of jerseys and other new potatoes, which means, like British asparagus, I eat them at least twice a week while they are in season.
I cook my new potatoes in a deep pot. I use a lot of water – almost as much as I would if I were to cook pasta; I find they cook better that way. I usually start the potatoes in cold water rather than hot, which keeps the insides from becoming watery. That said, some nights when I am in a hurry I boil the kettle and add them to hot water to speed things up. I am sure some people can tell the difference, but I’ve never had any complaints.
The first recipe here is for simply boiled jerseys with four quick dressings, my take on four classic sauces: a garlic aioli, a summer tartare, a quick and classy patatas bravas sauce, and a salmoriglio – essentially a herb oil made with marjoram or oregano, although thyme would do at a pinch.
I must include an honest note on the aioli. I have no love for strong garlic – I make aioli with one clove. However, when I tested varying amounts on friends, the consensus was that a fiery three-clove version was the sweet spot. I’ll leave it up to you to add as much as you wish.
The second recipe is less pure, but no less wonderful. A lovely late-spring supper, this dish’s tomato and onion meld and mellow in the oven in a way that allows the flavour of the jerseys to come though. Their sweetness and the scarlet gravy they make in the tray are proof that summer can’t be too far away.
Simple jersey royals with four dressings
Each of the dressing recipes is enough for 1kg of potatoes. For a crowd, you might want twice as many potatoes and a couple of dressings.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1kg jersey royal or other new potatoes, scrubbed clean Salt
1 Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Add a big pinch of salt, put on the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes (you may need longer for bigger potatoes), or until a knife slides into their flesh easily.
2 Drain the potatoes well and return to the heat for 2 minutes, to steam away their moisture. Serve with a big dollop of butter, or one of the toppings below.
For the aioli
2 egg yolks ¼ tsp salt 1 tbsp dijon mustard 1 lemon, juiced 250ml rapeseed oil 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Start with all your ingredients at room temperature. Put a damp tea towel beneath a mixing bowl (or use a food processor). Add the egg yolks, salt, mustard and lemon juice. Whisk together for a few minutes.
2 Add the oil, drip by drip, while