Our family loves potatoes. My late father-in-law was a distinguished physician but it was remarkable how many of the sympathy letters we received after his death, regardless of whether they were talking of his career or his kindness, also recalled fond memories of going down the garden with him to dig potatoes.
It must be hereditary. Given a choice between pasta, rice and spuds, my husband will always opt for the latter. So I was very happy to be given a copy of Jenny Linford’s new book, Potatoes, published by Ryland, Peters and Small on October 9. Jenny is a fine food writer and I trust anything that comes from her pen and her kitchen.
The book covers everything from history to farming but above all it’s crammed with recipes for this cheap, nutritious and well-loved ingredient.
There’s everything from traditional favourites like triple cooked chips (who doesn’t like chips?), potato cheese pie and Lancashire hotpot to Malaysian chicken and potato curry, Persian-style saffron rice (with potatoes), pierogi, Jansson’s Temptation, potato chaat masala and kimchi potato cakes.
The recipes demonstrate the versatility of the humble spud as well as the affection in which it is held by so many different cultures. As Jenny says in her introduction to the book, there’s a friendly quality to the potato.
I particularly like her hasselback potatoes with parma ham, the Indian five-spice sauteed potatoes, the potato coriander pakoras and the seaweed butter potatoes. But it was Jenny’s recipe for cod, sweetcorn and prawn chowder that really caught my eye, as I’d been planning to make something similar and had ingredients handy.
It’s a lovely main course soup, gentle, creamy and comforting. I reproduce it here with permission.
Cod, Sweetcorn and Prawn Chowder
2 bacon rashers/slices, cut into thin strips
50g/3 1/2 tbs butter
1 onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 heaped tbsp flour
500ml/2cups plus 2 tbsp full-fat milk
500ml/2 cups + 2 tbsp fish stock
400g/14oz floury potatoes, peeled and chopped into small dice
500g/17 1/2 oz cod or other white fish fillets, skinned and cut into 2.5cm/1″ cubes
200g/1 1/2 cups frozen sweetcorn kernels
200g/1 1/2 cups cooked peeled prawns/shrimp
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large, heavy-based saucepan, fry the bacon, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add in the butter and once it foams, add in the onion and celery. Fry gently for 2-4 minutes until softened. Mix in the flour, stirring in well, and fry briefly.
Gradually stir in first the milk, then the fish stock. Stirring, bring to the boil and cook until thickened.
Add in the diced potatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bring to the boil, add in the cod or other white fish and sweetcorn and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the fish is cooked. Add in the prawns/shrimp and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve.