A new survey has found that nearly one in four people in Wiltshire don’t know how to boil a potato properly, despite the popularity of TV cookery programmes.
Almost a quarter of the people questioned (23 per cent) said they didn’t know that potatoes should be boiled for between 15 and 20 minutes, either ending up with a plateful of bullets that have only been immersed in water for five to 10 minutes, or mush that has been boiled for between 30 to 50.
Potatoes are one of the nation’s favourite foods, with nearly nine out of 10 of us (87 per cent) eating them at least twice a week, according to the survey which was commissioned by GreenVale Potatoes, with total UK consumption currently standing at over two million tonnes of fresh potatoes a year.
Leon Mundey, head of marketing for GreenVale Potatoes, said: “Despite all the cookery programmes on TV and the hi-tech gadgets in our kitchens, the survey suggests many of us aren’t getting the basics right when it comes to cooking potatoes.
"Perhaps we should ask Delia Smith to give us all a refresher course in boiling potatoes, just like she reminded us how to boil an egg back in 1998, so we don’t miss out on what the good old spud has to offer!”
One in three of the survey respondents admitted to putting potatoes into boiling water instead of cold water which is then brought to the boil.
This can result in the potatoes being soft on the outside but still a little hard on the inside.
And many are getting it wrong when it comes to testing if boiled potatoes are ready to serve, with 59 per cent of inserting a knife or skewer to check for softness, whereas the correct method is to use a fork.
Being blunter than a knife or skewer, the fork offers greater resistance and so provides a much better measure.
Similar tips for perfect mash are failing to be passed down the generations.
Only 15 per cent of people knew that the milk should be heated prior to being added to the potato for mashing.
Instead 69 per cent admitted to adding cold milk and then wondering why their mash was always a touch on the chilly side.
But luke warm or piping hot, potatoes are still something we turn to when feeling blue with bangers & mash coming in as number 2 from a list of comfort foods, behind only chocolate.
A jacket potato came in at No. 3, ahead of sticky toffee pudding at No 4, ice cream at No 5 and Chicken Broth at No 6.
After mash potatoes (24 per cent) and jacket potatoes (21 per cent), boiled was the third most common way of serving potatoes (20 per cent), followed by roasted (17 per cent) and then chips (15 per cent).
But when it came to our favourite dishes rather than the way we usually eat them, the survey was turned on its head with roast potatoes coming out top at 48 per cent, followed by jacket potatoes (17 per cent), chips (15 per cent), mashed (12 per cent) and boiled (6 per cent).
Wiltshire’s historical knowledge of potatoes was pretty good with 60 per cent correctly picking out Sir Walter Raleigh, from a list of historical figures, as the person credited with bringing the first potatoes to Britain.
A small number did however, plump for Lord Nelson and Scott of the Antarctic.
More than 80 per cent of people knew that potatoes contained many health benefits but 92 per cent of people still peel potatoes, even though many nutrients are contained in or directly under the skin.
Mr Mundey said: “Our survey reveals that many cooking tips which have traditionally been passed down the generations are being lost as we increasingly live in a world hungry for convenience, where more and more short cuts are being adopted that actually could impair the enjoyment of our food.”
GreenVale has come up with two quick and easy recipes to help use up any left-over mash...
Potatoes Bubble and Squeak
It doesn’t really matter what green veg you use - peas, beans, broccoli or cabbage all work well.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
600g mashed GreenVale potatoes
150g cooked carrots, diced
250g left over green vegetables, chopped if large
Can be served with poached eggs and grilled bacon
1. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan, add the leeks and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes until they are softened.
2. Add all the other vegetables to the pan and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Now cook the vegetables, stirring and turning until they are hot - they will bubble and squeak!
3. Settle the vegetable mixture into a flat layer and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the base is golden. Slide the mixture out onto a plate, place the pan on top and flip it over so that the uncooked base is facing down. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the base is golden.
4. To serve, slip the cake out onto a board and cut into wedges. Serve in wedges topped with a poached egg and serve with grilled bacon.
Easy Irish style potato cakes which are popular at breakfast.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking: 6-8 minutes
Makes 8 cakes
350g cold mashed GreenVale potatoes
4 spring onions, finely sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
100g plain flour plus some for dusting
Can be served with smoked salmon and crème fraîche
1. Place the mash in a large bowl, add the spring onions and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the egg and flour, and mix together with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.
2. Empty onto a floured work top and divide into 8 pieces, roll each into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand to a cake about 1cm thick.
3. Heat a non-stick frying pan, when hot drizzle in a little oil, then cook the cakes a few at a time for 6-8 minutes, turning over once, until both sides are golden and crisp. Serve hot topped with smoked salmon and crème fraîche.
GreenVale All Rounder Potatoes are sold in 2kg paper bags from Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado retailing for around £2.50.
For more information about GreenVale Potatoes, visit www.greenvalepotatoes.co.uk