When I was growing up, there was an ad on telly for a product called Smash. In the ad, some aliens sit around laughing about how primitive we Earth people are because we actually peel whole potatoes, boil them and purée them when we want to eat mashed potatoes, whereas they use a ready-made mash, called Smash. "For mash, get Smash" was the little jingle. I would sooner fly to the moon than use a ready-made mashed potato mix. Mashed potatoes are, to me, a sacred dish - one of those things that you just can't cut corners with, and really, what corners do you want to cut? It's hardly difficult.
Having said that, while good, or even great, mash is easy to make, so is bad mash. If the potatoes are too watery or too lumpy, the mash will be ruined. Some people refuse to touch the stuff because they've had a bad mash experience. This week's recipe will ensure that never happens in your home.
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Unlike some of the dishes I tout here, mash is one of those foods that's best when it's simple. What's not to like about cream, spuds and a bit of elbow grease? If you feel you are too sophisticated for this humble delight, add something to it. Truffle oil, for example, or Parmesan, or olives, or some fresh rocket - whatever you like. Just don't add anything if you're cooking mash for my goddaughter Olivia, who lives in Abu Dhabi. Mash is by far her favourite food; she piles her plate with as much as she can fit on it, and then comes back for seconds and thirds. She would be furious if you tried to mess with the original recipe. In fact I even leave the chives out for her; remember what I said about children and green things?
Of course, as well as eating mash on its own, you can use it for all sorts of pies, such as fish pie and shepherd's pie (another one of my goddaughter's favourites). As with your stand-alone mash, the key is to make sure all the water has drained from the boiled spuds by letting them sit for a few minutes in a colander.
Happy mashing, and don't let those aliens tempt you with their cheap imitations. Think of those happy faces around the table.
Make it yourself
Mashed potatoes with double cream and chives
8 large Russet potatoes
250g unsalted butter, softened
200ml double cream, warmed
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 bunch chives, minced
1. Peel the potatoes, cut them into evenly sized pieces and place in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer just until tender. Overcooking the potatoes will result in a watery mash.
2. Drain the potatoes in a colander ensuring all the water is removed.
3. While the potatoes are still warm, pass them through a fine wire tamis or drum sieve. (A potato masher will work as well but will not yield a silky smooth mash.) This process needs to be done quickly, before the potatoes cool and stiffen.
4. Return the potato purée to a clean pan, slowly fold in the softened butter, then add the warm cream. Add only enough of the cream to reach the consistency of mash you desire, reserving some for the next step. Season with salt and pepper.
5. To serve, place the mash into serving bowls, make a well in the top of the potatoes and pour in a little of the warm cream and sprinkle with fresh chives.