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Know your spuds: our ultimate potato guide

by Great British Chefs 26 November 2015

Sick of gluey mash or dull roasties? You might be using the wrong type of spud. Know your Apaches from your Vivaldis and pave the way to potato perfection.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

While the turkey might take centre stage at Christmas, a bowl of crisp, golden, fluffy roast potatoes with just the right ratio of crunchy crust to smooth centre can easily steal the show. But whether you’re planning to cook yours in goose fat or even make sous vide roast potatoes, it’s vital to pick the right variety. When you’re doing the big shop this Christmas, don’t just reach for any old potato. For roasts, choose Rooster or Apache, keep an eye out for Marabel or Vivaldi for mash, and Anya or Purple Majesty potatoes will make all the difference if you’re making a potato salad for entertaining. Find out why below.

There are over 500 types of potato grown around the world, but only a small number are grown on a commercial scale and sold here in the UK. You might find some of the more unusual heritage ones at farmers’ markets – with amazing names like Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy or Kepplestone Kidney – but you’re more likely to find Rooster, Maris Piper or Charlotte on the shop shelves. And depending on whether you want to mash, boil, roast, bake or chip your spuds, knowing which works best is the key to consistently perfect spuds.

Varieties

As a general rule, most potatoes tend to fall into one of two categories; floury or waxy. Waxy potatoes hold their shape and have a firm bite, so they’re great for salads or simply boiled and dressed with butter. Floury potatoes, on the other hand, fluff up when they’re cooked, making them perfect for chips, roast potatoes or baking. But there are varieties that fall in the centre, holding both waxy and firm qualities. These make great all-rounders, and tend to have the creamy consistency needed for a smooth mash.

There are roughly fifteen types of potato widely available in the shops. While the waxy or floury rule is a good starting point, it’s better if you know exactly what each potato is best suited to.

Potatoes
Different types of potato cook in different ways
Roast potatoes
Rooster potatoes are some of the best for roasting

Anya

Waxy potatoes perfect for boiling and adding to a salad. They’re long and knobbly with a unique nutty flavour, which certainly set them apart.

Apache

Eye-catching, slightly waxy potatoes that should be roasted with the skin on for maximum effect. Their patchy red and white skin gives way to a buttery chestnut flavour.

Ayrshire

Available from June to September, these are Scotland’s answer to Jersey Royals and some of the first potatoes to be harvested in the country each year. They boil extremely well, and have an earthy, fresh flavour.

Charlotte

Long, oval and waxy with a subtle flavour – ideal for boiling whole and adding to salads.

Cornish Kings

These are harvested just after the Jersey Royals season ends, and have a similar fresh, nutty flavour and smooth, waxy texture. Scrub and boil them whole for a delicious side to any meat or fish.

Desiree

Red-skinned potatoes with a fairly waxy texture that work well as an all-rounder. Their creamy yellow flesh makes a good mash.

Elfe

Smooth, creamy and bright yellow, Elfe potatoes are best suited to boiling, baking and mashing, which together with their sweet taste makes them very versatile.

Jersey Royals

Probably the most famous potatoes of all; PDO-protected, grown only on Jersey and at their best from April to June. They have an unmistakable sweet, summery flavour and are best simply boiled and dressed in butter and herbs.

Waxy potatoes

Kestrel

Exceptional boilers, bakers or roasters, Kestrel potatoes are great all-rounders. They also have striking blue and purple eyes which look beautiful against their creamy skin.

King Edward

A floury potato with white skin and pink eyes. Their fluffy texture means they’re best suited to roasting, baking or chipping.

Marabel

One of the best potatoes for mashing thanks to its incredibly creamy texture and rich, sweet flavour.

Maris Piper

The most widely grown potatoes in the UK as they’re great roasted, mashed, boiled, chipped or baked, despite being dry and floury.

Osprey

A consistently good all-rounder, Osprey potatoes are particularly good when baked thanks to their smooth skin.

Purple Majesty

A deep purple potato which will add striking colour to any dish, originally from the Andean mountains. They’re full of antioxidants, have a unique flavour and texture and can be mashed, baked or roasted.

Rooster

Deep red, incredibly versatile and the recipient of all sorts of awards, these can be mashed, boiled, steamed or baked, but are particularly delicious roasted.

Russett

Ideal for turning into chips and wedges, Russet potatoes are floury, incredibly fluffy and their pale yellow flesh turns a wonderful golden brown when fried.

Vivaldi

Rich, creamy and sweet, these potatoes taste like they’ve already been buttered. Perfect for mash, Vivaldi also make great jacket potatoes and are particularly good at absorbing flavours when dressed in sauces or oils.

 
 
 

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