Here in Britain, we are most definitely potato people. As amusing this image may be, it cannot be denied that we are rather fond of our spuds. Globalisation of cuisine may have us all eating rice, noodles, and pasta, with the best of them, but at heart we love nothing more than a pile of buttery mash or a perfectly executed chip. Recent clean eating fads may have persuaded us to the nutritional density of sweet potato, and you can even find sweet potato chips or wedges in the freezer aisle, yet beneficial or not they are just not the same.
As with most things in cookery, you will only get out what you put in, and that means using the right tools and ingredients for the job. If you do want to limit your carbohydrate intake, or have fallen foul to the idea that potatoes are the enemy of decent nutrition, then the least you can do when indulging is make them the best that they can be.
In culinary terms, potatoes fall into two categories; waxy and floury. In gardening terms, potatoes fall into four categories; first earlies, second earlies, maincrop, and second crop. It does not necessarily follow that all earlies are waxy potatoes, or that all maincrop are floury. Generally speaking though, especially in terms of commercial availability, there will be an abundance of salad potatoes throughout summer and come late summer/autumn as our appetites change, all of the big floury types dominate the shelves. This also depends on where you shop.
So, potato types. The textural difference of a potato is caused by the starch content. Potatoes vary not only in the percentage of starch present, but also in the type of starch. Amylose, a long chain starch will be present in higher quantities in dry floury potatoes. Amylopectin, a branched starch, will be present in higher quantities in waxy potatoes. All potatoes will contain both types and this will dictate their cooking properties. So, a floury potato, that keeps its shape well, will have a good proportion of both.
A new potato, usually small, will generally be a waxy potato suitable for boiling in the skin and serving with butter, or as potato salad. They also make perfect crushed potatoes or baby roasties.
An all-rounder, or all-purpose, potato will cover a broad range of tasks, namely; chipping, roasting, boiling, baking, and mashing. What it will not do is any of the above particularly well. These potatoes will certainly be of the floury type needed for such tasks, but there the distinction ends.
Further grouping of the waxy potatoes gives us far better control over the properties needed for perfection. Fluffy potatoes are best for chips and roast, whilst smooth potatoes are best for boiling and baked dishes such as Dauphinoise. Mash, is often a matter of preference; smooth will give a dense creamy mash texture whilst fluffy will have a lighter, airier feel to it. Whilst both are floury, and will break down, a fluffy potato will disintegrate yet a smooth potato will hold its shape.
In my book, if you want an all-rounder then go for ROOSTER.
For a fluffy potato, perfect for roasting, chipping and baking (and maybe mash) go for YUKON GOLD, MAYAN GOLD, KING EDWARDS, MARIS PIPER, ROMANO
For a smooth potato, perfect for boiling and baked dishes (and maybe mash) go for LADY BALFOUR, VIVALDI, DESIREE, MARABEL, VIVALDI
Readily available salad potatoes include CHARLOTTE, ANYA, JAZZY, PINK FIR APPLE
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