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An ode to the potato: An ingredient we simply can’t live without

Inspired by an interview with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Lisa Wallace uncovers the romance in a staple ingredient: the potato.

by: Lisa Wallace | 23 Jul 2019
 
potatoes

In an interview with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen ahead of his announcement of the opening of Klein Jan at Tswalu Kalahari, he said that he starts preparing a dish for his Michelin-starred restaurant in Nice with maximum effect; a convoluted array of ingredients. He then slowly reduces the number of ingredients until he's happy with the final product. Sometimes he's left with a lone potato, and he's ok with that: “I curate my food the same way I curate the space. I see things as if they were a photograph. How does the originality of a shape, its reflection [and] the texture of the material make a person feel?” he explained. 

Potato is perhaps the world’s most underrated ingredient. Versatile and readily available, cost-effective and enjoyed as fresh-cut fries or creamy mash, potatoes are so darn delicious and satisfying. When was the last time you fully appreciated the beloved potato?

ALSO READ: How to make the best roast potatoes

sam linsell roast potatoes

Cooking for friends and entertaining at home is a newfound passion for me. Every weekend spotlights a food-and-wine-centred expedition into the unknown (generally me in the kitchen, cooking something entirely unpredictable). These culinary expeditions are always different, but a dish that returns to the dining room table without fail is duck fat roast potatoes, its success guaranteed. (The secret weapon is to add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to the water when parboiling. The bicarb breaks down the pectin in the potato so that, after roasting, the inside is a fluffy unicorn coated in crispy, golden perfection.)

The verdict? People love potato

A humble ingredient, steadfast in its pairing ability, potatoes make for unsleek comfort food. Delicious when shared around a table crammed with balsamic-glazed pork loin and honey-roasted carrots, or mashed to creamy perfection below a glistening lamb shank, it’s a stalwart staple for hungry guests. Alternatively, paired with a sweating lager: French fries with a dusting of salt and paprika, laced in a fistful of German mustard and tumbled with snaking curlicues of sauerkraut. It’s fantastic in a braised baby artichoke and bulgar wheat salad; in a salad of thinly sliced kohlrabi with English spinach and coriander pesto; as the ‘greens’ next to boerewors and lamb chops at a South African braai. Whatever the occasion, potato is the perfect accomplice to an exemplary time. 

french fries

It’s trusted. It’s easy to prepare. It’s satisfying and, carb-haters aside, it’s healthy. If chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen trusts the hearty potato so much that it warrants a dish all of its own, so can I. 

ALSO READ: 4 Genius ways to use up leftover mashed potatoes

Read more on: potatoes  |  features
 

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