How to boil a potato

Right - how to boil a potato .... not so easy as it sounds. The first thing is to decide if you want your potatoes skinned or unskinned. If you skin them, they will not hold together quite so well.

What variety of potato have you got? If you don't know, make sure to ask next time you buy. You probably won't be aware, but different sorts of potato don't behave the same when you boil them.

There are really two sorts of potato - waxy and floury. Waxy ones are easy to boil. Floury ones can be boiled too, and often have a better flavour, but if you turn your back on them, they fall apart during cooking.

So....to return to your scrubbed potatoes - cut them so they're all about the same size. If you don't do this the small ones will be cooked whilst the bigger pieces are nowhere near ready.

Get a pan of cold water. Put your potatoes in; make sure that all are totally immersed. Switch on the heat; bring to the boil. Get the pan simmering gently, and put on the lid. I know on my cooker that the spuds will be ready in about 11 minutes from cold. Give it 10 minutes and then try prodding one or two of the larger pieces with a knife. If the knife goes in easily, it's cooked. If it's hard to push the knife in, it wants a couple more minutes.

Do not wander away or do anything else whilst the spuds are cooking. If your potatoes are floury and you over- cook for as little as 5 minutes, you'll get potato soup. When cooked, pour off the water straight away. If serving immediately, leave the lid OFF so that the potatoes steam dry. If you're having to wait a few minutes for other things to cook, put the cooked potatoes back in the empty pan with the lid ON and the gas OFF to keep in the heat.

Don't leave the cooked potatoes in contact with the hot water they've been cooked in. You'll get a revolting mess.

Floury potatoes: Cara, King Edward, Kerr's Pink, Golden Wonder, Wilja.

Waxy Potatoes: Most new potatoes (including those imported Egyptian and Majorcan varieties), Pink Fir Apple, most French potatoes (Charlotte, Mimi, Cherry Belle, Belle de Fontenay, etc). These don't suffer quite so much when over-cooked.

Midway between floury and waxy: Nadine. This is easy to cook, but the taste isn't so good as most of the above, and I'd avoid it if other types are around.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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