Crispy, salty, chewy, melting buttery potato: I first wrote this recipe for a twist on baked potatoes for my cookbook, Friends, Food Family and have seen readers on both sides of the Atlantic take it to their hearts. It’s such a simple idea – slicing potatoes lengthwise, cross-hatching them and popping a knob of butter on each piece before baking them in the oven.
Recently I tried it a different way to great success. I usually recommend King Edwards, Maris Pipers or generic baking potatoes for this recipe – something deliciously floury, but I’ve also discovered that a smallish new potato works well here. Nothing too tiny, and certainly not a Jersey Royal, but something a bit smaller than an egg. You don’t get lots of fluffy buttery potato in the middle as you would from an old potato but in summer you don’t need quite so many comforting carbs – or butter. Instead you get a crispy and chewy mouthful. They’re also a lot healthier than a roast potato because they only need a dot of butter each.
In my family this dish has always been known as Granny Horse’s Potatoes because this was her way of cooking them: I’ve never seen potatoes cooked in this way elsewhere and, every time I eat them, I am transported back to her tiny cottage, filled with equestrian memorabilia in the beautiful village of Avon Bassett in Warwickshire.
With the luxury of a huge garden, granny ended up in charge of the flowers and grandpa was very much in charge of vegetables, which he grouped in serried ranks. Peas, beans, lettuces, leeks, parsnips, cabbages and, of course, potatoes all made their way straight from the soil to the kitchen.
This way of cooking potatoes which granny showed me really plays homage to the taste of a great potato, because they are good enough to eat on their own. (Which is exactly what I did for supper this evening, with the addition of some rosemary from my garden.)
I usually count on 4 small potatoes per person – as with mashed potatoes, people always eat more than they would simply boiled.
Softened Salted butter (Do not substitute margarine or oil, as the potatoes will not crisp.)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Halve the potatoes lengthways, and score them quickly with a sharp knife* in in a criss cross pattern, with two strokes in each direction. Dot a little butter over the surface of each potato. Sprinkle a generous amount of crunchy salt, and black pepper over each half and cook for approximately 35 minutes at 180C. (Keep an eye on them – if smaller they may take as little as 25 minutes.)
My absolute favourite everyday knife is this little £5 beauty from Victorinox, and it’s perfect for this recipe. You would not believe how many chefs and cooks I know swear by it. It’s also the knife I always take travelling if I know I have to do some cooking and can’t pack a big chef’s knife.