Sometimes I look at a recipe like this and think that it is almost too simple to earn its place on this site. However although it was simple I was so pleased with the outcome I just had to add it here. One of my original motivations for writing here was to add some straightforward and favourite family recipes for my daughter to use (as well as for me to remember). This certainly fits the bill and anyway, it is about time I shared here my own particular method for crunchy roast potatoes – with or without the sesame seeds.
This method of cooking potatoes is a combination of the method taught by my mother and ideas gleaned from other sources: books and television in particular. My grandmother roasted potatoes in margerine as my grandad was vegetarian and this gave her potatoes a distinctive taste: actually not unpleasant but something I would not want to copy. Mum originally used lard but often with dripping from the roasting meat and the potatoes took on some of the flavour of the dinner. In recent years she has substituted healthier sunflower oil for the lard. There is family discussion too on how to cut the potatoes: my mother in law favours large flat pieces that keep their shape whereas I grew up with smaller chunkier pieces which tended to crumble easily but had wonderful crisp crusty edges. The potatoes pictured below are slightly crusty but not as super-crumbly as I like them. There are many different varieties of potato and each will cook slightly differently, but all will become brown if cooked in hot fat and a hot oven even if they do not crumble very much. This method is the way I make sure that my roast potatoes have those crispy edges, as well as the ‘cooks perks’ bits that crumble off and are left in the roasting tin. My own choice of cooking fat is usually olive oil, because of the flavour it gives, though I often use a little sunflower oil and occasionally meat roasting juices. Recently Goose fat (or Duck fat) has been gaining in popularity. I bought a jar at Christmas which I combined with olive oil. Although not especially healthy Goose or Duck fat does give a lovely flavour and a crisp golden finish. It is quite expensive to use exclusively and most I have seen seems to be imported from France: perhaps another item to put on my ever increasing list of potential holiday food purchases?! Be warned. Good roast potatoes are addictive and potato is relatively cheap so don’t stint on quantities. If you have a one or two left the garden birds will love you for it!
Sesame Roast Potatoes
Allow 2 medium sized or 1 large potato per adult, depending on appetite
Olive oil/Sunflower oil/Goose fat/Duck fat/fat & juices from roasting meat - or a combination
Sea salt to sprinkle
Sesame seeds to sprinkle (optional – be generous if using) at least 1tbsp per person
1. Preheat the oven if not already in use. If roasting potatoes alongside a joint I turn the oven up to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 first, putting them into the oven at the same time as I remove the lid from the roasting tin to finish the roasting meat. Once the meat comes out of the oven to rest before carving I turn up the heat to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 but if possible heat the oven to this higher temperature from the start.
2. Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces. A medium sized potato can cut into four larger or eight smaller pieces – your choice.
3. Plunge into boiling slightly salted water, put on the lid and cook on a gentle rolling boil until you can slip the point of a knife easily into a potato piece. This will be about 8-12 minutes depending on the type of potato: some break up very quickly so watch carefully especially if you are cooking a new variety.
4. While the potatoes are cooking put the oil and/or fat into a large roasting tin and place in the oven. The potatoes do not need to swim in fat but you need enough for them not to stick. Remember that they will soak up fat as they cook, but you can add more if needed.
5. Drain the potatoes in a colander and gentle toss them around so the edges of the potato are slightly fluffed up. How much you do this will depend on how fluffy the potato edges are already.
6. Tip the potatoes into the roasting tin and turn them in the hot fat. Sprinkle with a little salt and return to the oven.
7. Turn the potatoes at regular intervals, adding a little more oil only if absolutely necessary, until they are golden and crispy. It is difficult to give exact timings for this but for really crisp potatoes you need to allow at least 45minutes and maybe a little longer.
8. Shortly before the potatoes are cooked remove the tin from the oven and generously sprinkle them with sesame seeds. The should be returned to the oven for at least five minutes more to allow the seeds to toast.
9. When serving drain any excess oil away from the potatoes before serving with any dinner of your choice, although this is particularly good with roasted meat. We enjoy a sprinkling of crunchy bits and toasted seeds that have ended up in the bottom of the pan as well!