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Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyPity the potato in the 21st century.

At least one generation of Americans — particularly ladies — have mistakenly rejected the potato in favour of rice and sweet potatoes. Potatoes are seen to be high-GI (Glycaemic Index), although this depends on how they are grown and prepared. The GI also depends on the variety of potato. Potato farmers would no doubt like to remind Westerners — including Britain’s NHS — that their stem tubers provide vitamins, minerals and fibre (emphases mine):

The potato is best known for its carbohydrate content (approximately 26 grams in a medium potato). The predominant form of this carbohydrate is starch. A small but significant portion of this starch is resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, and so reaches the large intestine essentially intact. This resistant starch is considered to have similar physiological effects and health benefits as fiber: It provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage.[40][41][42] The amount of resistant starch in potatoes depends much on preparation methods. Cooking and then cooling potatoes significantly increases resistant starch. For example, cooked potato starch contains about 7% resistant starch, which increases to about 13% upon cooling.[43]

You can read a comprehensive set of the potato’s nutrients, enumerated in tables and graphs, at Nutrition Data. Their summary says:

This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese.

All depends on how it is prepared. A modestly garnished baked potato will have less fat than a portion of chips.

Now to today’s receipt. Although I enjoy a good mash, I have found mashing potatoes in a deep pot annoying. SpouseMouse suggested the trick of mashing with a fork. This helped enormously, but the depth of the saucepan was still a problem when it came to obtaining a lump-free mash.

One day I decided to use an omelette pan without a non-stick surface: 8″ (20cm) in diameter and 2″ (5cm) deep. I am now happy making mash anytime, anywhere.

This recipe should not work, but it does — beautifully.

This is a good starter dish for men and older children to try; it is idiotproof and perfect for those who do not know how to cook.

(Photo credit: my thanks to Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod)

Impossible mashed potatoes 

(Prep time: 10-15 minutes; cooking time: 30 minutes; yield: four portions)


4 to 5 medium sized potatoes

Vegetable stock and/or water to cover

2-3 tbsp (50g – 60g) butter

Salt, garlic salt and pepper to taste

Optional extras: crushed garlic, 1 tsp mustard, chopped herbs (thyme, winter savoury, parsley)


1/ Peel the potatoes and cut them into evenly-sized chunks (3 – 4 per potato) for uniform cooking.

Churchmouse’s tip: I keep a slightly dull paring knife handy for peeling. That way, if I’m distracted and cut myself, it’s a non-event.

2/ Place the potato chunks into the omelette pan and cover with a combination of stock and water to reach just to the top of the potatoes.

3/ Place on the hob (burner) and cover with a lid or crimp aluminium foil around the top for a makeshift cover. Cook at medium heat for 25 – 30 minutes.

4/ Check during the second half of cooking to make sure that the pan is not boiling over; if it is, lift the lid, let the steam escape, turn the heat down, return the lid to the pan and continue to cook.

Churchmouse’s tip: Heat and steam when cooking can be hazardous. If you are using aluminium foil, be sure to wear a pair of oven gloves on when removing and replacing the makeshift cover. Steam burns can sometimes be worse than anticipated.

5/ Near the end of cooking, gently pierce one or two of the potato chunks with a fork or knifetip. If the potato flesh is yielding, they are finished. Overly cooked potatoes can ‘turn into water’, as one of my late grandmothers-in-law often said, so be careful with cooking times.

6/ When they are done, drain the potatoes carefully so that all cooking liquid is removed.

7/ Place the pan on a heatproof surface, season well and add the butter as well as a few of the aforementioned ‘optional extras’ — some of which go better together than others. I would not necessarily combine garlic and mustard, but garlic and herbs together work well.

8/ Using a fork, the kind you would eat with — much better than a traditional potato masher — gently but quickly press the potatoes, work the butter into them, then go on to other ingredients. You might find it easier to work the butter and potatoes together then add the rest.

9/ Press and stir the ingredients together until you have a lump-free and fluffy mash. Be sure to taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. You might need to add another teaspoon of butter at this point. Stir again until well incorporated.

10/ Return the covered pan to a very low heat to keep warm until you are ready to serve — ideally, within five minutes. N.B.: Potatoes left for 15 minutes can scorch on the bottom. If you find you are delayed, it is better to turn the heat off and turn it on again just before you are ready to serve.

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