I do, if I say so myself, make stunningly good mashed potato.
When I was a little kid, in the Ardwick slum of post WW-2 Manchester, every kitchen seemed to boast an empty, brown, half-pint, beer bottle. This was the potato masher – then the perfect tool for achieving perfectly smooth and lump-free mash. It still is.
Fast forward 60-ish years and my current weapon of choice is a half-litre up-market “cyder” bottle, but the results are just as impressive.
There’s a technique, of course, but it’s quite simple – pound the spuds smooth with the bottle (and it must have a flat bottom, no punt). They’ll now also be stodgy, so take some softened butter and room-temperature milk or cream, and beat them into the spuds with a rice paddle** until light and fluffy – and you have a pan of the smoothest, lightest, mash. Anything else in terms of seasoning or herbs is down to personal taste.
**I use rice paddles in preference to wooden spoons as they’re a much more ergonomically-sound design. And the tip is flat, which a wooden spoon isn’t, not unless you take a saw to it. And that matters.
OK, that’s a lie. It used to be true but, these days, what I knock up is more likely to be Smash. And enough with the sneering, because if you sneer at the idea of instant mash it just shows you’ve not tried hard enough.
It can, I suppose, be sneer-worthy, but only if you follow the instructions on the pack which, frankly, are rubbish, and will give you a doll’s-house sized portion to boot.
The pack instructions for one portion:-
30g Smash, 150ml boiling water. Mix with a fork. That’s it. And it’s crap.
As an afterthought there’s a “Chef’s Tip” section – why not try adding butter or milk or salt and pepper to taste? Gee, thanks – I might never have thought of that. I mean, FFS, you have to be a chef to think of seasoning the bloody stuff?
This is how I’ve always made one portion:-
Put 60g of Smash in a small bowl** (a bowl just big enough for you to hold by the edge without splashing your hand with boiling mash), season well with sea salt and black pepper (or white, if you prefer), and, remember, you’re seasoning for the finished, much greater, volume, not the dry stuff, pour over boiling water and beat the bejesus out of it with a tablespoon, NOT a fork. A fork does not work well. Add more water as and if needed. Stop when it’s still a little stiff.
**I use a polycarbonate bowl as it doesn’t chill the contents the way glass or earthenware would.
Add a generous knob of butter. Room temp is best, but if it’s out of the fridge tuck it into the mash and wait a few minutes for it to melt (don’t worry, like all puréed veg, Smash retains its heat well), then beat it in. The texture should now be perfect (beat in a little more boiling water if still a tad stiff). Always err on the side of too little water, initially – you can add more, you can’t take it out, and adding more Smash might not work as well as you think.
Or, instead of butter, try a good splash of e-v olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
Either of those are my basic Smash and both are vastly better than the official version.
Schwartz Dried Parsley (softens instantly), or fresh, of course.
A little grated cheese (or, for a quick bowl of comfort food, a LOT of cheese; and ketchup).
And that’s all – mostly I prefer my mash quite basic – it’s what it accompanies that provides the big flavour hit.
Occasionally I like to form the mash into a ring, and fill the centre with stew which, tonight, will be this one. To make the Smash easier to handle, before adding the water I mix in a good tablespoon of Bisto Parsley Sauce Granules. This, apart from tasting good, by some alchemy (probably the 28.5% fat content, so you might want to omit the butter!), prevents the Smash from clinging to the plate, making the ring easier to shape and more aesthetically pleasing, unlike this one, which is a tad messy:
That’s a portion of the game pie filling I made for Christmas last year (see this post, and this one), with buttery, cheesy, parsley mash. The rest fell victim to a freezer malfunction, and had to be binned. The fruit content, though, was so successful that it provided the inspiration for several subsequent dishes. The lamb version, with Harissa, was spectacular, and the several veggie versions have been pretty good too.