The perfect comfort food, mashed potatoes are a great companion dish for sausages, roast chicken and other meats, stews and casseroles. Mashed potatoes are also an essential part of many classic British dishes such as fish pie
and cottage pie.
Making mashed potatoes is straightforward enough with few ingredients needed but it’s all too easy to end up with a lumpy mound of unappetizing potatoes or even worse a gloopy, gluey paste.
The first step to making perfect mashed potatoes is choosing the right type of potato to use. While you can make mashed potatoes with any type of potato, for perfectly light and fluffy mashed potatoes opt for a floury potato such as Maris Piper or King Edward.
How to make perfect mashed potatoes
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into even pieces to ensure they cook at the same rate. Rinse under cold water to remove the surface starch.
2. Place the cut potatoes in a large pan of cold water over a high heat. Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to the boil.
3. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they’re tender throughout. Test by poking a paring knife or fork into one of the potato pieces: it should slide right into the middle easily. Drain the potatoes in a colander.
4. Leave the potatoes in the colander for a couple of minutes until all the steam has evaporated. Allowing the potatoes to dry a little will help to avoid a watery mash.
5. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher until there are no lumps left. Alternatively, push the pieces through a potato ricer into a bowl.
If mashing by hand, be careful not to overwork the potatoes. When mashed, potatoes release starch but too much of this will make your mash gluey and unappetizing. For this reason, don’t use electric whisks or food processors – they will simply reduce the potatoes to a gummy puree. A potato ricer will give the best results.
6. Add the butter and milk/cream to the mash and use a wooden spoon to mix in. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix again before serving.
Flavour your mashed potatoes
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe for mashed potatoes, you can add different ingredients to flavour the mash so it complements your main dish. Try adding fresh herbs such as chives, finely chopped garlic, caramelised or spring onions, cream cheese or cooked shredded spring greens or cabbage. Make sure that the ingredients are at room temperature or warm before adding them to the hot mash.
Allow the butter to come to room temperature, and gently heat the milk or cream in a microwave or on the hob, before adding them to your mashed potatoes. Adding fridge-cold dairy will cool down your piping-hot mash and won’t be as easily absorbed by the potatoes.