‘Go for Gold’ with perfect roast potatoes

Restraint is a difficult concept for a food lover. Second helpings are a must, a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack goes without saying, and chocolate somehow coerces its way in there. Also some form of fruit is munched on because, by then, you feel greedy and unhealthy – I hear fruit reverses all calories.

Junk food in the supermarket, although tempting, is relatively easy to avoid if you go with a strict budget, fill your trolley with vegetables, eggs and lean meat, and then march hastily past the cake aisle, eyes averted. Never shop on an empty stomach. Whenever I make that mistake I always pause next to the bread, my eyes linger on pastry, or my mouth waters just looking at a yogurt.

‘Go for Gold’ is now testing our abilities at restraint and for an excellent reason, one that is much more important than losing weight. ‘Go for Gold’ is the Food Standard’s Agency’s slogan for acrylamide awareness. Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced in foods when they are cooked at a high temperature and has proven to cause cancer in animals. Predominant in starchy foods such as potatoes, parsnips, bread and cereals, the risk of acrylamide increases when the food is cooked at high heat for long periods of time, turning the outsides brown and crunchy.

There is nothing wrong with eating these foods, we just need to eat them in moderation as part of a meal or be aware of the risks as they fade from sunny ‘gold’ to the deep amber brown we usually associate with toast and roast potatoes.

Don’t despair though because there is a way to have perfectly crispy roast potatoes without the dark colouring! These potatoes are the best roast potatoes I’ve ever eaten; they form a thick crunchy surface over a fluffy centre before any colour creeps across.

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Perfect Roast Potatoes

Adapted from Leiths How to Cook

Serves 4

3 large floury potatoes/4 small floury potatoes
4 tablespoons flavourless oil plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Salt/pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
  2. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut them into 4-5cm chunks, place in a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil before simmering for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the oil into a large roasting tin and add the butter. Heat in the oven.
  4. Test the potatoes with a simple cutlery knife – if the knife cuts 1cm deep they are ready.
  5. Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake them well to break up their surfaces.
  6. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and carefully add the potatoes – they should sizzle on impact. Allow them plenty of space so they roast and don’t soften and steam. Turn them so they are covered in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then return to the oven.
  7. Every 10-15 minutes remove from the oven and baste the potatoes in fat. Once golden and crisp they are ready. Keep warm while draining them on kitchen paper. Serve with lots of vegetables as part of a roast.

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