Sweet Home: Perfect roast potatoes

When it comes to winter home cooking, it doesn’t get much better for me than good roast potatoes: super crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside… roast them in goose fat and i’m yours.

It dawned upon me recently that of all things, the topic of roast potatoes can raise some heated debate: to parboil or not parboil? Skin on or off? Chats or desiree? Smashed, shaken in the pan or scratched with a fork for crunch factor? Olive oil, butter or goose fat? I vote the latter, of course.

Everyone seems to have a trick for perfect roasties, often involving some secret family formula. But as it turns out, roast dinners never quite made it to my Filipino family’s menu – we were more about fried rice and adobo. So, much of what I know about spuds today is due to Jamie Oliver (who didn’t have a crush on him during his younger, floppy-haired Naked Chef days?).

But then I got a peek at how my mother-in-law whips up her famously crispy spuds. I’m a devotee of Mr Oliver’s parboil-and-shake method for its high crunch-and-fluff factor, so imagine my shock when I discovered that the secret to light and crispy mother-in-law spuds was MICROWAVING them first. Outrageous.

But her roasties are just lovely – and spiked with garlic, which I’m a sucker for. In my home, we call them Jenny potatoes as one must give credit where credit’s due. They’re now on rotation with ‘Jamie’ potatoes – I like to mix things up a little, cause I’m wild like that.

Jamie Oliver Potatoes
This is an adapted version of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Perfect roast potatoes’. He roasts his spuds for a whopping one hour and 15 mins, which I think is a little controversial. I’ve found that 30 mins tends to do just fine, and I parboil my spuds for 10 mins instead of his 6-7. You can find his original recipe at

Serves 4

  • 1.5kg potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 knobs of butter, or 2 tbsp goose fat or a drizzle of olive oil
  • Herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme, and a couple of cloves or garlic, bashed (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C. Wash your spuds to remove excess starch and tip into a large saucepan. Cover with cold water, salt well, bring to the boil and parboil for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander to steam dry for 3 minutes.
  2. Shake the potatoes in the colander to rough up the edges. To get them really scruffy, I tip them back into the pan, put on the lid and give it a good shake. Scruffiness is the secret to crispiness – but don’t bash the potatoes so much that they fall apart.
  3. Tip the spuds into a roasting pan in a single layer, then add your butter, goose fat or olive oil. Add your herbs and garlic, if using, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  4. Cook the potatoes for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Check them at 20 minutes to make sure they aren’t burnt to a crisp, because some ovens can me a bit more temperamental than others. At this point, you can try Jamie’s trick for maximising the crunch factor: use a potato masher to gently squish the spuds. This increases the surface area – and crispiness.
  5. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat, then serve.

Jamie potatoes

Jenny Potatoes
My mother-in-law humbly puts her success down to her particularly reliable oven – but we all know it’s all due to her superior potato-handling skills. Her trick is using olive oil, and microwaving the spuds instead of parboiling – even more controversial than Mr Oliver’s outlandish cooking times.

Serves 2

  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • A sprig of rosemary, leaves picked
  • 1 large clove of garlic, sliced lengthways
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Drizzle your roasting tray with a thin layer of olive oil (you can see in my pics that I went a little overboard – do as I say and not as I do!) and place in the oven to heat the oil while you prepare your spuds.
  2. Place your potato wedges in a bowl and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add your rosemary and garlic, season with salt and pepper and toss to distribute evenly.
  3. Carefully remove the tray from the oven – mind the hot oil! Tip the spuds into the tray – they should sizzle when they hit the oil. Arrange the spuds in a single layer and cook for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Check at 20 minutes – I find the spuds usually don’t need to be turned using this method as the hot oil seals them quickly and the underside browns well, but it’s worth having a look.
  4. Drain on kitchen paper if you’re worried about excess oil, and transfer to a bowl to serve.

Jenny potatoes vs Jamie potatoes – which method gets your vote? Do you have a trick for perfect roasties?

–  Selina

Selina: Sweet Home - guest writer for Hillary and Dijon

One thought on “Sweet Home: Perfect roast potatoes

  1. Pingback: Greek(ish)-Style(ish) Roasted Potato Wedges | cookerofstuff


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