How to roast potatoes
1. It's a fact that perfect roast potatoes are quite hard to find – they seldom work in restaurants because they don't like hanging around, and they're either too greasy or tough and leathery. But at home they can be perfect every time: all you need to do is follow these instructions to the letter and you'll never have a failure. You'll need a good solid-based, shallow roasting tin measuring 14 x 11 x ¾ inches (35 x 28 x 2 cm).
2. My favourite variety of potato to use is Desirée, but Romano and King Edward are also good. To serve six people, first place the roasting tin with 3 oz (75 g) fat in it on the highest shelf of the oven while it pre-heats to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C). The ideal thing to use would be fat taken from the meat during roasting but lard is what I would choose if nothing else were available. Thinly peel 3 lb (1.3 kg) potatoes, using a potato peeler, then cut them into fairly even-sized pieces, leaving any small potatoes whole. Then place them in a saucepan, pour over boiling water from a kettle, just to cover, add salt and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then lift one out with a skewer and see if the outer edge is fluffy. You can test this by running the point of the skewer along the surface – if it still seems too smooth, give it a few more minutes.
3. Then drain off the water (reserving some for the gravy). Place the lid back on the saucepan then, holding the lid firmly, and protecting your hand with a cloth or oven glove, shake the saucepan vigorously up and down.
4. What you are trying to achieve here is to roughen up the cooked edges of the potatoes and then make them floury and fluffy – this is the secret of the crunchy edges.
5. Now, using an oven glove to protect your hands, remove the hot roasting tin containing its sizzling fat and transfer it to the direct heat (medium) on the hob. This is why you need a roasting tin with a solid base – cheap, tinny ones that buckle when exposed to high heat are useless. Use a long-handled spoon to quickly lower the potatoes into the hot fat.
6. When they are all in, tilt the tray and baste each one so it's completely coated with fat. This seals them immediately and prevents them sticking and becoming greasy, which is what happens when the fat is not hot enough.
7. Now place them back on the highest shelf of the oven and leave them unattended for 40-50 minutes or until they are golden brown. There's no need to turn them over at half time – they will brown evenly by themselves. Sprinkle them with a little crushed salt before serving.
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