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Nigel Slater waxes lyrical on the humble spud

The simple spud gets a new lease of life with Britain's best cookery writer

Nigel Slater waxes lyrical on the humble spud

Lovely as they are with just melted butter and chopped parsley, a bag of new potatoes is more versatile than you might imagine. Try them roasted until sticky outside and fudgy within; fried until crisp; rolled in a herb sauce, or even made into neat little patties. The new potato is ready to take on a new role.

Fried potatoes, capers and olives

Waxy little potatoes, fried until crisp and seasoned with olives, capers and lemon, make a sassy little side dish for grilled fish.

Serves 4 as a side dish

new potatoes – 500g

a little butter

olive oil

capers – 2 tbs

green olives, stoned – 3 tbs

parsley – the leaves from 6 stalks

grated lemon zest – a tsp

Steam the new potatoes, nicely scrubbed, till tender. Let them cool a while, then slice them thickly.

Warm the butter and a glug of olive oil in a non-stick shallow pan. When it starts to fizz, add the potatoes and let them fry till golden.

Put the capers in a bowl. Chop the olives and the parsley and add, then stir in the lemon zest and a very little salt (remember: the olives are quite salty). Scatter the olive and capers over the potatoes and eat straightaway.

Artichoke and warm potato salad

I often pick up those fat preserved artichokes from the deli counter and tuck them into salads or eat them with toasted focaccia. They also work very well in a potato salad. Dress this while the potatoes are still warm, and eat before the thick dressing has totally soaked in.

Serves 2

new potatoes – 500g

lemon juice – a tbs

olive oil – 4 tbs

grated parmesan – 3 tbs

preserved artichokes – 4 (about 350g in total)

flat-leaved parsley – a small bunch

mint – a handful

Steam the potatoes or boil them in deep, lightly salted water until tender to the point of a knife. Drain and set aside.

Put the lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan in a bowl, add a little coarsely ground black pepper and mix well.

Slice each artichoke into four. Cut each potato in half, and add to the dressing with the artichokes and the roughly chopped parsley and mint. Toss gently and serve.

Green potato salad, fennel salami

Potato salads are most successful when they are dressed immediately after cooking, while they are still warm. I give the hand-made method for this piquant green sauce, but you can make it in a blender or food processor too. Potatoes work exceptionally well with fennel-seed salami, but any fat-speckled, thin-cut meat would do here too.

Serves 4

new potatoes – 500g

salami – 24 thin slices

For the green sauce:

a generous handful of parsley leaves

6 bushy sprigs of mint

a handful of basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Dijon mustard – 1 tbs

capers, rinsed – 2 tbs

extra-virgin olive oil – 6 tbs

lemon juice – 2 tbs

Get the potatoes on to steam or boil.

To make the sauce, chop the herbs quite finely, but not so small they look like tea leaves, then stir in the garlic, mustard and capers. Pour in the olive oil slowly, beating with a fork. Stir in the lemon juice, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Be generous with the seasoning, tasting as you go. The sauce should be bright-tasting and piquant.

When the potatoes are tender to the point of a knife, remove them from the heat and toss, while still hot, in the green sauce. Serve with the salami.

Potato pancakes with herb and youghurt sauce

Small, waxy potatoes fry well, crisping up in the hot butter and oil. These are fine as they are, with a salad, but I sometimes make them as an accompaniment for grilled lamb steaks or cutlets.

Makes 6, enough for 2

potatoes – 250g

a medium-sized carrot

feta – 200g

dill – 2 heaped tbs

eggs – 2

a little olive oil

For the herb sauce:

natural yoghurt – 6 heaped tbs

chopped mint and parsley – 2 heaped tbs

Scrub the potatoes and the carrot then grate them coarsely. This is best done in a food processor. Squeeze any moisture from the shredded potatoes with your fists – there will be quite a bit – then season with black pepper. Crumble the feta over the potatoes and add the dill. Beat the eggs just enough to mix them, then stir them into the potatoes.

Warm a shallow layer of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Remove a large spoonful of the potato mixture, squash it gently into a patty and lower it into the hot oil. Repeat this with as many as you can get in, leaving space to flip them. Do not attempt to move the patties until they have formed a crust on the underside. Carefully flip each patty with a palette knife or fish slice. They may collapse a little, but just push them back to shape. When both sides are golden, lift and drain briefly on kitchen paper then serve.

For the herb sauce, mix together the yoghurt, mint and parsley. Season with a little salt and serve with the pancakes.

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