One batch of steamed potatoes makes four different recipes

A single batch of steamed potatoes is the foundation of four cheap, filling, mouthwatering meals; a bright Indian supper, humble homity pie, irresistible Italianate gnocchi, and a hearty Alpine tartiflette

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I used to grow potatoes as a farmhand living in Dorset. One of my most memorable times on the farm was spent with my headphones on playing REM’s 1991 hit Shiny Happy People, sowing potatoes on the hill overlooking the pig farm, singing at the top of my voice. Farming acres of potatoes can be a chore – even accompanied by your favourite cheesy tune – but in your own allotment, growing and harvesting potatoes is one of the most rewarding agricultural experiences you can have.

If you don’t grow your own, the trick to buying a good potato is to find them fresh and dirty. They should have a flaky skin and be cloaked in a layer of dirt, which protects them from light and bruising. Store them in the fridge with the soil on before transforming them into one – or all – of the below.

To make a batch of steamed potatoes (with homemade butter and chives)
Steamed potatoes take on all the juices from the dressing, packing plenty of flavour. It’s not every day that you might want to make your own butter, but it’s a special treat worth the effort. Steaming is an efficient and quick way to cook vegetables that maximises their nutrition. Adding the bay leaf and vinegar to the steaming water adds further depth of flavour.

Makes 8-10 generous portions
2kg of potatoes such as Desiree or King Edwards, cleaned
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
20g chives, chopped into 1-3cm pieces
Salt

For the homemade butter (makes about 300g)
300g heavy (whipping) cream
200g creme fraiche
Zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon (optional)
1 tsp sea salt

1 First, make the butter. Using an electric whisk, mix all the ingredients for 5-10 minutes, or until the cream thickens then separates into butter and buttermilk. Strain the butter. Keep the buttermilk in the fridge to put on your muesli or make soda bread (see recipe below). Knead the butter into a ball, rinse in cold water then roll up into a sausage wrapped in parchment.

2 Cut any large potatoes in half so they are all roughly the same size. Put 12cm of salted water in the bottom pan of a steamer (or use a saucepan and sieve), and add the bay leaf and vinegar, if using. Put the top part of the steamer full of potatoes on top and place the lid on (if you don’t have a steamer big enough, cook in batches). Steam for around 20 minutes . Check they are cooked by pricking them with a knife – they should be soft. Remove from the heat and toss with 100g of the butter, a pinch of salt and the chives.
The spiced side: Crushed bombay potatoes
Bombay potatoes were always a favourite in my family household. They are simple to make, full of flavour and – especially when made from leftover potatoes – very cheap to make.

Serves 2
500g steamed potatoes
1 egg yolk
140g wholemeal flour, preferably spelt, plus more if necessary
50ml extra virgin olive oil
50g turnip greens or spinach, thoroughly washed
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

1 Put a pan of salted water on to boil, then bring down to a simmer.

2 Cut the potatoes into 3-4cm cubes, then mash until smooth. Season to taste, add the egg yolk and flour, then knead into a ball. If it feels a bit wet, add a little more flour.

3 Split the dough into two balls. One at a time, dust each piece with flour and roll into a long sausage about 2cm thick. Cut into 3cm-long pieces, and dust with flour again.

4 Drop the gnocchi into the simmering water for 5 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon or sieve.

5 To make the turnip top sauce, warm the olive oil over a medium heat. When hot, add the turnip greens, garlic, lemon juice and anchovies. Fry gently for 2 minutes, or until the turnip tops begin to wilt. Add the hot gnocchi and turn in the sauce. Season with black pepper.

The humble lunch: Leftover cheese homity pie

I was brought up eating Crank’s delicious wholemeal recipe for homity pie. This recipe is a variation, but to keep to its humble roots, I’ve suggested using up your odds and ends of cheese.

Serves 4-6
1 large onion, sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced 
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Sprig of thyme, leaves picked
A glug of light olive oil, for frying
500g steamed potatoes 
150ml double cream
4 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
200g mixed cheese offcuts

For the pastry
200g wholemeal flour, preferably spelt, plus more to dust
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten 
A pinch of salt
4 tbsp cold water

1 Set the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. To make the pastry case, blitz the flour, butter, egg and salt until combined, then add the water. Pulse three times, adding another tablespoon of water if it is not forming into a ball. Bring the dough together with your hands. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2 Meanwhile, slowly saute the onion, leek and garlic with the thyme for 20 minutes, or until soft and caramelised. Mix in the potatoes, cream and parsley. Taste, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

3 Roll out the pastry and line a 25cm high-sided tart case with it, allowing the sides to drape over. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 15‑20 minutes, or until it starts to colour. Set aside to cool, then carefully cut off the excess pastry with a bread knife.

4 Fill the pastry case with the potato mixture. Grate the hard cheeses and cut the soft cheeses into small pieces, then arrange on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling with some charred spots. Allow to cool a little before serving.

The winter warmer: Tartiflette

On my last visit to the Alps, we arrived as the first snow fell. Our host treated us to a homemade tartiflette and told us how it marks the beginning of winter. 

Serves 2
500g steamed potatoes 
100g bacon lardons
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
200g reblochon cheese

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cut the potatoes into 3-4cm cubes. Using an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat, fry the bacon until it browns. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind. Fry the sliced onion in the bacon fat for 10 minutes over a medium heat, then add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.

2 Return the bacon to the pan along with the diced potatoes. Mix together and season, if necessary.

3 Cut the reblochon cheese in half across the middle, making two discs, and place on top of the potatoes. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Tom Hunt is an eco chef, director of Poco restaurant in London and Bristol and author of The Natural Cook (Quadrille)

This post originally appeared on The Guardian.

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