Let us face it, most of the time plain boiled potatoes are pretty dreary. Even baby new potatoes that are not over-cooked still fire up passion only vanishingly rarely. Yet, I rather like Jersey Royals – they have a flavour and interest-level few other spuds can match. Why is this so? Partly because of the variety and location they are grown, that much seems obvious. However, I feel a lot of their character comes from the fact that they make it into the shops rather rapidly. My chum Mr T who is a Jersey-bean tells me they are best cooked within half an hour of being dug up, and for once he may not be embellishing the truth. Freshness is an important part of many vegetable experiences and I cannot see why it should be any different for potatoes. The portion I noshed on for dinner really did it for me. Don’t forget you need to slather them with butter.
With our fish and potatoes we had some Grand Cru white Burgundy. It was a type example of why one should not serve quality Chardonnay at fridge temperature and ideally give it a bit of air (as long as the bleeder is not already oxidised). As we sniffed and swirled this wine grew in personality from being somewhat anodyne to being a classy, if not ultimately lustrous, example of the genre.[image image_id=”5172″ size=”medium” align=”left”]
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2001, Paul Pernot
Now this has shaken off its fridge-induced reticence it has a very expressive nose, part of which, I cannot deny, is a shade of sulphur that I heartily approve of as it has stopped the onset of the dreaded premature-oxidation. There is some toasty, buttery character brought about by the beginnings of being fully mature and its richly ripe lemon fruit is very attractive. I’m getting a bit of creamy minerality, but not as much as I’d hope for: indeed, whilst there is a lot to enjoy here I feel a there is the suggestion it is lacking a tiny bit of dimension. To be fair, it is a lovely nose, it just doesn’t throb with the winning refulgence of some I’ve had recently. Good density on the palate allied to a great acidity keeping it spritely and spunky. Yeah, serious energy all right, will keep for longer. Again, there is minerality, but not of a degree to write home about. But I am home and writing. Hmmm… I’ll deal with the logical conundrums when I’ve finished my glass. The same goes for its length, I’d expect a bit more persistence of flavour. Fruit is nice, most definitely, the polished, suave texture is winning and I am so pleased they have not titted about with masses of unnecessary new oak. A very goog bottle of white Burgundy that has time left to develop and improve. For all that, I am gruntled I paid €40 for it rather than the London price of £70.
Mr T is quite right to point out that Royals are best consumed within thirty minutes of being dug. Sadly, unless one is fortunate enough to actually grow Royals (as I am), this is nigh on impossible. A couple of years ago, Royals sold in the Jersey branch of M&S were packed in Jersey, shipped to England, sorted in M&S’s main depot, and shipped back to Jersey for sale. How crazy is that?!
If you are going to buy Royals in the shops, be sure to go for the pre-packed and washed variety; whilst what we term “loose flow” may look fresher (mud on the spud, loose in a crate, etc), they are far more prone to skin damage. Waitrose and Sainsbury’s pre-packed Royals are probably the best (declaration of interest — Dad grows for Sainsbury’s!). Don’t forget to put them straight in the fridge when you get home — Royals hate being at room temperature.
As far as cooking is concerned, I do not understand the obsession with covering Royals in butter, mint, chive, or whatever else. It almost certainly comes from the fact that Royals cooked and eaten over here are not as fresh as those in Jersey. The longer a Royal is out of the ground, the less fantastic the flavour. There can also be a bitterness to the finish, which comes from the skins. Slathering Royals with butter can, to some extent, help to mask this bitterness. My fool-proof method is to plunge Royals into heavily salted (at least two tablespoons) boiling water, and leave for at least 15 minutes. Do not believe the chefs who tell you that Royals should be cooked for 8-10 minutes — Royals should never be al dente. After 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the spud), drain, put the spuds back in the pan, cover them and let them steam for five minutes. Steaming them at the end is the key to great Royals. Just ask Mr T!
Excellent Dan, thanks for the information – I feel enlightened!
Daniel is quite right. Really the best method is to go for a 2/3 boil followed by a 1/3 steam. Heavily salted water is very important. I am not as much as purist as Richardson pere who argues for a completely unadorned spud as I enjoy a little butter. I am not sure what mint will do. It comes down to the quality of your royal really. Knackered and past it (the “Fergie”) or fresh and fruity (the “Pippa”). Some old fools hanker for the old days when things were better (The “Di”) but they are wrong and bad also. Some horrible things are done in the name of novelty. The worst I can think of is to serve the royal with a disgusting melange of maple syrup and bacon “bits”. No. Lydia, the world’s most discerning three year old, enjoys a slice of very rare turbot with a slather of Jersey mash made according to the Robuchon spec. She has a point.