Mum's roast potatoes

Friday nights at my childhood home were something to behold. My mother (who despite working a long day) came into her culinary own. The menu, chopped liver, egg and onion, chicken soup, roast chicken and vegetables, apple pie and cream, was nothing short of a marvel. For me though (and my four siblings) the highlight was always the roast potatoes. These little gems, of which there were never enough, were the size of eggs, crisp and crunchy on the outside and yet always fluffy and light in the middle. Watching my mother prepare her spuds with effortless ease I wondered how it was that so many roast potatoes I had eaten elsewhere were either dry and brittle to the point of teeth-breaking, or sponge-soggy.

Now I know there are many routes to roast potato nirvana (Gary Rhodes and Simon Hopkinson both have fantastic recipes that could not be more different, each truly wonderful). Yes, it’s true that roasting your potatoes in beef dripping, goose fat or some other animal based product adds flavour and coating in flour and shallow frying guarantees crunch. And yes, you can travel the length of the country to find the perfect potato for roasting. But is all this truly necessary? I say emphatically no! I swear by mum’s rules and methods and it has served me (and my guests) exceedingly well over the years. Here it is in all its glorious simplicity for you.


  • firm, white potatoes (at least one per person)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt


  • large saucepan
  • colander
  • potato peeler (or sharp knife)
  • roasting dish (absolutely not non-stick)
  • preheat oven to 375°F


  1. Peel the potatoes making sure you get rid of all the eyes and marks. Cut them in half and, if they are large enough, half again. You don’t want them too small!
  2. Submerge the potatoes into a pan of warm water with plenty of salt (perhaps a couple of teaspoons). Bring to a rapid boil and continue to boil for around 8 minutes. If you can stab the potato with ease all the way through, they are overdone and will make excellent mash.
  3. Meanwhile, pour enough olive oil into your roasting dish so that the bottom is covered well. Put the dish in the oven to heat the oil.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and leave them to stand for no less than a minute and no more than 10. This way, any excess water should have evaporated.
  5. Remove the roasting dish when you are certain the oil is very hot. Give the colander a shake to gently roughen the edges of the potatoes and then carefully lay them into the roasting dish. Watch out for oil splashes. Lift the edge of the dish to collect oil in one corner and, using a good spoon, deftly collect excess oil and pour it over the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt. (I know some of you will want to pepper the potatoes at this point, which is fine. I don’t though for two reasons. First, I think the potatoes are better flavoured by adding the pepper after cooking and also they look better without!)
  6. Return the dish to the oven and cook for around 25 minutes.
  7. Remove the dish, turn the potatoes over, baste, and cook for another 25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

What you should know

I enjoy adding some robust fresh herbs to the potatoes midway through the roasting process. For lamb roast, rosemary works really well scattered among the spuds. Thyme is good for beef. Also, be sure to cook a few extra so you can test them towards the end of the cooking process without diminishing the pot too much! Anyway, chef’s treat.

Re: Mum's roast potatoes

I just tried these and they’re so good!

Re: Mum's roast potatoes

Hands down this is the most popular side dish in my repertoire. Time and time again our dinner guests compliment me on the roast potatoes and my kids love it as much as they love my french fries.

The secret is in pre-heating the oil. Don’t skip this step.

Also, I don’t bother with pealing the potatoes. It ads a nice rustic taste — and makes it that much quicker and easier.

Re: Mum's roast potatoes