Despite our seemingly insatiable appetite for TV cookery programmes a new survey has revealed that one in four of us in Nottinghamshire don’t even know how to boil a potato properly.
Boiling is the second most popular way of eating potatoes, after mash and yet over a quarter of the people questioned from Nottinghamshire said they didn’t know that potatoes should be boiled for between 15 and 20 minutes, either ending up with a plateful of bullets that have only been immersed in water for five to 10 minutes, or a dollop of mush that has been over boiled for between 30 to 50!
Potatoes are one of the nation’s favourite foods, with nine out of 10 of us eating them at least twice a week, according to the survey which was commissioned by GreenVale Potatoes, with total UK consumption currently standing at over two million tonnes of fresh potatoes a year.*
Leon Mundey, head of Marketing for GreenVale Potatoes, commented: “Despite all the cookery programmes on TV and the high tech gadgets in our kitchens, the survey suggests many of us aren’t getting the basics right when it comes to cooking potatoes. Perhaps we should ask Delia Smith to give us all a refresher course in boiling potatoes, just like she reminded us how to boil an egg back in 1998, so we don’t miss out on what the good old spud has to offer!”
Coming up to half (43%) of the survey respondents admitted to putting potatoes into boiling water instead of cold water which is then brought to the boil. As any potato perfectionist will tell you this can result in the potatoes being soft on the outside but still a little hard on the inside.
Many of us are also getting it wrong when it comes to testing if our boiled potatoes are ready to serve, with one in two of us inserting a knife or skewer to check for softness, whereas the correct method is to use a fork. Being blunter than a knife or skewer, the fork offers greater resistance and so provides a much better measure.
Similar tips for perfect mash are failing to be passed down the generations. Only 11 per cent of people knew that the milk should be heated prior to being added to the potato for mashing. Instead 70 per cent admitted to adding cold milk and then wondering why their mash was always a touch on the chilly side.
But luke warm or piping hot, potatoes are still something we turn to when feeling blue with a jacket potato coming in as number 2 from a list of comfort foods, behind only chocolate. Bangers and mash came in at No. 3, ahead of ice cream at No 4, chicken broth at No 5 and sticky toffee pudding at No 6.
After mash potatoes (33% per cent) and boiled potatoes (21 per cent), jacket potatoes were the third most common way of serving potatoes (18 per cent), followed by chips and roast potatoes both on 14 per cent. But when it came to our favourite dishes rather than the way we usually eat them, the survey was turned on its head with roast potatoes coming out top at 37 per cent, followed by mash (25 per cent), jackets (17 per cent), chips (13 per cent) and boiled (6 per cent).
Despite our love of potatoes, our historical knowledge of them could be better too. Only half of us were able to correctly pick out Sir Walter Raleigh, from a list of historical figures, as the person credited with bringing the first potatoes to Britain. A small number even plumped for Lord Nelson and Scott of the Antarctic!
Today’s tough economic times were reflected in the fact that three quarters of people claimed that they usually managed to avoid throwing potatoes away, making sure they use them up even though about half said they bought different types of potatoes for different cooking uses such as mashers, roasters and bakers so are likely to have different packs of potatoes in their store cupboards at any one time. The other half however, had discovered the benefits of buying an all rounder potato like GreenVale, which is versatile enough to cater for all purposes.
Nearly 80 per cent of people knew that potatoes contained many health benefits but 89 per cent of people still peel potatoes, even though many nutrients are contained in or directly under the skin.
Leon Mundey continued: “Our survey reveals that many cooking tips which have traditionally been passed down the generations are being lost as we increasingly live in a world hungry for convenience, where more and more short cuts are being adopted that actually could impair the enjoyment of our food.”