I think everyone who has ever met me knows how I feel about potatoes. Pretty much a full food group in my life, I am never without a bag of spuds. My idea of treating myself is to buy a different sort for each recipe and mull over the merits of Anyas, King Edwards, Desirees and Kerr Pinks. I’ve even grown my own and spent hours on the internet trying to find the elusive Yukon Gold. I’m either slightly obessive or painfully stereotypically Irish.
So imagine how pained I was when I went to buy a bag of bog basic white spuds last week and they were a mindbending £2.40 for 2.5 kilos. At the rate I consume potatoes that’s bumped my shopping budget up to a point where there’s just not much wiggle room. I had two options: stop eating potatoes or find a cheaper option.
Obviously I went for the latter and decided to play around with the bag of Sainsbury’s Basics Instant Mashed Potato I bought a while back as a cheaper gluten free alternative to breadcrumbs and batter. 125g of dry mash and 150ml milk and 425ml water makes 695g of mash, meaning one 250g bag costing 49p makes well over a kilo of mash.
Unfortunately I have bad memories of instant mash from school dinners where it came served in uniform scoops with a oddly powdery texture. It needed so much butter that it would be heartstopping in cost and health consequences. So what was I going to do with my mountain of mash now?
Older, wiser and more versed in the potato dishes of the world, that’s an easy one. I’m going to make gnocchi with it. And potato bread. Then I’m going to marvel at how quick both are and how I suddenly feel like one of those home economics teachers from the 70s by telling you this.
Gnocchi: serves 2
- 695g instant mashed potato (cooked weight)
- 175g plain flour
- salt and pepper
Make your instant mash according the instructions (you can use all water if you’re lactose intolerant). Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then add in about 145g of the plain flour, mixing well. I do this when wearing rubber gloves because I have the opposite of asbestos hands and can’t handle hot stuff easily.
The dough should become soft and supple but slightly sticky. If it’s just sticky, add the other 30g of flour in and knead until it’s right. Divide the mixture in half and put half of it on a floured work surface. Leave half in the pan and then divide the portion on the surface in half again.
Roll each half out into a long snake about an inch thick and then cut into 3/4 inch pieces with a sharp knife. Press each one with the tines of a fork and place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. These can be made in advance and kept covered with a tea towel until needed or they can be frozen at this stage.
I cooked mine by boiling them for about 3 minutes or until they floated to the top of the pan. I drained them before serving with a mixture of fresh and confit tomatoes, fresh basil and parmesan and they were fantastic. Very light, not at all rubbery and much more successful than my previous attempts. I might oven bake or fry them next time for cheap luxury.
You’ll be wondering what happens with the other half of the mash. You can of course make more gnocchi with it and freeze it, but I used it to make potato bread for my favourite breakfast. It’s basically the rolled out version of the gnocchi dough, but fried for added loveliness.
Take the remaining dough and place on a floured surface. Roll out to a about a 1cm thick and then cut into 6 farls or pieces. Wrap in layers of greaseproof paper, folding it over on each farl to keep them from sticking and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze until needed.
In total, both dishes took about 15 minutes to make including doing the mash and without the extra washing up and prep of a normal potato. I’m still not sure I’d tuck into a big plate of plain instant mash, but for gnocchi and tattie bread, I’m not sure I’ll go back! Time to smash the potato-archy!