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The Perfect Potato Salad

potato salad

I remain ever optimistic that spring, never mind summer, is just around the corner. Warm light evenings, the smell of barbecues in the air, Pimms on the patio, all the indicators of warm weather for many. But for me, I know it’s summer when it’s time to make potato salad.

Mister North and I grew up on potato salad. Family picnics and barbecues always involved a big salad bowl of it designed to last several days out. But because our mum makes the best potato salad possible, it never lasted more than one meal with the last chunk of spud highly prized.

Since we started blogging, I’ve debated whether to share this family secret with you all, but since pretty much every person who has ever tried a batch of the potato salad made the North/South Food way has asked for the recipe, I’ve decided the time has come. The secret is a little bit of milk in with the mayonnaise. Before you raise your brows, it lightens the mayo so that it coats the potatoes better and thus makes the salad creamier without being greasy or overwhelming.

I’ve grown up making this so I never weigh anything so I’m giving you a description not a list.

The Perfect Potato Salad: intended to serve 4

  • 1 kg of salad potatoes such as Charlottes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 scallions or handful dill, chopped
  • 2 big gherkins, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

You can make this with any potato really, but a firm waxy salad potato like a Charlotte is perfect. Sainsbury’s Basic Salad Potatoes at a quid a bag are simply the ones too knobbly and bobbly to make it to the Taste the Difference range. Cut your potatoes into quarters and leave the skin on. Boil for about 8 minutes or until al dente. You do not want a floury fluffy potato here so don’t overcook.

I flit between two types of potato salad, either a slightly Germanic one with lashings of chopped dill and gherkins or a more Irish version with chopped scallions. Both are delicious. I find the dill version a better basis for a meal and the scallion one a side dish.

If you are doing scallions, slice both the green and white while the potatoes are cooking. Place them in the colander you’ll use to drain the potatoes and then empty the pan of boiling water and potatoes over them. This blanches them and stops them being too oniony. Allow everything to cool for about 30 minutes.

Boil the kettle and fill a mug half full of boiling water. Place your tablespoon in it and allow it to heat up slightly. Then scoop out your mayonnaise into another mug or small bowl. Measure out half a tablespoon of milk. I use semi skimmed. You could use full fat. Mix well. You’re looking for a consistency slightly thicker than double cream, but still suitable for pouring. Add the other half tablespoon if needed (if you use the oddly textured Hellmanns, you probably will.)

Pour the mayo dressing over the still very slightly warm potatoes and the blanched scallions and mix well so it coats well. If you’re using dill instead, add it and the gherkins at this stage. Serve the salad and watch the bowl empty rapidly. My suggestion is to make a lot more than you need. There is never enough…

Ginger and Marmalade Flapjacks

When I first started baking three or four years ago I started out with flapjacks, having heard they are so simple you can even let the kids make them. They sounded foolproof. I quickly proved that wrong with several batches being so bad even the local birdlife passed them over in favour of some fried chicken bones on the path. Reminded to never to make my ungrateful feathered friends those lard and seed things Blue Peter used to tell me about, I have been in a sulk with flapjacks ever since.

An impromptu visit to The Beanery in Loughborough Junction the other day piqued my interest again with their delicious ginger flapjacks. The warm tingle of ginger lifted the oats nicely, but made with that American upstart corn syrup instead of good old British golden syrup, they lacked the stickiness I crave in a flapjack. There was nothing else for it but to try and make my own. I decided to use syrup and add the gooey-ness of a blob of homemade marmalade to really give my teeth something to sink into.

Excited by this flavour combo, but still nervous there would be a repeat of the Massive Crumblings™ of yore, I needed a failsafe recipe and safe hands. I turned to Felicity Cloake and her Perfect series, reading her recipe and all the comments from flapjack lovers underneath. It looked promising.

Ginger and Marmalade Flapjacks (adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe)

  • 150g salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark muscavado sugar
  • 3 tablespoons marmalade (pop a bit more in if it’s very coarse cut)
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 250 g porridge oats
  • sliced stem or crystallised ginger

Line a tray (I used a 23cm by 23cm one) with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 150℃. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together until bubbling gently, then add in the marmalade and as soon as it is melted, take off the heat. Put the oats and the ground ginger and sliced ginger in a bowl and add in the butter-syrup mixture, stirring well. Once you’ve marvelled at how seemingly healthy oats soak up butter like a hungry sponge, spread the mix out in the tray well, making sure you fill the corners properly. Bake for 25 minutes. I took mine out when they were still a bit anaemic looking but they darkened as the residual heat cooked them a bit more outside the oven.

Cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into pieces. I got 9 ‘I’m going on a ten mile hike’ sized chunks or 16 ‘just a mouthful ones’. I then on Felicity’s advice left them to cool completely in the tray to stop them falling apart when lifted out. The wait nearly defeated me but I was rewarded by a nice symmetrical traybake which was delightfully firey with ginger and tangy with marmalade peel and slivers of candied ginger. Best served with a cup of good strong tea, they will theoretically keep well in an airtight container, but bolstered by my first ever flapjack success, I failed to have any notable leftovers. The flapjack jinx is over!