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The potato aisle in any supermarket is probably the largest section devoted to one grocery item, with sizes ranging from marbles to boulders and a selection of colours – white, pink, red and even purple varieties are commonly available. But with such a bewildering array of spuds to choose from, how do you know which is best for your dish? Here's our whistle-stop guide to the world of tatties.
The workhorse of the potato world, the vast proportion of potatoes in store will be labelled 'white', 'floury' or 'baking'. They're multipurpose and good for everything from boiling to frying. Check the variety: King Edward is great for baked jackets; Maris Piper is renowned as the ultimate chip potato; and Vivaldi is great for boiling.
Not to be confused with 'new' potatoes (see below), salad potatoes are small and have a dense, waxy texture that helps them hold their shape well when cooked. Usually boiled for potato salads, Anya and Charlotte are two of the tastiest common varieties. They're also great roasted, and you can get miniature 'baby' varieties for barbecuing on skewers or baking whole in a salt crust to serve as part of a crudités platter.
A seasonal treat, new potatoes are usually small and waxy, like salad potatoes, but the true new potato is one that is freshly dug, not stored as most other varieties are, with a loose, thin skin you can rub off with your thumb. Jersey Royals are the crème de la crème of new potatoes and at the peak of their season in May they need nothing more than briefly steaming and serving up with a knob of butter and a generous twist of pepper.
As well as the usual white, pink and red varieties usually have an intensely coloured skin and a creamy white or yellow flesh. There are also purple potatoes, which are coloured all the way through and keep their garish hue when cooked. The purple varieties don't vary much in flavour from a standard white spud – they're pretty versatile and can be used for mash, roasties (pictured above) or chips.
The pink- and red-skinned varieties, such as Desiree, are particularly good for potato wedges and tray bakes, as they tend to be a teensy bit waxy as well as floury, which means they holds their shape well, plus the beautiful skin can be left on when cooking to add colour to a dish. Try them sliced into thin wedges, tossed with crushed garlic, rosemary, paprika and a splash of oil, then roasted in a hot oven for a delicious snack to nibble while watching the rugby.