The humble potato is more than just a ground vegetable named after a king (King Edward) or a comely Lincolnshire aunt (Maris Piper). Sometimes the story linked to a spud can go back centuries, as I recently discovered, and need not me named after a single person, but rather an entire civilization.
Working on a daily magazine show which covers a generous span of topics means that sometimes, you can get your hands on some really interesting stuff that are being researched for possible inclusion in a film or as a studio item.
A little while back, there was this box of fresh potatoes kicking about, among reams of standard issue photocopy paper and used TV scripts. Now these were, I was assured, no ordinary spuds but Mayan Gold – a gourmet potato hailing from, as the name suggests, South America (Peru, to be precise) and “bred from species found growing on the wilds of Peru, some of which are over 7,000 years old”.
What’s special about this edible tubor is is unique yellow flesh and delicate nutty flavour. The commissioning editor who assumed ownership of said box, patiently explained their history and speciality to little groups of people preparing their mid-afternoon contemplation about dinner menus, providing detailed instructions on how to steam them briefy before roasting them in a hot oven, and offering a few suggestion on the best roast potato. Sufficed to say Nigella Lawson did come up, as did the use of semolina. They were meant to be handled with care, the kind of treatement, I thought, which would pay tribute to their celestial-sounding origins.
Despite being exceedingly sceptical about his promise of golden, fluffy flesh and taste of nuts, I escorted the spuds home, stripped them of their basic covering and gently placed them in a bamboo steamer for a few minutes. Taking a peek a few minutes into the steaming process I was delighted to see them exhuding a heavenly yellowness. I then bruised them with a little fine grained semolina and roasted them in a hot over for about 20 minutes.
In the food show, Barefoot Contessa, Ina Gaarten talks about Yucatan Gold potatoes in much the same way as our commissioning editor did. They (the potatoes, of course) are clearely related and probably share the same gourmet-tastic status. Either way, they tasted gorgeous and I was tres pleased.