Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jersey Royals with Mint #FoodieExtravaganza


Freshly dug Jersey Royal potatoes, boiled to tender perfection with mint and lavished with butter, are the perfect side dish to accompany any meal. Or just eat them alone, out of the bowl, with a spoon. 

When our Foodie Extravaganza theme of potatoes was chosen for August, I knew exactly what I was going to share: how to cook and best enjoy Jersey Royal potatoes. Now, if you can't get these where you live, you can substitute another thin-skinned new potato. But if you ever have the chance at some real Jersey Royals, don't let it get away! The official website says you can only buy them in the United Kingdom or in the Channel Islands, but my local grocery store in Dubai imported a number of kilos earlier this year.

A little history
Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, is well known, at least on the European side of the Atlantic, for growing wonderful potatoes, and they've been doing it for centuries. By 1879 many varieties of potatoes were grown on the island but that particular spring, up sprouted a plant that produced a unique kidney shaped tuber and it was duly dubbed the Jersey Royal Fluke. Ever since, Jersey Royals – the only potato with an official EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status - have been planted by hand on Jersey and fertilized with the nutrient rich seaweed, called vraic, which the tides deposit with regularity on the gleaming shores. Many attribute the fresh taste of Jersey Royals to this organic fertilizer.

A little personal history
My husband Simon’s grandparents moved to the island from England back in the 1960s, choosing to retire there, I’m sure, for myriad reasons, not the least of which was its tax-free status, proximity to the UK and its incredible natural beauty and abundant fresh produce. The first time I visited, summer of 1992 it was, we were living in Paris so we sped to Rennes on the snazzy TGV bullet train, hopped a regional train to St. Malo on the Brittany coast and then rode the waves on the ferry over to Jersey, hauling luggage, a travel cot and our 18-month-old toddler. But that fraught journey is a story for another day. Arriving on the island made it all worthwhile.

One sneak peek of the beauty. This is the view from the headland two minutes walk from our home.
I can't get enough of the gorgeous purple heather and the deep blue sea.


Simon’s delightfully eccentric Uncle John met us at the port and we sped home through the tight lanes, salty wind gusting through the open windows, his rattling old Volvo narrowly missing the ancient stone walls at almost every turn. We passed St. Helier, the main city on our right, bustling with shoppers and business folks. Farther along, beautiful St. Aubin’s Bay reflected the brilliant blue sky on our left, the summer sun highlighting Elizabeth Castle and brave swimmers paddling in the chilly water while families built sandcastles on the golden beach. We took a sharp right turn up a hill then nipped in to the left into a tiny gap in the great walls I would barely have noticed if we hadn’t turned. It was the Lucas Brothers farm shop where Uncle John bought all his vegetables – crisp cabbage, just dug carrots, beets and onions, fresh picked leafy greens and French beans among other things and, of course, Jersey Royal potatoes, the protective dirt still clinging to their paper thin skins.

Last week I was in Jersey, as I have been many times over the last 23 years, turning sharply in to Lucas Brothers farm shop two times in only three days, to buy Jersey Royals, and more Jersey Royals. Because when you are on the island during Royal season – April through July generally, depending on weather – that is what you want to eat. And, as far as tradition is concerned, there is only one way to cook them that lets the gorgeous natural taste of the Royals shine through. Many thanks to our next-door neighbor and Jersey cook extraordinaire, Mary, who taught me this so many years ago.

Ingredients
Jersey Royal potatoes, at room temperature
Few sprigs fresh mint
Butter
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method
Proper Jersey Royals still have all the dirt attached because it protects the tender skin and keeps the potatoes from getting bruised.


Rub the Royals by hand under some cool water to remove the dirt and any papery skins that are loose.



Put them in a large pot and cover with fresh water. Add in the sprigs of mint and some salt. I’ve since read on the internet that some folks advocate using seawater but I’ve never gone that far.



Bring the pot to a boil and then cook over a medium flame until a sharp knife poked in the Royals goes in easily, about 20 minutes.

Drain the Royals and add in a large chunk of fresh butter. Don't be shy here. It's Royal season, a time for generosity of spirit and extra butter.

Sprinkle with additional salt, a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and stir gently.

Garnish with more mint, if desired. Put the butter on the table for anyone who wants to add more to their Royals. If it’s fresh Jersey butter, I’m guaranteeing they will.



Enjoy!

Are you a potato fan? Check out all the lovely potato dishes my Foodie Extravaganza friends are sharing today.



Foodie Extravaganza is where we celebrate obscure food holidays or cook and bake together with the same ingredient or theme each month. Many thanks to this month's host, Kathleen from Fearlessly Creative Mammas who honored her Idaho heritage by inviting us to share our favorite potato recipes.

Posting day is always the first Wednesday of each month. If you are a blogger and would like to join our group and blog along with us, come join our Facebook page Foodie Extravaganza. We would love to have you!

If you're a reader looking for delicious recipes check out our Foodie Extravaganza Pinterest Board! Looking for our previous parties? Check them out HERE.


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