No barbecue or picnic is complete without it. But how do you make the best potato salad ever?
What kind of spud? Which dressing? How about those extras? We ask the questions that really matter in potato salad-making (and, yes, they do matter).
Not just a load of potatoes
A potato isn't just a potato. Not when it comes to potato salad, anyway. A flavoursome Jersey Royal is hard to beat when they're in season. Baby new potatoes are good, too, especially heritage and specialist varieties such as Anya and Vivaldi. Just don't use roasters such as Maris Piper or King Edward – save them for the Sunday roast.
It's really all in the cooking...
Splurging (as much as it's possible to splurge) on a spud don't mean nothing if they ain't cooked right. Overcooked is better than under (no one likes indigestion), but then we're not making mash. If we're teaching you how to suck eggs here, skip to the next step. If not, read on!
Wash your spuds and cut them into evenly sized chunks (so they cook at the same speed). Pop in a pan and cover with cold salted water until they're submerged by just a few centimetres. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a lively simmer (potatoes can take some punishment) for about 20 minutes until tender, though it really depends on the size of your spud chunks. When they're ready, you should be able to skewer one with a fork with no effort whatsoever.
Drain, then leave to cool down and dry. Try not to toss them around too much in the colander – if they're really well done, they might fall to bits.
Dress for success
You can't send these potatoes naked to the party. A classic potato salad dressing calls for mayo, so use a good one if you're feeling fancy (made with extra virgin olive oil, perhaps) and season generously – stir in a squeeze of lime or use half mayo, half crème fraîche to freshen things up.
Garlic mayo makes a speedy swap and anything buttermilk-based has a superb tang to it (unrivalled, in our opinion). Feeling exotic? Get yourself some creamed coconut, stir in and season.
For something that isn't creamy, give your spuds a glug of oil – try smoked, garlic or chilli – or use rice wine vinegar and Thai fish sauce for a flavour more far-flung.
Throw in the extras
Is there anything that bacon lardons don't improve? A smattering of spring onion is also most welcome here. Herbal heads might like to chop and add copious amounts of coriander, dill, basil or flat-leaf parsley – be careful, though, as herbs divide opinion.
Whizz up a funky pesto and stir through, add chunks of cheese or make the most of seasonal treats such as blanched asparagus, broad beans and leafy wild garlic.
Make a meal out of it
Add tasty fillers such as grilled chicken, pan-fried marinated tofu or smoked mackerel – anything with a firm texture and strong flavour goes hand in hand with soft buttery spuds – and you won't need anything else.
Get a bit spicy
Smoked paprika, a touch or turmeric, dried chilli flakes... go easy and find out what works for you.
Themed potato salads make glamorous side dishes: try Lebanese with sumac and finely chopped preserved lemon, Thai with ginger and fresh chilli or Spanish with chorizo and chickpeas. Spuds are so accommodating – that's why we love 'em.