Mashed Spuds, the world’s greatest dish

My favourite dish as a child was mashed potatoes on thickly buttered white bread. Later (not so long ago) I added fresh herbs and cut down on the butter on the bread, but not in the potatoes. It is still my favourite.

I can’t think of anything more acceptable to eat at any time, at any place. No matter how far up the market you go, you’ll find potatoes, and classy chefs working their whisks off to do something just a little different, just a little better than the joint down the road.

At Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris, I remember the combination of finely sliced potatoes and truffles as a true classic. Finely sliced potatoes with a touch of mash to hold them together and shaves of fresh, very expensive truffle in between.

Flash restaurants do flash things with mashed potatoes too. Restaurant Robuchon in Paris is rated one of the best in the world; I haven’t been there, after being turned away at the front door one forlorn day, but those who have don’t talk about the crayfish, or truffles, or lamb, or pheasant – they hold forth about the mashed potatoes.

Greg Brown at Melbourne’s Browns restaurant helped me out with his recipe for something similar. It’s hardly the simple mash of my mum: it’s made up of one-third mashed potatoes, one-third cream, and one-third butter, and seasoning. Yikes! There’s more. You add the cream to the mashed potatoes in a pan, then finish the dish with the butter. And then you pass the whole lot through the finest of sieves four times before serving. Yabba dabba doo!

That sort of labour is one of the reasons you pay big money to eat at flash restaurants. Mashed potatoes at home are not like that, but they must be more than just well-cooked potatoes, given a bit of life with butter and squashed. They should be filled with all sorts of surprise flavours. They don’t have be whizzed to a puree, but are lovely with a little chunkiness, letting you know there’s still a little bit of the rustic in our lives.

6 large floury potatoes, in their skins

1/2 L milk

50g butter

1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped roughly

small bunch of tarragon leaves removed from the stem, or chives, chopped roughly

black pepper salt


Boil or steam the potatoes until they take easily to the knife. You might think you have too much. You can never have too much mashed potato.


Allow them to cool a little, peel them, and mash roughly with a masher or the back of a strong fork.


Bring the milk to the boil and add it to the potatoes on a gentle heat, stirring it through as you go. It is better if there is little re-heating to be done, but the difference in flavour, given all the things that can happen at home, is so minute it won’t be noticed.


When the potatoes are well warmed through, fold in the butter and add the herbs, black pepper and salt. The herbs should be rather chunky as well. Mash again, as before, making sure the milk is well incorporated. This dish should feel rustic, right to the end.