By Janine Cobain
In the height of BBQ season, the humble potato salad becomes a summer favourite on the al fresco menu.
Made from a base of boiled potatoes, this versatile side dish originated in Germany before making its way across Europe to America in the 19th century.
Originally served warm in southern Germany with a base of beef broth, it became the cold, mayonnaise bound accompaniment on its travels north.
Whether you’re looking for a hearty side dish to feed a crowd, a simple accompaniment for a picnic, or a comforting meal for one, follow these steps to make your perfect potato salad.
- Building blocks
Potato salad is one of those recipes that you can make your own with simple twists, such as the addition of bacon, pickles, or anchovies, but the building blocks of the dish are potatoes, sauce, and vegetables, herbs, and seasoning to give it a flavoursome kick.
- The personal touch
For those wanting an easy life grab the nearest bag of potatoes, a jar of mayonnaise, some red onion, a few chives, and you have the makings of a great salad. If you want to be more creative then spend some time developing a signature dish to impress your diners.
There are more than 500 varieties of potato grown around the world so let’s not get too caught up in the choice, but whereas floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper and King Edwards make great roast potatoes, they tend to fall apart when boiled. For this salad, choose a waxy potato such as Desiree or Charlotte, or if you’re happy to leave some skin on, then scrub some new potatoes.
Mayonnaise is the most popular sauce for potato salad (and if you’re all out to show off, why not make your own?) but the more calorie conscious can substitute the full-fat variety for a mix of low fat mayonnaise and crème fraiche. If you’re a total mayonnaise dodger, a mix of Greek yoghurt, olive oil, and lemon juice makes a great alternative.
The true personalisation of this recipe comes from the additions to the basic potato and sauce mix. Choose from cooked bacon, chopped red onion, celery, capers or gherkins, anchovies, mint, chives, parsley, or even a sprinkling of paprika for a little decorative kick to make a dish that ticks all your boxes.
If you’re taking the time to prepare this from scratch and not just lift one off the supermarket shelf, then it’s worth experimenting with different combinations until you get one that is perfect for you.
- Making the masterpiece
Masterpiece might be pushing it as this is probably one of the easiest dishes you could ever make.
Peel or scrub your chosen potatoes and boil until cooked.
Meanwhile, chop your additions (onions, bacon, capers etc), prepare your sauce, and mix them together.
Once the potatoes are cooked, chop while warm, and pour your sauce mix over them, stirring gently to ensure the potatoes are fully coated.
Finish off with your chopped herb of choice or a dusting of paprika.
If you’ve had the potato salad outdoors or as part of a buffet for more than a couple of hours, your best move would be to throw it away – better safe than sorry.
If you’ve made it fresh and want to store it until needed, then pop it in an airtight container or cover with Clingfilm and it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
While you can technically freeze potato salad, mayonnaise has a tendency to separate on thawing and potatoes go mushy, so would you want to?
- Making a meal of it
While there’s a case for eating freshly made potato salad from the bowl with a thickly buttered chunk of French bread (just not in front of the Carb Police), it is usually a side dish.
Potato salad is one of the simplest recipes to increase to feed a crowd and it’s perfect for a BBQ or buffet, but is equally at home with a gammon steak or grilled fish.
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