Variety show

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am

Steamed, mashed, baked, roasted, deep-fried or sauteed, the potato is a versatile vegetable that can be whipped up for comfort food or finessed for fine dining. Butter and cream work magic with it but the only limit to its use is your imagination. These dishes can be served with a meat accompaniment or a simple green salad.

Potato and egg brik (pictured)

Brik has almost as many spelling variations - borek, burek and brick - as it does fillings. Large briks are often baked and cut into single-serve pieces; individual portions are usually fried.

I use filo dough and recommend the Pampas brand because it's the right size. If it's frozen, defrost the filo in the fridge and, when you're ready to use it, take out the number of sheets you need and wrap the rest securely in cling film to stop it from drying out. Fry the filo parcels immediately after wrapping them because the moisture in the potatoes will make the dough soggy.

For the filling:

450 grams baking potatoes

80 grams unsalted butter

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

5-6 eggs

Optional ingredients: chopped parsley; about 60 grams soft goat's cheese; half a can of tuna, well drained; fried garlic and shallots; about 80 grams feta, cut into cubes

Lemon wedges, for serving

For the wrapping:

5-6 sheets of filo dough

About 60 grams unsalted butter, melted

Oil, for frying

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Peel the potatoes, cut them into even-sized chunks and boil until just tender. Drain the potato then mash it until smooth (a ricer works well for this). Stir in the butter and season to taste. Add optional ingredients as desired and mix well.

Take one sheet of filo and lay it on a clean, dry surface with the short end facing you (cover the sheets you're not using with plastic wrap and a clean dish cloth). Brush the top half evenly with melted butter then fold it in half to make a rectangle. Spoon about 90 grams of the filling into the centre of the filo. Shape the filling into a 7cm square and make a deep indentation in the centre. Crack the egg and separate out the white (reserve it for another use). Carefully place the yolk in the indentation. Fold one corner of the filo over the potato/egg yolk to cover it completely then brush the top with melted butter. Repeat using the opposite corner, then the remaining two, brushing with butter each time. The last corner should be tucked firmly under the parcel.

After all the parcels are wrapped, heat oil in a skillet to a depth of about 6cm. When the oil is 180 degrees Celsius, fry the parcels for about 45 seconds on each side (the yolks should be runny). Fry the brik in batches; do not crowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with lemon wedges and plenty of napkins to catch the egg drips.

Potato croquettes with ham and spring onions

This can be made with leftover mashed potato as long as it doesn't contain too much cream, which will make the croquettes too soft.

300 grams baking potatoes

50 grams unsalted butter

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

60 grams boiled ham, chopped

2 spring onions, diced

2 large eggs, divided

Panko breadcrumbs, for breading

Oil, for frying

Cook and mash the potatoes as in the first recipe and add the butter and seasoning. Thoroughly mix in the ham, onion and one beaten egg. Cool completely and shape into patties about 4cm in diameter and about 1.5cm thick. Place the patties on a cling film-lined baking tray and refrigerate for about two hours.

Heat oil in a skillet to a depth of about 2cm. Dip the patties into beaten egg then dredge in breadcrumbs.

Fry until golden and drain on paper towels.

Potatoes dauphinoise

Use thin-skinned local potatoes (preferably) or baking potatoes. New potatoes are waxy and don't absorb the cream in the same way.

If you like a thick layer of rich, creamy potato, use a deep pan with a smaller surface area; if you want more of the golden crust, choose a larger, shallower pan. It's a good idea to put the pan on a flat baking sheet; it makes cleaning up easier if the cream bubbles over.

1 kg potatoes

650ml cream

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Peel the potatoes and slice them about 3mm thick (this is easy if you have a mandoline). Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the potato and cook for about three minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat the cream in a saucepan, add the sliced garlic, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt. Bring the cream to a simmer then cool for about five minutes. Layer the potato in the baking dish and pour the cream evenly over the top. Bake for about one hour or until the potato is tender and has absorbed most of the cream.

styling Vivian Herijanto