Throwback Thursday: Potato salad
Nothing says home and hearth like a potato salad. But it can be made more of than the ubiquitous one thrown together and plonked on the side table at a braai.
A mental scan of the global food map quickly brings up Ireland, Germany and Russia when the topic at hand is the humble potato. Russia for its Olivier Salad, Germany for having supposedly invented the potato salad, and Ireland because, well, potatoes. Add leeks and you have a soup, add France and you have Vichyssoise.
But the reach of this most humble of household vegetables, second only to the onion in its ubiquity, is far broader. In America you’ll often get hard boiled eggs and celery in your potato salad. The world-famous Russian cold potato repast called Olivier Salad includes carrots, pickles and various optional additional ingredients ranging from eggs and peas to apple, celeriac and cucumber.
Variations on a potato salad from elsewhere range from the “Italiensk” salad of Denmark and Norway to the Maionese of Brazil and the Dutch hussars’ salad, for all of which we thank Wikipedia.
All of which makes a point worth making: that a potato salad is potentially a far more versatile thing than the ubiquitous potatoes plus mayonnaise. At the very least you’re likely to use some chopped onion, and throw in some chives and garlic, and a herb such as parsley or thyme.
To soup up that mayo you can whisk in a little mustard. But we can open the spice cupboard for a potato salad too, and pickles can come into play as well. Smoked salmon and dill will turn a potato salad into something extraordinary. Add bacon to one, as to so many things, and you’re on a new level.
For the salad recipe below, I toasted some cumin seeds and chopped up a tablespoon or two of capers. I also stirred a little of the caper brine into the mayonnaise. And a dab of mustard never goes amiss in anything to do with mayonnaise and, for that matter, capers.
Here’s my recipe for potato salad with capers, red onion and lemon zest.
(Serves 6 t0 10 as a side dish)
6 large potatoes
1 small red onion, sliced and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 or 2 Tbsp capers chopped roughly
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
Zest of 1 lemon (leave the lemon intact and reserve its juice for something else)
Good quality mayonnaise (I used Mayu, in the absence of You-Know-What)
Salt and black pepper
Peel the potatoes. Boil or steam them until tender but not so soft that they start to disintegrate. About 20 to 25 minutes usually does the trick. Let them cool to room temperature before completing the salad.
Toast the cumin seeds in a hot, dry pan; don’t let them burn. Chop the onion and garlic. And the capers. Grate the lemon zest and pick the leaves off a few sprigs of thyme.
Spoon plenty of mayonnaise into a bowl (not the presentation bowl) and add all the other ingredients except the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Toss the cooled potatoes through using two wooden spoons, slowly and delicately. Spoon the salad into an attractive presentation bowl and garnish with thyme. DM/TGIFood
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.
This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.