There are three crucial things that I think make the difference here: the first is the heat of the fat – if it’s not searingly hot, you don’t stand a chance, and since goose fat has a very high smoking point and tastes good, it is my annual choice. The second is the size of your potatoes – you want them relatively small, so that the ratio of crunchy outside to fluffy interior is optimised. Finally, dredging the potatoes – and this is a family practice, inherited through the maternal line – in semolina rather than flour after parboiling, then rattling the pan around to make the potatoes a bit mashed on the surface so they catch more in the hot fat, is a major aid. The roast potatoes become vegan if you roast them in solid vegetable fat or oil.
SERVES 10-16 AS PART OF THE CHRISTMAS FEAST, OR 8-10 IF NOT
2 x 320g jars goose fat
2.5kg potatoes, such as King Edward
2 tbsp semolina
- Preheat the oven to 250C/230C fan/gas 9. If you don’t have a double oven, you will have to do this as soon as the turkey is out of your single oven, which, for me, is very much later than the parboiling stage.
- Put the fat into a large roasting tin then into the oven to heat up, and get frighteningly hot – 20-30 minutes should do it.
- Peel the potatoes and cut each one into three by cutting off each end at a slant so that you are left with a wedge or triangle in the middle.
- Put the potatoes into salted, cold water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil, letting them cook for 4 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander, then tip them back into the empty, dry saucepan, and sprinkle the semolina over.
- Shake the potatoes around to coat them well and, with the lid clamped on, give the pan a good rotate and the potatoes a proper bashing so that their edges fuzz and blur a little: this facilitates the crunch effect later. I leave them to rest at this stage. If you don’t, you’ll need to have preheated the oven earlier!
- When the fat is as hot as it can be, carefully tip the semolina-coated potatoes into it (they splutter terrifically as you put them in) and roast in the oven for an hour or until they are darkly golden and crispy, turning them over halfway through cooking.
- If the oven’s hot enough, they may well not need more than about 25 minutes a side; but it’s better to let them sit in the oven (you can always pour off most of the fat) till the very last minute.
- When everything else is served up, transfer the potatoes to a large (warmed if possible) serving dish and bring to the table with pride in your heart.
MAKE AHEAD Peel the potatoes the day before. Keep submerged, whole, in cold water in a cold place. Drain, cut and cover with fresh, salted water to parboil and then roast as directed.
Food styling: Emily Kidd. Prop styling: Luis Peral. Photo assistant & retouching: Sophie Bronze. Food styling assistant: Susanna Unsworth. Recipes taken from Nigella Express, At My Table, Feast, Simply Nigella, Nigella Christmas, Cook Eat Repeat. For more, visit nigella.com.