The secret to crunchy, golden roast potatoes

Partly cook potatoes before tossing in fat and roasting for a crisp finish.
Partly cook potatoes before tossing in fat and roasting for a crisp finish. Photo: Shutterstock

What is the best way to roast potatoes? W. Zau

Some like to put their potatoes in the oven with a roasting piece of meat or chicken and cook them together for an hour or so, turning the potatoes so they can get a good basting in the fat. The result is dark, delicious potatoes with a crisp finish. There are others who cut up their potatoes and cook them in vegetable oil in the oven. That's a waste of good potatoes and energy as they end up tasting like the industrially produced oil they were cooked in, as far as I'm concerned. For a crunchy roast potato, try peeling and cutting them into even pieces about the size of half an egg. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water and season with salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until half cooked. Drain. The starch in the exterior of the potato will have gelatinised (another word for gone mushy). Place the spuds back in the saucepan, season with a little salt and pepper and add some fat. This could be from a roasting chook, lamb, olive oil or butter. Toss around in the pan until the potatoes are covered in a fatty seasoned paste of their own making. Place in a roasting pan and then into the middle of an oven preheated to 220C. Bake for 25 minutes, turn, and bake for a further 25 minutes or until golden and crunchy.

I tried to get the deli department at the local supermarket to sell me their olives in my recycled plastic (food-grade) containers. They said it was against health regulations. Is that right? K. Vaughn

Are we talking about the mob who banned plastic bags one week only to replace them with plastic toy groceries the next? I think we understand their commitment to reducing plastic. Food laws and regulations are developed on a national level and implemented at a state level. There's nothing in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand food safety standards that specifically prohibits the use of recycling plastic containers. But retailers can refuse to serve their goods in your containers at their discretion. There's a great website called byocontainers.org that outlines the regulations in different locations. It also offers this safety advice for those who want to use their own containers: "Thoroughly wash (containers) in 54-60C water with detergent, rinse, sanitise by immersing in 77-80C hot water for at least 30 seconds, then air dry." If you want change, contact your supermarket to let them know your point of view.

Letters

Recently we were discussing palm oil, the food additive that destroys orangutan habitat, and how to avoid it. Readers advised that some sustainable palm oil is available and there are apps available online that can scan barcodes and let you know if the product contains palm oil, although it can be hard to find one with a large database of Australian products. In regards to Australian-made noodles, several Central Victorian readers said Hakubaku Noodles, available in most supermarkets, are made near the historic city of Ballarat. And I would like to apologise to those offended by my misuse of the word "spendthrift". As they pointed out, it's someone who is careless with their money, not one who is thrifty.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @realbrainfood.