Not a republican call to arms, but time to celebrate the start of this year’s Jersey Royal season!
A few years ago we were lucky enough to be visiting friends in Jersey in early March, and driving round the island on a gloriously sunny Sunday we found the first Jersey Royals of the season for sale in a farmer’s ‘honesty shop’, a shed full of produce with a box for you to leave your payment. I was as excited as a Yukon gold miner and dashing home with them felt like being on the old Beaujolais Nouveau run [does anyone else remember when that actually used to make the 6 o’clock BBC news?]. It being the Shopkeeper’s birthday we were due to meet friends at the local bistro for dinner, and my breathless call on landing at Gatwick was the first, and so far only, time I have phoned ahead to a restaurant to ask if the kitchen would mind if we were to bring our own potatoes! I can only hope that if it happens again our hosts will be as accommodating as Brula were that evening.
Last year was an altogether different story. The drawn out winter chilled the island’s coastal fields for months and had us forlornly scouring the empty shelves well into early May. I remember speaking to a man whose job title was roughly along the lines of ‘The States of Jersey’s Potato Ambassador to the Court of St James’ at last year’s Real Food Festival when he’d managed to bring just one sack of potatoes to Earl’s Court, and had made some mortal enemies by removing even those from their native soil with supplies so short.
2011 though has been far kinder and the Jersey Royals have now landed, with this year’s first consignments arriving on the mainland in the third week of March. The most exciting part of cooking with the seasons is the change of season when the yearly re-appearance of old favourites is like the greeting of old friends you haven’t seen for far too long. And nothing says “Spring’s here!” like a bowl of Jersey Royals. I bought a bag last week and the sun shone for three days in a row, what more empirical evidence could you need?
There are things you can do with Jersey Royals besides boiling them and serving with lashings of butter, but why would you when the simplest treatment produces such majestic results? If you really must then the Atlantic Hotel’s canapé with lemon mayonnaise and caviar sounds suitably regal. But if like me your budget doesn’t run to such things just follow these simple dos and don’ts and enjoy these precious jewels wearing little more than the emperor’s new clothes.
- boil or steam until just tender, checking often. The exact time is likely to be between five and ten minutes but this will depend on crop, size, and whether boiling or steaming.
- anoint their majesties with plenty of melted butter or [and only if you’re allergic to butter] very good olive oil.
- season thoughtfully.
- swirl in a little chopped parsley and maybe just a leaf or two of chopped mint [no more] with the butter.
- only use in salads if you have excellent quality or homemade mayonnaise available.
- under any circumstances, add mint to the cooking water!
- mash, although a little light crushing is OK and can help the potatoes to absorb more butter.