Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Tree Roast Potatoes (Yes I ate my Christmas Tree)


Yes I ate the Christmas tree.

We have a new stall at the farmer's market where I work, bringing foraged ingredients. They have the most intriguing wild herbs and weeds from the land and from the sea. I wish I had half the knowledge as Miles when it comes to identifying plants you can eat off nature. Beyond the odd stinging nettle and wild blackberry in late summer, I don't dare to pick anything for my dinner plate. The table is always laid with plants I've never laid my eyes on before, with names I've never heard of before, but last week, there was a basket of what looked vaguely familiar. This season, these branches are usually hidden behind  glittering lights and golden bobbles, but there's still no mistaking the familiar twigs and sharp needle-like leaves of the Christmas tree.
I never would have thought you could eat a Christmas tree, but what better way to add some er, Christmassy, flavour to your festive roast. They kind of resemble sprigs of rosemary, but the smell of it is quite fresh and woodsy, and upon nibbling a bit of it, the taste is quite citrusy. It's definitely a conversation starter if you choose to stuff your turkey with a few sprigs of Christmas. I decided to use them for roast potatoes. Of a traditional English roast, roast potatoes are quite possibly my favourite part of the meal. The meat and a good gravy is wonderful, but oh, a roast potato! Golden crispy edges, hot fluffy insides, none of the greasiness of a french fry or chips, but none of the dullness of a boiled potato either- it's the best way to have a potato in my opinion.

There are many theories on the best way to make a roast potato, and people actually argue over this stuff. People have put all these chefs' methods to the test, saving you the trauma of lousy roast potatoes. I've got my own favourite way of doing it, from the tips I've gathered from that Guardian word-of-mouth writer, too much TV, friends' mums, and my own trials. 


CHRISTMAS TREE ROAST POTATOES
serves 2-3
Ingredients
500g roasting potatoes*
2 tbsp lard from happy pigs (dripping or goose fat will be good too)
2 tbsp groundnut oil*
4 sprigs of christmas tree
4 cloves of garlic, bashed but skin-on
unrefined sea salt

Method
1. Place a roasting tin with the fat and oil on a high rack in the oven. Let it pre-heat to 220 degrees celsius.
2. Peel the potatoes, saving the peelings, and cut into roughly even-sized chunks.
3. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then add the potatoes, along with the peelings (tie inside a muslin cloth bag to make it easier to remove later), and plenty of sea salt to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, until it becomes quite soft and fluffy on the outside.
4. Drain (you can reserve the starchy flavourful potato water for gravy or soup or something, do not waste). I give it a big manly shake in my colander to further fluff up the edges. More rough edges = more crunchy edges later.
5. Remove the HOT tray carefully. The fat will be sizzling, the oven might even be slightly smoking, so put on your oven gloves (and goggles maybe). Gently tip the potatoes into the tray, then baste them so they are all coated with the fat. Also add the garlic and sprigs of christmas tree.
6. Put back into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, turning them over halfway, until they are golden brown and crisp. Once out of the oven, sprinkle some crushed sea salt flakes over while still hot. Eat as soon as you can. 

*Notes and tips
There are arguments over which is the best roasting potato, the common contenders being Maris Piper, Desiree, and King Edwards. I use the Maris Piper.
Save your extra virgin olive oil for your salads; they turn rancid at high temperatures. Saturated fats are best, but the results can be a bit too heavy, so I use a mix of groundnut oil, a light neutral oil that's also good for high heat cooking, and which I favour in stir fries.  


I'm a tiny Asian girl so I probably don't have the most street cred when it comes to roast potatoes, so I'm not going to boast these are the best roast potatoes in town, but, they are pretty good. Their crunchy golden outsides just collapses into steaming light fluffy insides; while the fat-oil combination provide maximum flavour without being overly rich and heavy. And, not forgetting the aroma of roast garlic (maybe I cheat here because nothing can ever taste bad with roast garlic) and the wonderful citrusy sharpness of Christmas tree of course. Merry Christmas you all!

Just a last word of caution from the foragers: Before you all go snipping off a few sprigs off your tree, do note that not all varieties are edible, and you only eat the edible pine leaves of the tree, not the wood.  You also only need a bit to flavour your cooking, so do not turn your Christmas tree bare in a moment of gluttony. 

43 comments:

  1. Shu Han, you bring a unique perspective to certain foods because of your experience at the farmers' market. This recipe is particularly intriguing. Edible Christmas trees? What will they think of next? Popcorn made from dried peas? (Somehow I doubt it.)

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    1. haha if I ever see popcorn made of dried peas, I'll be sure to think of you ;)

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  2. Love this idea, brilliant. Already making your spelt bread for xmas dinner, will adapt this one too, how do you think it would work with mashed potatoes? Maybe steeping the cream with the needles? You inspired me to experiment! (Always fun to use Xmas guests as guinea pigs;-))

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    1. Hmm that sounds interesting, you'll have to report the results to me! I have no idea how that might work in mash. Careful though, not all christmas trees are edible according to the foragers, and you don't want to give your guests food poisoning heh,

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  3. Never know Christmas tree also can be eaten..

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    1. I didn;t think it could be eaten too! but he assured me it can and got me so curious I got some to try (:

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  4. Wow! I love this idea. Thanks for posting.

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  5. Well I'm a small Asian girl too but have been roasting potatoes since 1999 and I'd say your method was pretty bang on:) Pine is a real interesting idea. Duck fat still does it for me. And if you cut them into largish wedges, I find that's the best shape to crisp up (I've tried many!). The other Shu x

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    1. wow since 1999 eh! glad to see my method's approved by the master ;) I use lard because I already had some, but ok will try with duck fat when i get hold of some! I love chicken fat roast potatoes too actually. I didn't realise the shape will affect how i crisps up; always just thought the crispy parts had to do with how much I mess with the edges, now I must try! wedges like very fat chips? x

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  6. You are freaking brilliant! To date, this and your bunny biryani are my favorite of your posts =)

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    1. aw thanks!the bunny biryani was one of my more controversial posts though, I must say, glad you enjoyed that, and this one! (:

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  7. I never would have dreamed you could eat Christmas tree. I'm hoping the needles aren't so sharp when they are cooked as I've been attacked by mine several times already. :) Thanks for the tip on roasting potatoes as well. It is one of those subjects everyone seems passionate about!

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    1. The needles become really brittle, so it's actually like munching through crisps, or like when you roast things with rosemary, how the rosemary goes dry and brittle so you actually can eat it, or just pick it out and eat the roast potatoes that have the pine-y fragrance already. Hah, I only hope my tips are good enough to be approved by the English :/

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  8. You're so funny and smart! Love your roasted potato :)

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    1. thank you! I love roast potatoes (:

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  9. This is a magnificent way to serve potatoes! And an excellent Christmas post. I love the"eat-your-Christmas tree" idea (even better than having a Christmas tree decorated in my house...). Your dish reminded me that I once saw a Japanese recipe calling for pine needles. I must check what it was and see if I can prepare it now that Christmas trees are everywhere in the city ;-) By the way, which tree did you use? It doesn't look like pine.

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    1. thanks sissi! roast potatoes are my favourite. indeed, everythign is better when it can be eaten, eh? :p

      I'm not sure which tree I used. I got it from the forager's stall, and he just called it "christmas tree". It does have a pine-y fragrance though, so it could very well just be pine.. very interested to see how that japanese recipe goes. I never thought that they would use pine needles in japan too!

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  10. I tried that pine sugar that came with Heston's mince pies and loved it. Very Christmassy and refreshing! Love the idea of that flavour with roasties instead of your standard rosemary.

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    1. Oooh pine sugar! I made pandan sugar a couple of posts back, I wish I had thought of making pien sugar with the rest of the pine needles I got!

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  11. I am totally in agreement with your roast potato method. Perfect and it always works every time. I think they are unbeatable really and hope you get to enjoy a big plateful this Christmas!

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    1. phew, I'm so glad an English cook approves ;)

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  12. Hi Shu Han, this look very tempting and delicious. Nice click.
    Love your humour "lard from happy pigs...." made me burst out laughing.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great week ahead,regards.

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    1. Haha amelia that's the best way i can put it really! I believe food should come from a happy source (:

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  13. Completely in agreeement with your method Shu Han and thanks for the inspiration. Using pine cuttings to flavour is an Interesting idea. They look perfect.

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    1. Thanks Evie! Glad so much you agree, I was a bit worried posting about roast potatoes considering my Asian heritage hehe.

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  14. When I was a kid my family taught me things I could forage in the forest near my house. One of my favourite things to snack on was the bright green fresh growth on hemlock trees. So soft and fresh! This really brought me back...

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    1. Oh what wonderful memories! Hah. I grew up in Singapore.. so the closest to the forest that we have is possible bukit timah nature reserve. I'm not sure I dare eat anything there, and my mum will probably kill me for doing that. we had no such foraging culture at all; my mum thinks picking things off the land is dangerous!

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  15. LOL Shuhan - love your post title :D. I was watching a Swedish cooking show and they were steaming milk with Christmas tree branches in it too. Was always curious as to what the flavour would be like. Neat trick on boiling the peel with the potatoes. My grandmother made the best ones I'd ever had... the last time I made them myself I pretty much finally was able to emulate hers, after years of practice. Let's hope I can do it again at Christmas!

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    1. hee hee thanks charles! The trick's not mine though, it;s from Heston, so it had to be a good one eh? ;) It added extra potato-ey flavour to the roast spuds! Care to share your grandma's best roast spuds recipe? :D

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  16. I think your roast potatoes are top notch! I usually use Maris Piper and goose fat. What a lovely idea to add the essence of Christmas too!
    Hope you have a lovely time over Christmas Shuhan x

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    1. Hope you had a great christmas, sorry for the late reply! Goose fat is a favourite for roast spuds aren't they! I just happen to have lard more often in the fridge (:

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  17. How interesting to add pine flavors to your roast potatoes. They look gorgeous and I am sure they taste awesome too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

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  18. I never would have thought of eating my Christmas tree! (well, mine's a fake...) What a great idea though... they must have fabulous flavourful oils in the leaves...

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  19. Dear Sir/Madam,

    On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

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  20. Dear Sir/Madam,

    On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

    The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

    By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

    Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

    If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL: http://singaporememory.simulation.com.sg/Public/Pledge.

    You may find out more about this initiative at http://www.iremember.sg/?page_id=2822.

    We are looking forward to your contribution.

    |Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd 583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884) w: www.simulation.com.sg

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  21. Have a blessed Christmas! Thanks for those photos & recipes
    waaa ... but how to find Maris Piper in SG, mostly russets

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  22. So what variety can be eaten? I wonder if those imported here to malaysia can be eaten....merry christmas!

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  23. Hi Shu Han! Dropping by to wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a fruitful 2013 year ahead!

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  24. A wonderful Ode to 2012! You did beautifully :) And, as a Canadian, married to an Irish-American, I can vouch that those potatoes look up to snuff!! Merry Christmas + blessings in the New Year! xo

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  25. Hi there!i was just looking around at some blogs and came across yours.i really love it and your style of writing is very fun and interesting!keep it up!i also love the post on the nasi goreng!i've got to go now.happy new year 2013 n have a great one!

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  26. So exciting about the book! Congrats to the plusixfive team!

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