Cooking potatoes isn’t difficult, but, some of the time, for some people, they are simply not convenient to make.
To boil potatoes all you need to do is peel (optional) or scrub potatoes, cut them into smaller pieces (unless they are new potatoes and you want to serve them whole), then boil them in salted water for about 20 minutes.
To mash potatoes you then simply drain the potatoes, add salt/pepper, butter/margarine and, for some tastes, milk/cream and mash them up with a potato masher, or a fork.
However, this does take time, creates steam and you might not actually have a working hob or the time to go through this process.
I cook for one, so I’ll never make mashed potatoes for one, I’ll always make more than I need, thereby creating a portion that can go into the fridge for later in the week. However, when I buy potatoes it tends to be in 2.5Kg bags, which means that, having bought a bag, I’ve a LOT of potatoes to get through before they go off!
Use a Microwave Steamer
Rather than boiling potatoes, I’ll use a microwave steamer to steam them. Halved, as “jacket potatoes” I’ll steam them for 5 minutes (white side down to start with), then turn them over, steam for another 5 minutes, then turn them over, steam them for a final 3-5 minutes and serve. I find steaming “jacket potatoes” produces a fluffier texture than simply wrapping potatoes in paper towels.
You can see how it takes me just 12 minutes to make mashed potatoes in the steamer here: Microwave Steamer Mashed Potatoes.
So, what are the alternatives to boiling or microwaving fresh potatoes?
- Frozen Mashed Potatoes: I’ll admit to not having tried frozen mashed potatoes myself, but I’d not dismiss it. If using mashed potatoes is the difference between cooking a meal, or not, then it makes sense to give them a go! When you freeze your own mash, it can come out watery; commercially produced mash is less likely to do so – but the backup plan, in case they are a little sloppier than you’d like, is to use that cupboard staple: a spoon of instant mash to soak up any extra wetness!
- Tinned Potatoes: I always have a couple of tins of potatoes in the cupboard. They’re great for a quick potato salad in the summer (simply mixed with salad cream, or mayo, and some mixed herbs); tinned potatoes also work well in slow cookers, either halved as chunks, or diced/sliced. You can fry tinned potatoes too, sliced/fried, they make a nice meal of fried eggs & potatoes!
- Instant Mash: Made correctly, there’s little difference between instant mash and the goop you get in a supermarket ready meal. Indeed, I prefer instant mash to ready-meal mash. It’s easy to use, you simply add boiling water (and a knob of butter/margarine) and the “secret” is to add a little water at a time and mix it up, until you get the right consistency. If you do add too much water, you can just add a little more of the potato mix.
When I make slow cooker savoury mince I’ll sometimes cook a tin of potatoes in the dish itself or serve it with a portion of instant mash after cooking!
A quick sausage and mash works a treat too!
The advantage of using alternatives to potatoes are ease of use, long storage times and zero waste! For small quantities, they can also be quite frugal, compared to the cost of potatoes sold in smaller quantities. Of course you can rarely beat the value for money of a sack of potatoes, but we can’t all eat a whole sack on our own!