It's the moment for Jersey Royals, when new potatoes shine. Here's how to enjoy them at their magnificent best.
The new potato season is upon us: those tiny, soft-skinned tubers that are as much a part of the British summer as strawberries and asparagus. Whether you dig them up from the vegetable patch, pick them out of a sack at the greengrocers or stuff a plastic box of them in your supermarket trolley, you are almost certainly in for a treat. Good as they are when steamed or boiled and tossed with butter and chopped parsley, they will respond well to more imaginative thinking, too.
There are several varieties sold as "new potatoes", the most revered being the Jersey Royal. Most of the major supermarkets sell these young potatoes ready washed and packed in plastic bags. The flaky skins and fine soil removed, the potatoes lose some of their magic for me. Being able to pick out your own is more my style, giving you a chance to get at the smallest, whose skin is still moist and flaky. These are the ones for serving classically, their fine skin still intact, slippery with butter and freckled with parsley as fine as tea leaves. (A bowl of steaming Jersey Royals is almost the only time I chop parsley very finely.)
Steaming is an option for any type of new potato, but I remain unconvinced and cook mine in water as deep and almost as salty as you would use to boil pasta. I would seriously doubt the sanity of anyone who peels a new potato. The skin is tender, flavoursome and so thin you could rub it off with your thumb.
Some "new" potatoes are no such thing. Many are simply small potatoes with thick, tight skins and even the odd eye. They taste no better than a large main crop potato and lack the dry, floury quality of the large ones that make such fluffy mash and roast. Throw everything you have at them - toss them in melted butter, shower them with salt, dip them in crème fraîche and chopped chives or chervil.
A true new potato or Jersey Royal needs almost no embellishment. I like a fine coating of soft, almost melted butter, but even that is unnecessary. I will take the much-scorned mint option, too, either by adding three sprigs to the cooking water, or folding it into a mint hollandaise or herb butter. They need no pepper.
You can roast a new potato, too, in which case its flesh will take on the texture of fudge. Sweet little nuggets to sit alongside a piece of baked salmon or a loin of lamb. Salt and rosemary are a good idea. Add cloves of the new season's pink garlic tucked among the tatties as they roast. They will never beat a big fat Sunday roastie, but these are for a different occasion. You can also fry a new potato. Steam or boil them first, then brown in a shallow pan of frothing butter. They will colour appetisingly and the nutty quality will be accentuated, but they are unlikely to crisp. No matter, they will be fabulous.
Occasionally, I have added to their nuttiness by throwing pine kernels or hazelnuts into the pan as they fry. Soft, golden potato and the scrunch of nuts is pleasing enough, but we recently added a few deep-gold, free-range egg yolks to a pan of crisply sautéed Jersey Royals, finishing briefly under the grill until the yolks were warm but still oozingly liquid. It adds a touch of sunshine to summer.
New potatoes with hazelnuts
When new potatoes are roasted they take on a soft, fudgy texture, making them all the more suited to a crunchy partner such as, here, toasted hazelnuts. This is suitable for a light lunch with a frisée salad, or even as a side dish. Serves 2-4.
new potatoes 500g
groundnut or olive oil
chopped chives 4 tbsp
egg yolks 4
Wash and roughly chop the potatoes. Warm the butter with a couple of glugs of oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, add the potatoes, then let them fry at a gentle sizzle until thoroughly golden brown all over.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts, add them to the potatoes and let them colour a little, then season lightly with salt, black pepper and chopped chives, and tip them into an ovenproof dish.
Break the eggs and drop the yolks into the potatoes then place under a hot grill for 3 or 4 minutes until the yolks are warm but not set.
New potato, tuna and cucumber salad
A re-thinking of the summer classic. Most canned tuna is now labelled from sustainable sources, but it is worth checking. Serves 2.
new potatoes 250g
cucumber 1, medium sized
caster sugar a pinch
white-wine vinegar 1 tbsp
Dijon mustard 1 tbsp
olive oil 1 tbsp
dill 2 tbsp, chopped
Niçoise olives 4 tbsp
tuna in olive oil 125g
Wipe the potatoes clean, removing any loose flakes of skin, then boil them in plenty of salted water until just tender. Lightly peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthways, then scrape out the seeds and pulp from the centre with a teaspoon, reserving them for the dressing. Cut the cucumber into finger-thick chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Make the dressing: put a pinch of caster sugar in a blender or food processor, add the vinegar, mustard, a little salt and pepper and the reserved seeds and pulp from the cucumber. Pour in the olive oil and blitz briefly to a smooth dressing. Tip into the cucumber, add the chopped dill and stir.
Drain the potatoes, then cut each one into about four thick coins. While the potatoes are warm, add them to the cucumber and mix with the dressing. Drain the canned tuna and add in large pieces, turning all carefully so they are evenly coated. Scatter over the olives.
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Let the sun shine: Nigel Slater's new potatoes with hazelnuts recipe. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer