Simply food


Lemon and thyme roast potatoes

Potatoes roasted with lemon zest and thyme

RECIPE: Traditional roast potatoes are the best accompaniment to roast turkey, roast beef and roast pork.

Diane has brought me a copy of The Times back from her visit to UK. We can get a pale version in Canada, but it is missing the Magazine, perhaps one of the best weekly magazines around. I enjoy Tony Turnbull’s article entitled Easy Eats for Christmas: The only four recipes you’ll ever need for roast potatoes. You’ll have to subscribe to read the whole piece or any of his continuing series of four essential ways to make dishes you’ll want to return to time and time again. If you like Tony Turnbull, here’s a complete list of his stuff.

I won’t give away Tony’s secrets here, especially as I have a couple of my own foolproof recipes for this most important accompaniment to any roast meat.

Jamie Oliver, who I also like, has a super recipe too.

Here’s an original one from my book, “How to Eat Well and Stay Single” which, you will recall from earlier blogs, was designed for novice cooks and especially bachelors.


  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print
from “How to Eat Well and Stay Single” (page 166) © 1974 by Nigel Napier-Andrews
Shopping list
  • 8 large potatoes
  • 1/2 cup fat (duck fat works a treat, but olive or vegetable oil works well)
Preparation and cooking
  1. Peel several large (not new) potatoes and remove the eyes. Use a potato peeler rather than a knife as this will remove too much of the potato under the skin, where most of the goodness resides. Cut the potatoes into chunks between 1 and 1 1/2 inches across and place in cold water. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to the boil, then cover and cook at a fast boil for no more than 7 min. This half-cooking is called “parboiling.” Drain the potatoes, which should be just going soft on the outside, but still completely firm on the inside and leave them to cool in a colander.
  2. The potatoes will take about 45 min to roast through in the oven so you will be at least half way through cooking the meat before you have to worry about them. The secret of really good roast potatoes, just crispy on the outside, soft and flaky on the inside and golden brown all over, is to start them off in very hot fat. Since your oven setting is only 325°F/175°C for the meat, heat up a flat ovenware dish, a couple of inches deep and large enough to take all the potatoes without them touching, in the oven, so that it doesn’t cool the fat when you add it. In a saucepan heat to frying temperature, a cup or more of fat. Duck fat, beef dripping or lard is best, but cooking oil will do in a pinch. Then the time is right, pour the fat into the dish so that it is about 1/2 inch deep and then add the potatoes. Baste them after a few minutes and when the bottoms are done, turn them over. Baste again a few minutes later and turn again if necessary. Don’t let them get too brown or they will be crunchy on the outside and dried to a hollow shell inside. Drain and serve with the roast.
TIP: Get the edges of the parboiled potatoes fluffy by “scumbling” (an English word) or tossing them gently in the colander just before you add them to the hot fat.
ANOTHER TIP:  You can often buy duck fat at restaurants which serve duck confit. They have lots left over. I get mine at Le Paradis in Toronto, one of my favourite French bistros. 


  • Servings: 4-6
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For additional flavour Tony Turnbull offers garlic, bacon and thyme; fennel, chilli and rosemary; or tomato and paprika. Jamie Oliver suggests rosemary; sage and clementine zest; or thyme and bay leaves. I’ll try these one day. In the meantime, here’s my own recipe to tart up the roast potatoes with some herbs and zest.
Shopping list
  • 8 large potatoes, peeled and cut lengthways
  • Skin or “zest” of a whole lemon
  • 8 – 10 whole cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
  • 5 – 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp sea or Kosher salt
  • Cooking fat or oil
Preparation and cooking
  1. Wash and peel the potatoes and cut lengthways.
  2. Parboil for 7 minutes in boiling salted water, drain in colander, and toss lightly or “scumble.”
  3. Peel a whole lemon to make the zest and chop into fine strips.
  4. In the oven, heat the fat or oil until it is sizzling, add the potatoes and baste with the hot fat. Sprinkle on the chopped zest, whole segments of garlic, still unpeeled, and whole sprigs of thyme. (Keep the rest of the lemon wrapped up for another use later.)
  5. Roast for up to 90 min at 355°F/180°C, turning once at 45 min.
  6. Lift out of the pan with a slotted spoon to leave the fat and garnishes behind and keep warm on a paper towel in the oven until ready to serve.
These recipes were originally posted on December 12, 2012.

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