With some fussy and intricate techniques Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for Mashed Potato makes mash like you’ve never had before. And like you’d never want ever, ever again.
Aside from daft ice cream flavours and preposterous kitchen gadgetry one of the things we love about Heston Blumenthal is his ongoing mission to find the best possible version of staple British foods.
The In Search of Perfection recipes are the most obvious example of that, but there’s loads of other simple recipes given the Heston Twist, like Heston’s Lemon Tart recipe or his famous Triple Cooked Chips.
And of course, mashed potatoes. In the series How to Cook Like Heston we got the absolute definitive recipe for simple mash. Like many Heston recipes it uses some of that preposterous kitchen gadgetry. And like most of his other recipes it also uses a frankly alarming amount of butter.
We made this to serve alongside Heston’s 72 hour rib of beef. (Which was meant to be serrved before Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe, but thats another story) And, well, Jesus Christ. You’ll see.
Special Equipment: Sous vide cooker (optional), fine sieve
Special Ingredients: None
Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4 – 6
Step 1: Preparing
Yeah, just peel them.
The peeled spuds then need thinly slicing (we used a nearly blunt mandolin to keep the thickness even) and rinsing of surface starch, best done under the kitchen tap.
Starch is basically the enemy of good mash. When you cut a potato, that sliminess on the surface is starch leaking out of the sliced-open cells. Rinse each slice until it no longer feels slimy. That’s how you’ll know all the surface starch is gone.
But remember to keep those peelings. You see most of the flavour is in the skin. We’ll infuse these into some milk later to make use of that flavour.
Step 2: Temperature Control
Now it’s time to simmer the spuds at a carefully controlled temperature. 72°C to be exact. This technique actually comes from instant mashed potato manufacturers, rather than 3 Michelin star kitchens. 30 minutes at this temperature will “lock” the starch molecules in the potato.
We’re using our sous vide rig, since it’s roughly accurate enough to hold around this temperature. Most likely you aren’t geeky enough to own one of those, so use a probe thermometer in your pan, and have a kettle of hot water and a few ice cubes readily available. Add some of either depending on if you need to heat or cool the water to keep it near 72°C.
Rinse the potatoes under cold tap water to cool them when done.
Step 3: Boiling
The potatoes aren’t actually “cooked” yet. Take the heat-treated slices and boil them for around 20 minutes, or until falling apart.
This is much longer than you’d normally need to cook such thinly sliced potatoes for, but the 72° process will have made them much tougher than regular potatoes. We made this mistake when trying to make our version of the Shepherd’s Pie on Steroids, and didn’t cook them long enough. The results were grainy.
Once boiled and drained return them to the heat briefly to dry out, letting as much steam as possible come off the potatoes without them burning.
Step 4: Ricing and Sieving
This is where it all starts to go horribly wrong. Cube up 250g, a full block, of butter. Chuck this in a bowl then pass your potatoes over the top through a ricer (or use a Masha / Kenwood attachment if you have one).
Stir this mess up until you have a smooth, greasy mass of potato.
Step 5: Milk and Finishing
Now for a couple of final steps. For a really smooth result you can pass the mash through a fine sieve.
I’ve wrecked a lot of sieves doing this sort of thing, so at the moment we’re experimenting with a mesh splatter guard. It may turn out to be more robust, as well as cheaper. The mesh is very fine too.
This is tough work so we cheated and added the infused milk early. This made the mash smoother, wetter and easier to push through the sieve.
Season with pepper and maybe a little more salt and you’re done. Congratulations, you’ve just made Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect mashed Potato recipe.
Now after all that work, and after hearing about all those steps we took to preserve the texture and flavour of this mash down to the very last grain of starch, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is going to be absolutely the best mashed potato recipe you’ve ever tasted.
Certainly your first mouthful will be incredible, tasting like the very essence of rich, creamy potato. I can only liken it to the smell and flavour of the first bite of a buttery baked potato.
Four or five mouthfuls in, however, it’s a different story. There’s just way too much butter. By bite number six everybody’s gag-reflex had kicked in and it was just making us all feel nauseus.
As you can see we served it with Heston’s 72 hour rib of beef recipe, and some of that Waitrose finishing jus for beef we really like. We tried smearing the mash onto our meat to thin it out, but the butteryness was still overpowering.
A delicate smear of this stuff on a plate in a fancy restaurant might be ok, but a 300g serving is more than any human should be expected to deal with.
We did really like the smooth texture of this potato recipe, even if each mouthful made us feel sick.
We’ll probably have one more go at this recipe but use half to a quarter of the butter recommended.
Have you got a failsafe method for mash, and do you think you can never have enough butter in a recipe? Would you make mash this way, and do you think it’s worth the hassle. Tell us in the comments section…