Cook your book: the excellent boiled potatoes of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

By and

It is a truth universally acknowledged that potatoes are a much-revered vegetable here in Durham (at least among college catering). A perhaps less famous truth is that the hilarious potato scene in Pride and Prejudice (2005), when Tom Hollander’s Mr Collins awkwardly praises the Bennets for their ‘excellent boiled potatoes’, was not actually originally in the novel. In fact, Jane Austen is rather sparse in her descriptions of food: we know that Emma Woodhouse attends a picnic where strawberries are shared, that coffee is served at gatherings at Rosings – Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate – and that most of her characters take comfort in a cup of tea at some point; whether they take milk, sugar, or neither is left up to the reader. So, although we are lifelong Austen devotees, our weekend lunch was inspired by a movie adaptation rather than Pride and Prejudice (though we did, as a nod to Emma, serve strawberries with our scones for dessert).

Jane Austen is rather sparse in her descriptions of food

It is also fitting that Jane Austen, so quintessentially English, would be represented in our kitchens through a roast dinner. Though our choice of cuisine for the 20-plus-degree weather may have been questionable, it was certainly comforting and, dare we say, an exemplary choice of a vegetable. We must also admit that the “boiling” in this recipe takes the form of parboiling prior to roasting, rather than boiling to fully cook the potatoes, but the taste makes up for this.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 350g potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Garlic granules
  • Herb blend of your choice (we recommend the Italian blend, but herbes de Provence or dried rosemary and basil would also work well)
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius (or 200 fan) and put a pot of water on the hob to boil.
  2. Wash and dice your potatoes into 1cm cubes and put the olive oil on the roasting tray.
  3. Once the water is boiling, parboil the potatoes for 5 minutes (or until you can stick a fork into a cube but it’s not fully cooked) and put the tray with the oil in the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. Dry your potatoes and carefully toss them on the hot tray with the herbs and the garlic granules. The potatoes will sizzle a bit.
  5. Roast the potatoes for about 25-30 minutes, until they’ve become golden and the edges are crisp.
  6. Once the potatoes are ready, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with your favourite roast vegetables and the main of your choice (we used sausages, but the beauty of these potatoes is that they go with everything, much like Jane Austen).

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