There are some cooks who pride themselves on being instinctive cooks, they never measure anything, they never time anything and they never give precise recipes. ‘Oh just boil it until they’re cooked,’ they say. That’s fine if you know what cooked broccoli (for example) is supposed to be like. What if you don’t? Should it be crispy in the middle or mushy? That’s why I tend towards the specific rather than the vague in my recipes. If you’ve never done it before, precision helps. If you have done it before you don’t need me to tell you when to go off piste in pursuit of your own tastes preferences.
However, in my next recipe, I’m going to break that rule. In Laurie Colwin’s book, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, she gives a recipe for potato salad. She doesn’t give any quantities. I’m going to take her ingredients and do the same, because who doesn’t know what potato salad is supposed look like?
Boil some salad potatoes. When they’re cooked, drain them and leave them to cool for a while. You want the potatoes to be warm enough to absorb the dressing flavours, but if they’re hot they’ll split the mayonnaise. Chop some spring onions and some fresh dill. Chop the warm potatoes into small pieces. Mix in the spring onions, dill and add enough mayonnaise to coat them thoroughly. You need enough mayonnaise for this to be moist but not so much that they’re swimming in it. Season with salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Leave to stand for at least half an hour for the flavours to develop. Serve at room temperature.
This will remind you how good potato salad can be and make you ask yourself why you ever buy it!