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A potato tasting challenge with Billy & Jack and Idahoan

My blog might be called ‘Got to Be Gourmet’ but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the more comforting foods in life. When I was a kid, one of my absolute favourite things to eat was ‘tuna and mash’ (and I’m not talking about freshly mashed up organic potatoes from the fields surrounding our house in rural Yorkshire. Oh, no. I’m talking the powdered variety!) I must admit, I hadn’t tucked into this particular food stuff since then (although I have a vague recollection of there being a bit of a phase at Uni!) so when I was invited to an event by Idahoan recently, I was more than a little intrigued. The food snob in me might have scoffed at going to an event about ‘powdered’ potato. But it sounded particularly interesting – Billy and Jack, MasterChef finalists (who I just adored during that particular series) and now successful supper club hosts, were going to cook a dinner with multiple courses, some of which would include Idahoan potato and some of which would include ‘regular’ potato, and we would have to guess. It sounded like a lot of fun. And I was sure I’d get them all right. How wrong I was…

The history of the Idahoan potato dates back to 1837 in the United States, when Henry H. Spalding, a Presbyterian missionary, became the first potato farmer within the borders of what is now known as the State of Idaho. Fast forward to the Second World War, in an effort to find more shelf stable meals for the troops, the first potato dehydration process was developed for the military. While this early, primitive process is still used by many dehydrated potato sellers to this day, Idahoan makes a point of striving for even higher quality. The Idahoan brand itself was established in 1960, when a group of local Lewisville, Idaho growers decided to join forces to start a potato dehydration plant. Idahoan developed a proprietary, innovative dehydration process that better preserved natural potato taste and texture and they now have a huge number of products in the range, from mashed potato to dauphinoise and gratin.

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The event took place at the Central Street Cookery School at Old Street – I’ve been to a couple of cookery classes there and it’s a great venue. Chatting to the other attendees, we weren’t sure if we would be doing any of the cooking ourselves, but it turned out we were just observing Billy and Jack doing the final preparations, while we relaxed with a glass of prosecco in hand. We then sat down together to tuck into the feast that the guys had created – each one was brought out by Billy and Jack who talked through the dish, much like in the MasterChef critics round. Let’s just say I’m certainly no Jay Rayner yet.

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We started with some croquettes, one of which had a nice spicy kick from nduja sausage.

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The first main dish was Crab Gnocchi with Sea Herb, which was lovely – I could have eaten a lot more of this one!

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Next up was Pressed Potato, Three Cheese Sauce, Onion and Truffle. This is a great example of where Idahoan is so much more than just powdered mashed potato, they have a really diverse product range.

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The third dish was Cottage Pie with a rich potatoey sauce!

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Fourth dish was Southern Fried Quail. Potato Biscuit and Maple Syrup. This was a favourite for me because I remember Billy cooking a very similar dish on MasterChef. I mean you can’t go wrong with chicken, waffles and maple syrup. Yum!

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Main dessert was Honey Potato Cake, Figs, Yoghurt Sorbet and Honeycomb. This had some mixed opinions around the table (I think most people are automatically tuned to be a little bit scared by potato in a dessert), but I really loved it. The flavours reminded me of cakes we would have in Cyprus which were quite dense but juicy with a nice syrup and sweet flavours.

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And finally we ended on Chocolate Potato Truffles. Ok I’ll be honest, this is where I draw the line. But it was fun to try, all the same!

I guessed quite a few of the dishes correctly, in terms of which ones contained fresh mashed potato and which ones were Idahoan potato, but there were certainly a few I got very wrong. Never judge a book by its cover, as they say!

It was a really fun experiment and it showed me three things:

  1. You can actually make some bloody tasty food using this type of potato, which I would never have thought before!
  2. Billy and Jack really are excellent cooks, and I must make it to one of their supper clubs soon.
  3. And lastly, I’d forgotten how much this food is my guilty pleasure. I was kindly given a big bag of Idahoan products to take away with me and I’ve been tucking into these during these colder winter nights – ready in minutes (4 to be precise) and with a bit of cheese grated in, even better!

A big thank you to Idahoan and Billy and Jack for such a great evening!

You can find out more about the products on the UK Idahoan website. And if you fancy checking out one of Billy and Jack’s supper clubs, there’s more info on their website here.

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I was invited to attend the event by Idahoan but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.

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