Jimmy Doherty talks potatoes: “I’m a big believer in seasonality”
He might be known for his rare-breed pigs, but entomologist-turned-farmer Jimmy Doherty’s latest initiative lets their veggie sidekick – the humble potato – do the talking.
“The Jersey Royal is an iconic food item and something we should celebrate,” the 40-year-old enthuses of his collaboration with the seasonal spud. “If the Italians or French had this, they would be going on about it all the time.”
Since taking on a 100-acre farm more than 10 years ago, which was famously documented in BBC Two series Jimmy’s Farm, Doherty has made a name for himself in the world of TV, appearing in shows including Food Unwrapped and Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, with childhood friend Jamie Oliver.
Add to that three books and a number of free-range food products, and it stands to reason that he’s the ideal patron to champion the unique Jersey crop – or as he dubs it, “the Champagne of potatoes”.
“As a kid, having Jersey Royals with your spring lamb was pretty important,” he muses. “I’m a big believer in seasonality.”
Available from April until the end of June, Jersey Royals’ Protected Designation of Origin status means its five-generational farmers use 130-year-old techniques to ensure their nutty flavour, creamy consistency and flaky skins.
“I visited Jersey, and I arrived thinking, ‘I’m used to farming in the British Isles’, but I’ve never seen it like that before,” admits Doherty. “They’re all crackers, and the fields they hand-plant their crops on – cotils – are steep, so the planters have to be winched up!”
Delivered to supermarkets within 48 hours of being gathered up, the TV foodie is also a firm believer that these potatoes – and other varieties – should be a diet staple.
“We forget potatoes are full of vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre, and we’re moving to other carbohydrates like rice and pasta,” he says. “We should go back to eating lots of potatoes.
“It’s about portion control, that’s all,” he adds, in response to any spud critics, and the father-of-three certainly practises what he preaches at home.
“The simplest way [to serve Jersey Royals] is freshly dug with butter, but I use them for my kids all the time as mini roast potatoes. Rather than peeling and chopping, I just put them straight in the roaster and they love them.
“My kids get excited about food. Understanding where food comes from is a very natural part of their life, and it should be the case for everyone.
“I wish we could emulate what Jersey does,” he continues. “If all schools were excited by Jersey Royal season, and did little competitions where they grow the potatoes, it would show pride and respect for the environment.”
It’s an ethos he looks to implement at Jimmy’s Farm, which today boasts a nature trail, butterfly house, award-winning restaurant, science and food festivals – and a zoo licence in the pipeline.
“It never ends!” Doherty admits, laughing. “There are 30 full-timers, and I’ll tell you what, dealing with pigs is a lot easier than dealing with people!”
When he’s not running the land, the star feels lucky to be dipping his toe in the world of showbiz – and even luckier, on occasion, to be doing so with good pal Oliver.
“We muck around and get told off because we talk rubbish,” he reveals of his time filming Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast. “We’ve never grown up, but it’s fun.”
Next up, he’s pleased to be hosting a show that will see him travel to all corners of the globe, in search of people who’ve swapped the rat race for the wilderness – a concept that takes him back to the topic of sustainability.
“Without food producers and regular supply in our supermarkets, where would we be?”
Try your hand at Doherty’s family-friendly recipes, specifically created for the iconic Jersey Royal…
Sausage and Jersey Royal Bake
600g Jersey Royal new potatoes, scrubbed (not peeled) and cut in half lengthways
8 large herb sausages
2tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and cut into quarters
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 large sage leaves, roughly chopped
200g cherry tomatoes
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
Coarsely ground black pepper
Crusty bread and mustard to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.
Cook the Jersey Royals in a medium pan of salted water for eight to 10 minutes until just tender.
Add the sausages to a large roasting tin with two tablespoons of olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.
Drain the Jersey Royals, and add to the roasting tin with the remaining ingredients, excluding the tomatoes and asparagus. Mix together and roast for 25 minutes until vegetables are slightly caramelised around the edges, stir occasionally.
Scatter over the tomatoes and asparagus, mix well and roast for a further 10 minutes until the sausages are golden and cooked through.
Serve hot with crusty bread and mustard.
Jersey Royal Potato Spring Vegetable Frittata
For the frittata:
300g Jersey Royal new potatoes
100g Fresh peas, podded or frozen
100g broad beans, podded and shelled or frozen
6 large free range eggs
3tbsp mint, roughly chopped
1tbsp olive oil
4 salad onions, thinly sliced
4 baby courgettes, sliced in half lengthways
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g feta, crumbled
Coarsely ground black pepper
For the pea shoot and mint salad:
40g fresh pea shoots
40g fresh rocket leaves
1 small bunch of torn mint leaves
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze lemon juice
Ground black pepper
To make the frittata, cook the Jersey Royals in a pan of water for 12-15 minutes, until tender. Drain and, when cool, slice thinly.
Cook the peas and broad beans in boiling water for two minutes (or four to five if from frozen) then drain and refresh under cold water.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl with the mint, salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a 24cm non-stick frying pan. Add the courgettes cook for one to two minutes then add the potatoes, onions and garlic, cook for three to four minutes, until beginning brown. Stir in the peas and broad beans, keeping 10g of each for the salad.
Preheat the grill. Pour the whisked egg over the vegetables and crumble over the feta, keeping 20g of feta for the salad. Cook over a gentle heat for 10-12 minutes until almost set. Transfer the pan to the grill and cook for three to five minutes until the top is golden and cooked through.
Place a plate or board over the top of the pan so that the frittata falls onto the plate. Slice into wedges and serve with the salad.
Pea shoot and mint salad:
Wash the pea shoots and rocket, dry well, and tear into bite sized pieces if necessary, add to a medium bowl with the mint, reserved peas, broad beans and feta.
Drizzle the leaves with the oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, seasoning with a little salt and pepper.
Mix leaves and dressing together and serve with the frittata.
JERSEY ROYAL AND HALLOUMI ROSEMARY SKEWERS
For the mint oil:
25g fresh mint, leaves only
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
For the skewers:
4 x straight woody stems of rosemary around 25cm long
500g Jersey Royal new potatoes, scrubbed (not peeled) and cut in half
360g halloumi cheese, cut into 3cm cubes
1 medium aubergine, cut into 3cm cubes
200g cherry tomatoes
To make the mint oil, add all the ingredients to the food processor and process for one to two minutes until smooth.
To make the skewers, add the potatoes, halloumi, aubergine and tomatoes to the mint oil. Mix well to ensure that everything is evenly coated.
Strip the base rosemary leaves from each stem, leaving the top 4cm of each with leaves. Thread alternate potato, halloumi, aubergine and tomatoes along each stem and continue until everything is used up.
Preheat the barbecue or grill.
Cover the leafy tops of the rosemary skewers with a sheet of tin foil, to prevent them burning, then g rill or barbecue the skewers over a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, turning regularly until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables are golden. Baste occasionally with the mint oil.
Serve with a drizzle of remaining mint oil.