Ok so this is a very basic rule, but it's mainly been forgotten over the years. If your veg is from under the ground (potato, carrot, parsnip) you need to start cooking with cold water. But if the veg is from above the dirt (corn, peas, green beans) you need to cook in boiling water.
Now I'm sure there's a really technical reason as to why this is, but the easy version is most underground vegies are roots. They are dense, hardy, filling foods and need to be cooked slowly so they cook evenly. If you start cooking potatoes in hot water, the outside edge will cook faster than the inside and you end up with a crunchy centre. Other vegies, like peas, are much lighter and should be cooked very quickly in boiling water to lock in the nutrients.
Oh and here's a quick mashed potato recipe:
- Peel 1 medium potato per person - my interpretation of 'medium' is about the size of a tennis ball... I generally work on the old rule of "one spud per person, plus one for the pot" but I always make a little too much, it's my weakness! If the potatoes are dirty, give them a quick wash too.
- Dice the potatoes into 2cm chunks. (It doesn't have to be perfect, but the closer in size, the more even result)
- Put the potatoes into a pan and cover them with enough cold water to cover by about 1cm. Add a good pinch of salt and cover the pan with a lid, but don't close the lid completely or it will boil over and make a huge mess.
- Turn the heat on to high and bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiled, then turn down the heat to low.
- The potatoes are cooked when they are tender. To test you can pierce a piece of potato with a fork. If the fork goes in smoothly and the potato is soft, they are done. Or you can squash one against the side of the pan with the fork, but be careful not to push the boiling hot pan of water onto yourself!! It usually takes around 10-15 minutes for peeled, diced potatoes to cook - depends how many potatoes are cooking, etc…
- Drain all the water and then put the potatoes back into the pot - this helps some of the excess water to evaporate.
- Now for the flavours! Add a little more salt and some pepper. (not too much salt, you can add more later) Throw in a good tablespoon of butter and a splash of milk, then mash, mash, mash! The more you mash the smoother it will be. Or if you have a stick blender, use that - you'll have the most velvety smooth potatoes you've ever had... bliss! (but don't overuse the stick blender or you'll make a gluey paste!)
- Other great flavour options are a sprinkle or parmesan or cheddar cheese, a little garlic salt, fresh chopped spring onions... use your imagination!
There's heaps of potato mashers on the market, most of them are the same. Opt for something that's comfortable to hold and remember you're going to be pushing down on it, so look for something sturdy.