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Potato salad is one of a few salads that were staples at almost every picnic and barbecue when I was growing up. The others that were regulars on the table were a very simple salad of grated carrot with sultanas and lemon, green beans with vinaigrette, and sometimes a classic tabouleh, but potato was the staple. I now have a few versions up my sleeve, also using my grandmother’s recipe and an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ version from a long ago flatmate, Sarah.

The version my parents made was usually some variation on my  father’s version below, though sometimes it might be my grandmother’s version with the classic Eastern European addition of dill cucumbers. We usually didn’t use a waxy salad potato as we bought all purpose brushed potatoes in 20kg sacks, and they were what we used for everything (families of seven eat lots of potatoes!). I don’t think waxy potatoes like Kipfler were readily available during my country childhood anyway.

Sarah’s potato salad

I remember my childhood potato salad being heavy on the mayo (with just enough yoghurt to thin a bit) and with heaps of finely chopped herbs, especially mint. We sometimes had homemade mayonnaise, but the fallback was always S&W, which my parents insisted was the only commercial mayonnaise worth buying. There are probably other brands available now, but I stick to the tried and tested. Feel free to vary the brand, my only hard and fast rule is that it not be at all sweet (in the area of 1g of sugar/100g  if you want a yardstick) 🙂

My grandmother’s version we made less often, and is less rich, with more yoghurt, spring onions, lemon and dill cucumbers to provide a contrast to the creaminess of the mayonnaise and potatoes. My mother makes it now with her fabulous home pickled cucumbers.

Because my parents were somewhat purists about what was added to potato salad, it was something of a shock to be introduced to Sarah’s version when we were flatmates years ago. Hers is chunky and full of punchy flavours, with wholegrain mustard and tabasco added to the dressing, and chunks of spring onion, egg and bacon in the salad. I think of it as a perfect picnic potato salad.

Of the three, I really couldn’t pick a favourite as I love potato salad in all its different guises. My solution, eat potato salad often enough, especially during summer, to get my fill of each of them, and I’ve listed all three recipes so you can do the same!

 Dad’s classic potato salad

  • 1kg Kipfler or similar potatoes (they need to be waxy salad potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup good whole egg mayo – not sweet
  • 2 Tbs Greek yoghurt
  • ½ bunch chives finely sliced
  • ½ bunch mint, leaves finely sliced
  • 1 Tbs capers (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub potatoes (don’t peel or chop) and cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Add a large pinch of salt. Boil in salted water until a skewer goes through easily.  Mix dressing ingredients (mayonnaise through to capers) together and add salt and pepper to taste – note that the dressing needs to be over seasoned so it tastes balanced when you add the potatoes. Drain potatoes when cooked, then slice across if small.  If they’re big then cut lengthways first. I leave skins on, but they peel easily when warm if you prefer. Gently mix warm potatoes into dressing trying not to break them up too much.  Taste again for seasoning and chill.  You can easily make this the day before.

My grandmother’s potato salad

  • 1kg Kipfler or similar potatoes (they need to be waxy salad potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup good whole egg mayo – not sweet
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs, medium boiled (with yolks just set) and diced
  • 2 dill cucumbers, diced

Follow the same method as for the classic salad but only combine the mayo, yoghurt, spring onions and seasoning then mix with the potatoes. Gently mix in the eggs and dill cucumbers last, leaving a few for topping. Taste again for seasoning and chill.  You can easily make this the day before.

Sarah’s picnic potato salad

  • 1kg Kipfler or similar potatoes (they need to be waxy salad potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup good whole egg mayo – not sweet
  • 1/3 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 heaped Tbs wholegrain mustard
  • Salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 2 rashers bacon, sliced and fried to crisp
  • 2 eggs, medium boiled (with yolks just set) and diced

Follow the same method as for the classic salad but only combine the mayo, yoghurt, mustard and seasoning then mix with the potatoes. Gently mix in the spring onions, bacon and eggs last, leaving a few for topping. This is a chunkier salad, so potatoes, onions and eggs can be chopped more roughly. Taste again for seasoning and chill.  You can easily make this the day before.

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