The first spudlets of summer

I say potato (poe-tay-toe), you say potato (pa-ta-toe). I say tomato (tow-may-toe), you say tomato (tow-mah-toe). Okay, so it's not quite the most wonderful time of the year yet (that would be in August, when the tomatoes are a scandalous, ready-to-burst red, and heat hangs in the air like a hazy bar circa 2003), but it's still pretty darn good.

Yesterday, I was out at midnight, with nary a jacket, and I was warm. People of the Prairies, this is the stuff dreams are made of in Victoria. The clouds were spread out like lily pads on a pond and the white moonlight rippled through them, illuminating the inky blue sky. It felt good to be alive (to quote an Edwin song). 

Look around! Over here there's rubied raspberries to be wrassled, pea vines tumbling over from their own twisted, tangly weight and perky-leaved lettuces that the chickadees can't seem to get their fill of.  Right now, it's entirely possible to find new spudlets still dirt-smudged with wisps of soft, papery skin. Perhaps you discovered some specimens no larger than an egg at the farmer's market, or maybe you just rummaged through all the little plastic bags at the grocery store to nab only the tiniest of taters. Either way, if you enjoy your potatoes with sweet and creamy insides, crackled edges and a summery whiff of fresh herbs, then you might, just maybe, enjoy these:

Crushed New Potatoes with Herb Butter
Adapted from Nigel Slater

Take some liberties with this one - use as many potatoes as you want, as much garlic as you fancy, a generous smear of butter or just a pat. I've made these precisely as well as haphazardly and they always turn out delicious.

850g new potatoes
6 sprigs of mint
3 cloves of new garlic
8 sprigs of thyme
a thick slice of butter, preferably at room temperature
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Bring a pot of deep, lightly salted water to a boil. Scrub the potatoes and drop them into the boiling water along with the sprigs of mint. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender, then drain. 

Meanwhile, peel and smash the garlic cloves with a sprinkling of sea salt. Pick the leaves from the sprigs of thyme and mash together with the garlic, butter and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Place the drained potatoes in a shallow baking dish and crush each one lightly with a fork. Dab the herb butter over top, scatter with some more sprigs of thyme, if you like, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until lightly golden.  

Enough for about 4, as a side dish. 

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