South of the Murray Potato Salad
There are only two ingredients you need to get right for Potato salad.
The potatoes and the mayonnaise.
Those of you who live north of the Murray can stop reading now because it
is not in your genetic makeup to understand either.
For those of you who live south of the Murray and are just about to take
a pre-packaged potato salad off the supermarket shelf, just pause for a
minute. After Australia’s first mineral boom the landscape was left
devastated - vast amounts of vegetation had been chopped down and the creeks
were muddied and polluted. All that was left in many cases was dirt. The
goldrush had laid waste vast areas of land between Melbourne and the
leaving mainly dirt. You could run a few sheep on it perhaps, but it was
There - bend down and taste it - it’s dirt.
Several at the time did bend down and taste it and could immediately tell
it was dirt - not your ordinary north-of-the-Murray sandy loam but proper
chocolate dirt. The volcanic activity in the
region about 10 million years ago had generated lava that flowed east as far
as the current path of the Yarra. That volcanic soil had broken down over
the centuries into soil that was ideal for - potatoes!
Of course potatoes aren’t just potatoes. Anyone who has grown up in
somewhere like Ballarat can tell the difference between a Bunninyong potato,
a Trentham potato and a Clarkes Hill potato - provided you don’t scrape all
the dirt off before the taste test. The only other people in Australia who
understand potatoes are Tasmanians which sort of makes them honorary
Victorians except they colonised us first but it all works out in the mash.
For your proper South of the Murray Potato Salad you need the right
potatoes - not the disintegrating floury ones from last night’s tea - if you
have to recycle them, call it leftovers but not potato salad. They will end
up tasting like the stuff you get from the fridge in chicken shops or in 5
star hotels on the Gold Coast -
’How did you find the steak sir?’
’It was a bit
of a challenge, but eventually I scraped off the fruit salad and there it
’And what about the potato salad?’ (You decide the least said
the soonest forgotten.)
What you need is a firm potato that won’t lose its shape - most finger
shaped potatoes fit the bill but you can find a brief rundown of the
types of potato available in
The other key ingredient is the mayonnaise which is easy enough when you
make your own - you do make your own don’t you? Neither do we most of the
time but there are two alternatives. The first is to buy one of the better
versions from the supermarket. It will almost certainly be too sweet in the
fast food fashion but it can be wrangled into an acceptable shape. Thin it
out with some sour cream and cut through the sickly sweetness by adding some
lemon juice. It’s not great but it’s a darned sight better than what you
The second (and preferable) option for mayonnaise is to visit Herr and
Frau Gruenewald down the street. You explain that you are about to make some
mayonnaise for a potato salad but you have forgotten the proportions. Frau
Gruenewald tuts that you really should take notes while Herr Gruenewald
reappears with glasses of schnapps all round. When quizzed about what dill
cucumber you will be using in your potato salad and your answer of ones from
a supermarket in a jar does not seem to measure up to the mark, Fraulein
Gruenewald is dispatched to fetch some home-made ones.
After the third glass of schnapps Frau Gruenewald has made up a batch of
mayonnaise using eggs from the chooks outside and enquires whether you have
remembered the proportions. You nod unconvincingly and return home with dill
pickle and mayonnaise worthy of your South of the Murray Potato Salad.
If you don’t have a Herr and Frau Gruenewald in your street you really ought
to consider moving.
Now it is time to start putting everything together. Put your potatoes in
a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer until semi-cooked so that
a knife will slide in reasonably easily. When using ’finger’ potatoes we
prefer to cook them whole and then cut them up when they have cooled.
Meanwhile in a frypan gently fry some bacon cubes in a little olive oil
together with garlic and sliced red onion until they have softened. Transfer
the bacon, onion and garlic together with the pan juices into a bowl then
add the drained and sliced warm potatoes. Allow the potatoes to soak up some
of the juices and once cooled to near room temperature add the mayonnaise
(we prefer to add some mustard or horseradish to the mayonnaise) chopped
mint, parsley and dill (or whatever green herb you have available), sliced
dill cucumbers and capers. Finally add some quartered boiled eggs and maybe
some prosciutto which has been crisped in a pan and crumbled. We prefer to
keep our ingredients large and chunky so that the individual flavours crop
up in each mouthful.
And as for you - yes you - the one taking the alleged potato salad off
the supermarket shelf - ask the attendant if the potatoes came from
Bunninyong, Trentham or Clarkes Hill. If they can’t tell you it’s time to
honour your heritage and go home and make a proper South of the Murray
“thanks for your potato salad recipe it was beautiful (made with
spuds from newlyn )...all the best for the new year cheers sandy
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