I am not going to give exact amounts since each cook has to decide how many they are preparing for – five or fifteen. My only advice is make plenty –potato salad is always the first to go. Nor am I going to suggest which potato to use. I’ve made potato salad with just about every potato available and they’ve all worked well. The most traditional way is to boil large whole potatoes with their skin on. Once they’ve cooled you can peel the skin before cutting them into smaller pieces. This prevents the potatoes from becoming mushy and keeps them firm.
My Westphalian grandmother always used sun-flower oil for her mayonnaises. As, indeed, does my Belgian father-in-law. Olive oil was unheard of in northern Europe until well after the second world war – but then again so was sunflower oil until the early part of the twentieth century. Sunflower oil is certainly cheaper than expensive cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil – so you decide – but be aware that commercial sunflower oil is highly problematic and unrefined sunflower oil tastes bitter. (See my post on mayonnaise).
I am giving two versions of the potato salad – the Westphalian-style potato salad with mayonnaise and a Bavarian version using a vinaigrette sauce. Children tend to prefer the mayonnaise one – I have a slight preference for the Bavarian style salad. Both are delicious and great for these hot summer days.
Westphalian-style potato salad
Potatoes, onion, sweet-sour gherkins, frankfurter sausages, eggs, parsley, home-made mayonnaise.
Boil the potatoes until soft and leave to cool.
Boil three to four eggs until hard and leave them to cool.
For the sauce
Since potatoes absorb sauces and since this is a mayonnaise potato salad do not skimp on the amount of mayonnaise used – at least three to four table spoons. More if you’re preparing the salad for lots of people. Add a good glug of vinegar from the pickled gherkins. If you are not adding gherkins use a good quality white wine vinegar. The added vinegar not only gives the sauce a pleasant tangy punch it also makes the texture of the final salad less sticky and unctuous. Mayonnaise only potato salads can be dry and clingy. Add the chopped gherkins, onions, sausages, parsley and eggs to the mayonnaise/vinegar sauce and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Once the potatoes have cooled cut them into slices and stir them into the sauce.
Bavarian-style potato salad
Potatoes, white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey or sugar, sweet-sour gherkins, eggs, fresh seasonal herbs such as parsley or chives, bacon (optional), salt & pepper.
Boil the potatoes until soft and leave to cool. Boil three to four eggs until hard and leave them to cool. If using bacon – chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy. Leave to cool and set aside keeping some of the residual drippings to add to the vinaigrette.
For the vinaigrette
Add a good glug of white wine vinegar into a bowl (if you’re preparing a salad for a large amount of people do not be shy with the amount you use) and add the salt, pepper, chives and/or parsley and around one to two tea-spoon of honey or sugar. Mix into the vinegar. Add the olive oil. If you’re using bacon add some of the oil from the bacon to give an added savoury flavour to the vinaigrette. Add the crispy fired bacon and any pickles you desire – gherkins, pickled onions etc. Slice the potatoes and add them into the sauce.