How To Keep Your Instant Mash A State Secret

“In the end I always want mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Nothing like mashed potatoes when you are feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter and methodically adding a thin, cold slice of butter to every forkful. The problem with mashed potatoes though, is that they require almost as much hard work as crisp potatoes, and when you’re feeling blue the last thing you feel like is hard work. Of course, you can always get someone to make the mashed potatoes for you, but let’s face it: the reason you are blue is that there isn’t anyone to make them for you. As a result most people don’t have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it’s almost always at the wrong time”

Nora Ephron, Heartburn


Acutely observed….. but wrong!

If you’re on your own, cheating at mashed potatoes will just make you smug.

If however, you are making mashed potatoes for others, then it’s the eleventh commandment,

“Thou shalt not be found out!”

that you have to obey.

With this cheats’ recipe, for people who hate peeling and fiddling around with mashers etc, you WON’T BE.

I wholly agree with the aliens in the advertisement below who are falling about at the mere idea of it all. It is SO simple, if you use cup measures, and the tin of evaporated milk, there isn’t even any weighing, measuring…no cooking. What’s not to like?

cheat's mashed potato
Make sure you get out a couple of real potatoes and put them well in sight.

Just don’t tell your guests…. and don’t tell your doctor.

Other uses for Smash? In France, a cool individual was caught by police sniffing white powder off his mobile phone. Taken ‘down to the station’ he confessed to sniffing cocaine. But he was freed after tests showed that his coke was mashed potato powder.

Recipe for state-secret instant mash

Serves 3-4


  • 120g/1 cup smash instant potato
  • 240ml/1 cup just boiled water – but boil more, you will probably need it
  • 1 x chicken stock cube dissolved in it
  • 240-360ml/1-1½ cups full (do not even think of messing around with skimmed) milk (or you can use 2 x 170g tins evaporated milk plus an extra tablespoon of water – but then it takes on a slightly different colour and taste – still excellent to eat, but you probably will be found out). Or you could use a mixture of milk and cream – whatever you need to use up. Start with the smaller quantity, and if it looks too stiff, slowly add more. Different makes of instant potato need slightly different amounts of liquid, but it’s most likely you will need the full 360ml/ cups.
  • freshly ground pepper
  • just under a quarter of a pack of butter (40-60g/2 oz)
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed with a little textured smoked salt – you don’t want too much salt because of the stock cube.


  1. All you have to do is mix the whole lot together with a fork. Heat in a microwave for three minutes on 850 power, stirring in the middle. You may find it is still a bit solid, or you may prefer your mash a bit sloppier, in which case just add a bit more boiled water or milk or cream – but do this right at the end when you are sure of the consistency. You can add liquid but you can’t take it away!
  2. There are lot of optional, cold ingredients to include, see below for ideas – if the mixture gets too cold, simply heat up again in the microwave, or, stirring briskly, in a saucepan on the hob.

What else can you add to mashed potato?


  • plain yoghurt
  • cream cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • fried bacon and onions, aka Brændende kærlighed in Denmark… or the wonderfully named, ‘Burning Love’ to English-speakers.
  • you can add either Tomme de Laguiole or Tomme d’Auvergne cheese to make aligot potatoes, originally from L’aubrac. There are not for the faint hearted – not for anyone in any way worried about their heart or their health. The choice of cheese in important. Felicity Cloake, writing in The Guardian, explains it needs to be “mild, with a lactic tang, but not too much salt, and melt easily”. Cantal cheese could be used instead, or a creamy (not crumbly) Lancashire.

“It comes with a small silver terrine of white gloop, which she informs me is pommes aligot.
Pomme à la go?
Quickly cooked apples?
Why didn’t I listen properly in French?”

Grace Dent, Hungry
  • for an extravagant flavour, some truffle oil, or, even richer, try mixing in some of Belazu’s artichoke and truffle pesto, serve with steak on Valentine’s Day
  • to go with pork, some apple sauce and a little chopped thyme
  • mustard
  • cheese and parsley
  • pesto – looks exotic (green!) tastes exciting (zingy!)
  • black pudding
  • vanilla – I know this sounds unusual but if you mix in 1 level teaspoon vanilla paste into the recipe above you will raise your mash to yet greater heights
  • fried cabbage or cavolo nero, chives, leeks and spring onions – this makes it into colcannon in Ireland. Serve with gammon or boiled ham and calvados apple sauce.
  • if you add in some cold roast beef to your colcannon, it becomes bubble and squeak in the UK. 
  • in The Netherlands colcannon becomes a Stamppot, mixing in any green vegetable. A really good version uses finely sliced endive, bacon, mushrooms and Dutch cumin cheese.
  • Nigel Slater makes his mash with olive oil rather than butter and then adds lemon juice; then he serves it with asparagus and garnishes with lemon zest.
  • ricotta – and top with chopped, dry fried pecans or walnuts, and fried sage leaves.
  • horseradish
  • Salma Hage, in The Lebanese Cookbook, suggests adding dry-fried cumin seeds, and garnishing with chopped parsley
  • if you have any elderly lettuce to use up, cut off truly ancient browning leaves, shred the rest and stir through the mash
  • spring onions – thus making champ. Traditionally eaten in Northern Ireland with sausages.

….or lobster.

If you want to sample a professional version of this, go to Parsons. The Infatuation Instagram feed tells us:

“This lobster mash is the kind of thing that Henry VIII probably ate for elevenses after napping on a mound of peacock feathers”.

what is the difference between colcannon and champ
Add spring onions and it makes it into Northern Irish champ

Quotes about mash

“What happens in this type of environment is that people tend to come back to comfort food, the food that reminds them of how they grew up,” said Rafael Oliviera, international zone president at Kraft Heinz….

…Data from market researcher Kantar showed the rise was particularly sharp for old-fashioned foodstuffs such as suet, instant mashed potato and canned meats, all of which more than doubled in the week to March 22 from a year earlier.”

Judith Evans in The Financial Times, 25 April 2020

“Nigella Lawson succeeded in persuading many people that it wasn’t quitting, but engaging in, the kitchen that could liberate you. ‘What I’m doing here,’ she once said, ‘is seeking to offer protection from life, solely through the means of potato, butter and cream. There are times when only mashed potato will do.’”

William Sitwell, A History Of Food In 100 Recipes

What to do with leftover mash

You can make leftover mash into potato cakes.

Get some vegetable oil – sufficient to shallow fry ((2 cm/½” deep minimum) – to nearly smoke point. If you have about a cup of mash, add in a finely chopped shallot, some salt, pepper, and maybe some dried herbs, about three tablespoons of plain flour and an egg. Mix the lot together. They need to be stiff enough to form into potato cakes that will stay together, so if the mix is still a bit loose add another tablespoon or so of flour.

Put a generous quantity of flour on a board, and form the mix into small (6cm/1½” diameter) cakes. Shallow fry, turning when golden on the bottom.

Serve with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and lemon segments. Or, as they do in LA:

“The furthest I’ve ever travelled for a hangover was a 90-minute taxi from north-east Los Angeles to République, a café near the La Brea Tar Pits. In part, the LA traffic was to blame for the length of the journey. But it was all about the potato pancake with creamy hollandaise and soft poached eggs. I needed a cure. The pancake was it.” 

Rosanna Dodds, The Financial Times, December 30 2022
how to make potato cakes
how to make potato cakes

Famous smash advertisement

Smash won awards for its 1970s instant mash ads starring gobsmacked Martians watching humans peeling potatoes

Do you still really want to make real mash?

The best method is to follow the instructions of Agnes Jekyll, writing in Kitchen Essays in the 1920s.

“…a purée of mashed potatoes, not that stiff and tasteless compound so often offered, but the French variety made by boiling and draining the potatoes, and then mashing them in a saucepan lightly rubbed with a clove of garlic and mixed with a liberal amount of butter, and either boiling milk, or, as some cooks prefer, with a little stock from the soup-pot, which makes it a little browner; and this need be hardly thicker than a well-made apple sauce.”

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