Potato salad with apple and thyme


PotatoAppleThymeSaladTitle I swear that I am turning into a crabby old lady before my eyes. 

At least half the words that come out of my mouth these days could just as easily have come out of my mother's mouth… and we all know how we fear turning into our parents ;-)  I have caught myself complaining that "music today just doesn't have a tune, not like when we were young".  I find myself ranting angrily at the bad proofreading in newspapers ("he was loathed to admit", "it was a stationery vehicle" or "the couple are seperated" being some favourites), along the lines of "they don't teach children to read or write properly in school these days!".  And I attach greater and greater importance to good manners.

I think living in London, cheek by jowl with 7-and-some-change million people, somehow brings into sharp focus the importance of good manners as the essential lubricant which keeps social wheels turning.  Without some semblance of good manners and consideration for others, most of us living here would struggle to contain the impulse to go on a murderous rampage once a week or so.  This is usually when some bloke elbows you in the kidneys and practically bowls an old lady on crutches over in oder to scrum onto the Tube train before the disembarking passengers have even reached the doors, just so that he can nab a seat.  All this while the "please allow passengers off the train first" announcement echoes uselessly around the tunnel on the PA system.  Harrumph.

One of the things that sets South Africans apart from the locals here in London is our willingness to invite people into our homes.  Brits will offer to meet you in the pub, the theatre, a restaurant or in the park at lunchtime… but an invitation into their home is a jealously guarded prize.  We, on the other hand, will say "you must come over for a braai" as an opening move in a bid to forge a friendship – for us it is the first step; for Brits it is the last.  This means that I find myself on the giving end of invitations far more often than the receiving end – and don't get me wrong, I like to entertain and I know that there will be some work involved.  But some sign that people appreciate the invitation and the work that goes into hosting would be welcome.

As in previous years, we held our Big South African Braai this weekend and, as usual, invited far more people than our house can feasibly hold.  We had invited people a month or more ago so as to make sure that the date was in people's calendars.  All of last week, Nick and I anxiously scanned the weather forecast, hoping that there would be a glimmer of hope for sunny wather.  But no – the stormy weather remained on track for Saturday.  Did we cancel?  Did we waver??  No - I figured we had invited these lovely folk over and we owed them a lunch.  So we simply set up the BBQ under an awning and made space for people to sit inside while Nick (who is made of sterner stuff than me!) braaied.

As it turns out, we needen't have worried.  We went shopping on Friday and catered salads, starters and dessert for the sixteen people we were expecting.  We ended up with eight.  Some had to work, some had medical problems – fair enough.  But I'm sorry, when did "I have made another appointment" or "I have a hangover" sent by text, at about the time I was expecting you to arrive at my house, become a reasonable excuse?? 

So the party was small but perfectly formed, as one of the guests noted.  Those of us who were there had a blast – eating, talking and laughing till dinnertime, and there are few things I find more enjoyable than listening to a roomful of my friends having a good time in my house :)  However, as I catered for the phantom guests, we are now also up to our necks in uneaten salads, so all recipes for leftover chickpea or potato salad will be gratefully received 😉

I hadn't used thyme in a potato salad before and now I don't know why I hadn't – the flavour is wonderful.  Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) is a member of the mint family with a wonderful aromatic flavour that also pairs very well with chicken.  It was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and was thought to signify courage.  Mediaeval ladies would embroider a sprig of thyme onto the clothes of their knights in shining armour for bravery.  This may or may not have helped, but as it is very rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, it is good for fighting off colds and flu, or for an immune system boost.  Its powerful essential oil, thymol, was also rubbed into wounds as its antiseptic properties prevented infection.  It is still used in mouthwash and skin creams for the same reason.

The potato salad that I made is another one of my dear friend Paul's recipes.  Paul likes to experiment in the kitchen, an approach which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  When he visited recently, he requested a braai for dinner and offered to make a potato salad.  When I saw him heading for the fruit bowl, I was slightly concerned.  "Ummm, can I help you?  What are you looking for?"  He replied:  "Apples", as if that would set my mind at ease!  "In the potato salad?" I asked rather dubiously.  "Yes.  Trust me." he replied.

I did – and so should you.  The crispy texture of the apples is the perfect foil for the creamy texture of the potatoes, and I was amazed at what a beautiful pairing apples and thyme make.  If you are stuck in a potato salad rut, please do yourself a favour and try this one.  It may not improve your manners, but it sure tastes wonderful 😉



6 large salad potatoes
half a small onion (as sweet as you can find)
1 Granny Smith or similar tangy apple
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 eggs (optional)


Peel the potatoes, chop into large chunks and steam.  Alternatively, you can boil them in their skins, but I find the skins always split and they absorb water and become soggy.

In the meantime, dice the onion very finely and core and grate the apple.

When the potatoes are soft enough, chop into bite-sized chunks and mix with the onion and apple.  Stir in enough mayonnaise to achieve the consistency you want (some peopel drown their potato salads in mayo, others go for a drier consistency – you choose).  Stir in the thyme (you can add a little more if you like) and add salt to taste.

If using the eggs, hard-boil them, peel, dice and sprinkle over the top of the salad before serving.

Elsewhere on the food blogs:

Elise of Simply Recipes made her dad's potato salad

Pille of Nami-Nami made a beetroot and potato salad

Michelle of The Greedy Gourmet made a new potato and dill salad

Alanna of A Veggie Venture made warm German potato salad

Whb_2_yrs_2I am submitting this as my entry to the charming hostess for Kalyn's event Weekend Herb Blogging this weekend - the lovely Ulrike from Kuechenlatein.  Do check her site for the roundup this week!

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  1. says

    “Brits will offer to meet you in the pub, the theatre, a restaurant or in the park at lunchtime… but an invitation into their home is a jealously guarded prize. We, on the other hand, will say “you must come over for a braai” as an opening move in a bid to forge a friendship – for us it is the first step; for Brits it is the last”
    LOL, I have exactly the same experience here (in CA) with my Brit friends. I have been inviting them for years (at least once a month) And they invited us back once a year if lucky (only if they have party, with tons of people)
    I miss South African Braai, I should ask my husband to do this and invite friends for late summer gathering. And off course your mashed potatoes should be included on the menu. It’s more interesting than just the regular mashed potatoes. Cheers.

  2. says

    Stunning – just to tell you that I read it earlier and we made this evening (with our braai). It’s a really good combination. I love seeing different potato salads!
    Maybe one day you can do an article and find out what we all do around the world. I’d love to but my site simply doesn’t call for that kind of thing. More’s the pity!
    Wish you could remind me each time you write something – I simply love love love your writing.
    By the way, I’m with you on bad writing – my worst being the split infinitives. :)

  3. says

    Manners these days! I’m afraid to tell you that manners aren’t much better here these days either … at least where children’s birthdays are concerned – I cater more exactly for those than I do for braais, needing the right amount of treasure and not wanting to buy too much extra, then you ring people to find out if they are nearly there, as you want to start the treasure hunt and find they aren’t intending to come after all and were just about to ring you!
    My husband always says the same about Brits not inviting you to their home and I always disagreed, as my group of friends was always more inclined to entertain at home – but then we must just be honarary South Africans, it seems we are the odd ones out, and I’ve been protesting against his sweeping generalisations all these years!

  4. says

    I think it’s a London thing …. here in the countryside / small town, we start with an invitation to come home. One more reason to feel glad I no longer live in London
    And as for the no-shows, it makes it a nightmare organising anything. Are they worse than the ones who don’t reply and then just turn up? Not sure. I think the answer is to encourage those people to hold a party of their own – on the do-as-you-would-be-done-by principle, and in the hope that the penny might drop
    Love the apple and thyme in the potato salad

  5. says

    i abhor poor editing, but it’s everywhere. bad manners are equally ubiquitous. i’m working hard to accept these things, but so far, it’s not happening. :)
    meanwhile, i haven’t tried thyme in potato salad either, but i love the herb and i value your opinion so i’ll definitely give it a shot! :)

  6. says

    I am so proud of you for keeping the hospitality flag high…..My favorite sound in the world is also a house(mine) filled with people having a good time…. I find that even here in SA I invite far more than what I am being invited, but my friends say that they feel intimidated. I think it is a lousy excuse….. A Marmite sandwich made with love is better if someone made it for you…
    anyway…on to your potato salad.I think it is great to have a crisp apple in there, maybe even add some celery!!!

  7. says

    Weekend Herb Blogging #148: The Round-up

    It’s always fun to write the round-up, but I always have some initial difficulties: Some entries ended in the spam-filter, some entries were very late.. Allow me some word for future hosts. Don’t send your entries at the last moment. Sometimes emai…

  8. tastebud says

    hi, just thought you lovley south africans abroad who love food would like to know that last wendesday we had out Eat In RMB Private Bank Small Producers Awards 2008 again. we all gathered in an old renovated warehouse the Neighbourgoods @ the old biscuit mill where we the most fantastic market every Saturday. What a lunch – sitting on long planks on crates, Karen Dudley conjured up dish after gorgeous dish using the winning products – all served on vintage platters and mismatched crockery deliciious wine and lovley people. We can all be proud at the amazing producers we have here! 18 winners were honored – from the most idyllic organic farm and lovley shy Sylvia, who produces mutchli style cheese with no eskom only gas and solar power, Wayne Rademeyer and his real mozzarella di Bufala, attorney turned water buffalo farmer in Wellington(best new product)to the utterly addictive atchaars, sauces and pickles from the parker family of quality pickles(winner grocery catgegory)I say yay to local producers!
    Pics will soon be up on the website http://www.eat-in.co.za

  9. says

    ahhhh i miss green apples. we haven’t seen a lot of them sold at the farmers’ market these days. your salad and thyme looks refreshing. i am sure the tartness of those green apples give excellent bursts in your mouth. delicious!

  10. says

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for a spontaneous invitation from an American. Most people would think that person was weird. Most of don’t even like sharing a table at the coffeeshop! As for the spud salad, I love, love, love the addition of apples and thyme. What an interesting flavor and texture it must provide.

  11. says

    Hi Jeanne, I agree with you about Brits not inviting people to their homes – we don’t do it often enough! It’s funny really as I always enjoy those evenings the most so I really should invite people over more rather than always going out. I also understand your frustration at people not turning up – it is always upsetting when you try to make an evening special and people come up with lame excuses..

  12. says

    Oh, tell me about the tube. I take it every day to go to work in canary wharf and maners have become an obsession of mine since it is so lacking. I am very curious about this salad – apples, potatoes and thyme. Fascinating! Getting my pen..

  13. says

    Ulrike’s name, heaven and earth, sounds really poetic. Isn’t it great when new combinations work out so well, the use of thyme inspired, it’s one of my top three herbs. I reckon you could use up the leftover potato and apple salad in empanadas, maybe adding some ham.
    Perhaps a cattle prod on the tube could work wonders. Not standing up for the pregnant woman…zap, they’d be bolt upright in a flash!

  14. says

    Just remember that the 24th of September is National Braai day here, so you are going to have to light up again! I can’t believe people are so scarce with home invites – I love having people round, so much more social than a restaurant, they really don’t know what they are missing out on. Friendships are best cared for at home!

  15. says

    I am definitely going to try adding some apple next time I make a potato salad, sounds yum!
    Re: the leftovers, I can’t offer any advice, but I do empathise… let’s just say Paula’s hot dog stand at her school,s market day didn’t go quite as well as expected – any ideas for 97 left-over viennas!!!?

  16. says

    How true Jeanne; I think you might have many clones (me included). LOL…quite right you are about people & how strange they are. Thankfully here, they are more than willing to come over & happily so! On another note, that’s a lovely salad. I’ve done a potato, onion & sweetcorn…now apple & thyme are intriguing! Got to lay me hands on some thyme…yummy!!

  17. Angela says

    Apples and thyme work so well together. I occasionally bake an apple or two alongside roast pork and stick a few sprigs of thyme in each (and some honey) for a cute individual portion of apple sauce.
    The salad looks wonderful!
    (And I, too, find myself moaning rather a lot about shoddy editing and proofreading in newspapers and on the BBC news website. I have given up reporting errors, however, as they never corrected them.)

  18. katsa says

    Jeanne – My mom always put grated apple in with her braai-accompanying potato salad, as well as finely sliced onions. Years later on a student holiday in Ballito, and without mom to check with, I tried to recreate the famous salad, and I figured the additional crisp cruchiness must have just been a lot of onions. Was I wrong! Needless to say I paid attention the next time mom made potato salad, and now, I never make mine without the addition of granny smiths. I must try the thyme now too!
    You are so right about turning into your parents – espeically here in Europe where I find children trying to be older sooner than they’d be in SA. I find myself regularly commenting, “Does their mother know where they are / what they’re up to / what they’re wearing?!”
    At the risk of turning into a crazy lady, I have not yet written a letter to the editor complaining about the poor proofreading in a publication, but I do rant loudly to anyone who has the misfortune to venture near, and I have been known to redline office minutes and promotional material. (Ok, maybe I am already that crazy lady… :) )

  19. says

    Elra – Glad to her it’s not just me struggling with the Brits’ approach to socialising! Hope you get your late-summer braai organised and that you’ll have better weather than we had :)
    Justfood – glad you enjoyed it! And thank yo for your lovely compliments on my writing *blush*. If you want to know when I’ve written a post, have you tried subscribing to my RSS feed, or my weekly e-mail? There are links to both in the sidebar.
    Courtney – it’s a very happy combo, And yes, a big fat raspberry to the no-shows, but at least I know they lost out more than we did!
    Margot – do give it a try. And yes, you are the person who gave me the idea to invest in IKEA napkins as props 😉
    Kalyn – you are so right, thyme goes with so many things!
    Kit – I thing public flogging should be brought back for last-minute no-shows, unless they have a doctor’s note!! And LOL about your husband and I agreeing on Brit social customs! I’m sure there are some of your countrymen out there who invite people into their homes at the drop of a hat – I just haven’t met them 😉
    Joanna – oh, I hear you about the advantages of the country (and you have a particularly lovely bit of country around you!). Now if only I could find a way of making money outside London…! And agree – not sure if the no-shows or unexpected arrivals are worse :o)
    Darius – sooner or later it happens to all of us :) And do try the salad – it’s great!
    Maybelle’s mom – it’s definitely worth a try. It just works!
    Grace – of course, after I’d posted, I found typos in my own post ranting about proofreading – arrrgh! Fixed now… And as for potatoes and thyme, it’ll be love at first bite :)
    Nina – oh trust me, we fly that flag high! And yes, what’s up with this “ooooh, I can’t invite you around because you’ll criticise my food!”. I do believ that the only mentions on my blog of meals at friends’ houses was where I was RAVING about some or other dich of theirs. Harrumph. I do’t care WHAT people feed me, as long as I didn’t have to make it! And re. celery, I always add it to my tuna salad for crunch :)
    Ulrike – I’m going to look that up! And oddly enough, I also make a dish with smoked pork, potatoes, apples and cabbage…
    Tastebud – my full report is up now. Thanks for the heads-up :)
    Arfi – I would shrivel and die without green apples… I buy them year round, despite the food miles (I figure the South African farming industry needs my support anyway…).
    Elizabeth – I know – who woulda known! And I did think while I was making it how different it is to my sister-in-law’s garlicky, olive-oily potato salads!
    Susan – LOL! So it’s the South Africans that are the odd ones out! No wonder we make bad emigrants :) And do try the salad – the textures and flavours do work beautifully together.
    Helen – I did worry about the sweeping generalisation so I’m glad you support me!! And honestly, in my experience it’s 100% true… And I support corporal punishment for no-shows :o)
    Valentina – Hah – maybe we have seen each other on the Jubilee line without knowing it! Some days I get home just feeling manhandled – it can be like a scrum in there with every man for himself. DO try the salad – it’s addictive!
    Nate – LOL – yes, I certainly crossed some names off *my* Christmas card list, I can tell you 😉
    Neil – empanadas, now there’s an idea. Thanks! As for the cattle prod, I’m liking it already! Every pregnant woman should be issued with one :)
    Rosemary – agree, there’s nothing quite like having people around. Gives me the warm fuzzies :) And thanks for reminding me abotu braai day – I will definitely have to contribute!
    Recetas – muchas gracias!
    Gill – do try it, it’s great. As for the viennas… erm, a big sausage and bean casserole?? With herby dumplings??
    Deeba – glad to hear I’m not alone on this :) And ooooh, sweetcorn improves ANY salad! I’ll definitely have to try that – thanks :)
    Angela – I love the idea of the baked apples & thyme alongside pork & will definitely try that. SOme mornings on the train I am tempted to sit with my red pen… I mean, I know it’s only the Metro but REALLY. Yesterday there was something about “non-evasive surgery”. Give me strength.
    Katsa – LOL – I sometimes wonder whether moving over here speeds up the process of turning into your parents!! Glad to hear it’s not just me. And you are so right about the crunch factor – I love lots of crunch in my potato salad but can’t take so much raw onion, but the grated apple is the perfect solution :)

  20. says

    Fear of turning into our mothers… Yup!
    We Americans are the same – ‘Come on over’ oftern the first thing out of the mouth. The French are eve more reluctant than the Brit’s – although the expat Brits’ here are pretty free with the invitations.
    And nothing irritates me more than bad proof-reading – and nothing I hate more to do ;-((

  21. says

    It is so rare that I find a recipe where I actually have all the ingredients on hand (or can even find them at the shop!). sounds lovely – will try this salad this week! not sure i am much help with the leftover dilemna – depending on the ingredients in the chickpea salad you could try blending it into a dip, or maybe add some couscous to make the salad into a meal? hope all is well!