26 March 2024

Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew - Robertson celebrates all things potato, and you're invited

| Zoe Cartwright
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Ever wanted to meet Julie Goodwin - or watch her in action? Get to the Roberston Potato Festival.

Ever wanted to meet Julie Goodwin – or watch her in action? Get to the Roberston Potato Festival. Photo: Supplied.

The humble spud is one of the world’s most beloved vegetables – go on, I dare you to think of a more popular one.

Baked, mashed, cut into chips, in your mum’s famous potato bake or distilled into vodka, the potato is hard to beat.

To pay due homage to this tastiest of carbohydrates, Robertson is gearing up to celebrate its third annual potato festival this May.

Organiser Gary Fitz-Roy said the idea for the festival was germinating when COVID struck, and it finally took root.

“Robertson is known for its prime potato growing land, and there had been talk about a festival for a while,” he said.

“As an event organiser I didn’t have much going on during COVID so I thought we’d have a crack.”

Gary said the festival had gone from strength to strength since the inaugural event in 2022.

Just like a tater, the festival’s success is due to its multifaceted nature.

There’s Hessians on the Field for creatives and fashionistas to strut their stuff dressed in potato sack couture, the giant potato display which showcases 30 to 40 varieties of locally grown potatoes, and the Spud-A-Dome, where big and little kids can try their hand at competitive potato peeling, stacking and tossing.

This year there’s also a scarecrow competition, sponsored by the Bowral co-op, and of course plenty of local potato-related produce, from unique potato varieties to vodka and spud beer for sale.

READ ALSO Flex your inner fashionista at Robertson Potato Festival

There are two stages, one with musical acts such as Neil Diamond tribute act Peter Byrne and legendary rock band Dragon.

The other stage will provide mouthwatering foodie inspiration with local chefs Stefano Marvello and David Lee sharing their favourite potato recipes.

Julie Goodwin will also make a rare public appearance on the foodie stage both days, cooking and meeting with attendees.

Gary said he was surprised by the number of people who had reached out to say they’d become devoted potato festival attendees.

“I think they like the novelty factor,” he said.

“It’s got a bit of everything – the relaxed country charm, and all the different elements of the festival; they make a weekend of it.

“People get a smile on their face when you say you’re going to the potato festival because it does sound a bit left field but it’s a lot of fun.

“Robertson is in the Goldilocks zone too – a couple of hours from Sydney, an hour from Canberra and half an hour or so from the South Coast.”

That Goldilocks zone is part of the reason Robertson became a potato producing powerhouse.

Rich red soil and well-timed rainfall are key to the region’s success, and Gary said the change in growing conditions is visible as you drive through the Southern Highlands.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Lisa Jackson, Berkeley Cakes and Pies

On a more serious note, the festival highlights how important it is that we value local produce, and the people who grow it.

“You can actually see things become greener as the soil changes in this perfect little belt,” he said.

“We joke you could put a dead stick in the ground and it would grow in Robertson.

“We are lucky in Australia to grow so much fresh food, and I think we take it for granted.

“The cost of food will increase exponentially if we have to import from another state or overseas.

“Agritourism in the Southern Highlands helps support local families and keep food production in our communities, and that can only be good for our economy, our health and our longevity.”

The spud-tacular festival will be held at the Robertson Showground from 10 am – 4 pm on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May. Tickets can be purchased at the gate, or online here: BUY TICKET page – Robertson Potato Festival.

To whet your appetite, here’s a Julie Goodwin recipe that highlights how versatile a good spud can be.

Julie Goodwin's homemade gnocchi with peas and speck.

Julie Goodwin’s homemade gnocchi with peas and speck. Photo: Julie Goodwin.

Gnocchi with peas and speck

By Julie Goodwin

I learned how to make gnocchi from the lovely Patrizia in Florence. This is a sticky dough that requires little handling and comes out light as a feather.



COOKING TIME: 20 minutes


  • 1 kg dirty potatoes (Sebago or Dutch cream)
  • 1⁄2 cup (75 g) plain flour, plus extra to work with
  • 1 egg
  • 150 g piece speck, rind removed, cut into 5 mm batons (see note)
  • 1⁄2 cup (75 g) frozen baby peas
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 ml) thickened cream
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Ground white pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup (40 g) grated parmesan


  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them in half if they are large.
    Try to have them all a similar size so they will cook at the same time.
    Place in a large pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil.
    Boil for 10 – 15 minutes or until a skewer easily goes into them.
  2. Drain the potatoes, making sure they are very dry.
    Put the potatoes through a potato ricer or a mesh sieve into a large bowl (it is important that they are mashed very finely).
    Scatter the flour over the potato, add the egg and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a dough.
  3. Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. If it is very sticky, add a little more flour.
    Gently knead the dough for only as long as is necessary to bring it together into a smooth mass.
    Roll the dough into a large sausage and cut it into eight pieces.
    Roll one piece into a sausage about the thickness of your thumb and cut into 2 cm lengths.
  4. Place the gnocchi onto a heavily floured tray.
    Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of dough. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil.
    Drop the gnocchi in – they will start to bob to the surface in a couple of minutes. Once they are floating, they are cooked.
    Lift very gently out of the water with a slotted spoon and drain.
  5. Place the speck in a frying pan over medium–high heat.
    Cook until the fat is rendering out and the speck is starting to turn golden.
    Tip the gnocchi into the pan with the peas and cream, and toss to coat.
    Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
    Serve in warmed bowls and top with parmesan.

NOTE: If speck is not available, bacon can be used instead.

Extract from Classic by Julie Goodwin. Available now from bookstores and online retailers.

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