Tiny, kidney shaped tubers covered in a fine, dry dust. Their delicate skins peel off at the slightest brush and a deep earthy scent rises from within them. Jersey Royals are almost the first potatoes to appear and are certainly the finest. Their thin skins and waxy flesh are nurtured by tidal soils and fertilised with foraged seaweed.
Traditionally they are boiled, needing only 10-12 minutes, but in recent years they have become very popular roasted after par-cooking. Tossed with vegetable oil, woody herbs and a few cloves of garlic they are, perhaps, the only accompaniment to new season asparagus and tender spring lamb.
Once cooked they need little adornment. Of course, as with any potato, plenty of good quality sea salt is a must but otherwise they just ask for a little lubrication. Butter is the obvious choice but rapeseed oil or even yoghurt are perfect too. If one really desires to guild the lily a sprinkle of herbs will not go amiss. Think of the French 'fines herbes'; parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil or mint. Any or all of these can only improve a bowl of delicate potatoes, no bigger than your thumb, that would suffice as a main with a simple, dressed salad on the side.
Although, as we said, you can simply boil or even roast them, there is another way. Most people think of 'en papillotte' as an almost outdated technique for cooking fish but it is a sublime way of cooking any fresh, new potato.
Simply cut a large, heart shaped piece of greaseproof paper and fold it in half to get a shape reminiscent of a wonky cornish pasty. Tuck the potatoes, skin and all, into the middle of the packet. They should be close but not overcrowded, if you need more space make another parcel. Dot them with a little butter and tuck in some woody herbs. Now, starting at the blunt end of the packet, turn the paper over itself all the way around the open edge, a little like crimping pastry together (see the picture above for a better idea). At the far end turn the fold over itself several times to stop the package unfurling.
Place gently on a tray in a preheated oven at 200C for about 35-40 minutes. The package will yield soft, slightly caramelised spuds that give when squeezed gently. Try not to eat them all at once, they are delicious cold.