Tag Archives: potato

Ni Dauphinoise, Ni Boulangere

A dish of potatoes gratin. Neither a dauphinoise nor a boulangere, but something in between.

Neither one thing nor the other, but combining something of the best of both.

My love affair with pommes dauphinoise began, romantically enough, with late night assignations in a deserted hotel kitchen. Whilst all around us slept I’d sneak into the darkened larder and by only the light leaking from the fridge door would sate my starchy desires with a mouthful of chef Maggie’s magical combination of potato and cream.

Since the cardiac kerfuffle of a year ago though I’ve done my best to curb my cholesterol and more often opt for a boulangere, where the potatoes and onions cook slowly in stock rather than cream. But then I thought why choose, when you can combine the two without completely clogging your arteries?

  • 2 large potatoes, sliced 1mm thin on a mandolin
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • A glass of wine or vermouth
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • A bruised clove of garlic
  • 2 good tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche

Add the wine, garlic and rosemary to the stock and reduce by about a third. Layer the potatoes and onion in a gratin dish, seasoning well with salt and pepper between each layer. Whisk the creme fraiche into the hot stock, and strain this over the potatoes. Cover with a cartouche of baking paper or foil and bake at 160°C for an hour and a half, then uncover and cook for a further half hour. Allow to rest for five minutes before eating.

You can of course make a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock, in which case you probably won’t want to eat it with lamb ‘lolipop’ cutlets, with which it eats very well!

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Coronation Potato Salad

Who’d have thought we’d be wanting salad recipes in October? I’d planned to pack this away with the barbecue and pull them both out next summer, but the weather says otherwise…

Coronation Potato Salad

It all began with the cucumber pickle. Susie’s cucumber pickle, which had recently arrived at the shop and which was so good that a meal had to be created around it. It would make a great accompaniment to burgers or other barbecued meats, but I plumped that day for poached salmon. And I love potato salad with poached salmon but wanted something with a bit more poke to stand up to that pickle. Coronation potato salad was the answer.

If you’ve ever made Chicken Elizabeth, the correct name of the dish devised for the coronation of Elizabeth II by the Cordon Bleu cookery school, you’ll know that it’s not bright turmeric yellow as we usually see now, but a purpley burgundy colour thanks to the reduction of red wine and apricot jam which is added to the mayonnaise. But having changed the principal ingredient from chicken to potato I’m sure you won’t mind if I take a few liberties with the rest!

These quantities are a rough guide which you can adjust to vary the levels of spice, sweet and sharp. For around 250g of baby new potatoes I used:

  • 2 tbsps mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsps natural yoghurt [for a vegan version use 4 tbsps soya yoghurt]
  • 1 tbsp Sharwood’s green label mango chutney
  • Half a tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 to 2 tsps curry powder
  • Half to 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Half a tsp of ground coriander
  • A few finely sliced spring onions
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Some chopped coriander or flat leaved parsley to garnish

Mix everything except the chopped herbs together, taste, season and adjust. You might want to add the curry and chilli powders in half teaspoon increments as you can always add more, whilst removal is more problematic. Add the cooked and cooled potatoes and stir to combine, adding the chopped greenery at the end.

Normal autumn service [casseroles and the likes] will undoubtedly be resumed shortly.

Boiled Royalty

Not a republican call to arms, but time to celebrate the start of this year’s Jersey Royal season!

A bowl of Jersey Royal potatoes with butter and a little parsley.

A few years ago we were lucky enough to be visiting friends in Jersey in early March, and driving round the island on a gloriously sunny Sunday we found the first Jersey Royals of the season for sale in a farmer’s ‘honesty shop’, a shed full of produce with a box for you to leave your payment. I was as excited as a Yukon gold miner and dashing home with them felt like being on the old Beaujolais Nouveau run [does anyone else remember when that actually used to make the 6 o’clock BBC news?]. It being the Shopkeeper’s birthday we were due to meet friends at the local bistro for dinner, and my breathless call on landing at Gatwick was the first, and so far only, time I have phoned ahead to a restaurant to ask if the kitchen would mind if we were to bring our own potatoes! I can only hope that if it happens again our hosts will be as accommodating as Brula were that evening.

Last year was an altogether different story. The drawn out winter chilled the island’s coastal fields for months and had us forlornly scouring the empty shelves well into early May. I remember speaking to a man whose job title was roughly along the lines of ‘The States of Jersey’s Potato Ambassador to the Court of St James’ at last year’s Real Food Festival when he’d managed to bring just one sack of potatoes to Earl’s Court, and had made some mortal enemies by removing even those from their native soil with supplies so short.

2011 though has been far kinder and the Jersey Royals have now landed, with this year’s first consignments arriving on the mainland in the third week of March. The most exciting part of cooking with the seasons is the change of season when the yearly re-appearance of old favourites is like the greeting of old friends you haven’t seen for far too long. And nothing says “Spring’s here!” like a bowl of Jersey Royals. I bought a bag last week and the sun shone for three days in a row, what more empirical evidence could you need?

There are things you can do with Jersey Royals besides boiling them and serving with lashings of butter, but why would you when the simplest treatment produces such majestic results? If you really must then the Atlantic Hotel’s canapé with lemon mayonnaise and caviar sounds suitably regal. But if like me your budget doesn’t run to such things just follow these simple dos and don’ts and enjoy these precious jewels wearing little more than the emperor’s new clothes.

DO…

  • boil or steam until just tender, checking often. The exact time is likely to be between five and ten minutes but this will depend on crop, size, and whether boiling or steaming.
  • anoint their majesties with plenty of melted butter or [and only if you’re allergic to butter] very good olive oil.
  • season thoughtfully.
  • swirl in a little chopped parsley and maybe just a leaf or two of chopped mint [no more] with the butter.
  • only use in salads if you have excellent quality or homemade mayonnaise available.

DO NOT…

  • over-cook!!
  • under any circumstances, add mint to the cooking water!
  • mash, although a little light crushing is OK and can help the potatoes to absorb more butter.

Birthday Bouquet

A bunch of wild garlic in a glass

When you live in or around London there seems to be no bigger a challenge than getting from one side of it to the other. You pick your compass point [I’ve done them all over the years] and can normally manage to make it from there to the centre and back, but god forbid you should be forced to make the tortuous schlep across town. We’ve got friends in Switzerland we see more often than those round the South Circular.

So I was surprised and delighted when the lovely Lucie and Lucas trekked all the way from Camberwell for my recent birthday drinks in St Margarets! I daren’t even check the details on the Transport for London Journey Planner for fear that the sheer number of connections and modes of transport will crash the site permanently. But arrive they did, both beaming broadly and bearing a fragrant birthday bouquet – of wild garlic! Lucas had been in Somerset that morning [the boy clearly likes to get about] and had been so excited to see such an early crop that he must have denuded an entire forest floor.

Wild garlic is excellent forager’s food being easy to identify, difficult to confuse with anything dangerous, and abundant. And in this age of austerity free foraged food can only be a good thing. When walking in the woods keep a nostril open for the perfume of garlic, then look for the spear shaped leaves, similar to lily of the valley. Just don’t forget to give it a wash when you get home – you know what bears [and other more common quadrupeds] do in woods.

Then use it, well, just about everywhere and anywhere. This week so far it’s been popping up in soups, salads, sauces, and mashed potato [let it infuse in warm milk or cream], and there’s a pesto still to come. But I think my favourite was a simple omelette, topped with chopped wild garlic while the egg still ran, some Somerset cheddar [in case it was feeling homesick], a good grind of black pepper and finished under the grill. Eggs, cheese and sweet, sweet garlic – I don’t know what it’s like for you reading that list but I can’t write it without salivating.

So much tastier than a bunch of tulips.

Sufficient Temptation

Sorry – couldn’t wait!

I have always known this as a recipe for Jansonn’s Temptation, a dish so delicious as to have allegedly made the eponymous Mr Jansonn renounce his vow to give up earthly pleasures, hence the name. But it would seem not. My research tells me that the Swedish original is not made with anchovies [as here] but with pickled sprats, and apparently the genuine article has a crunchy breadcrumb topping, which this doesn’t.

No matter. Whatever this is it is certainly tempting enough for me – as you can see I couldn’t even wait for my camera to recharge before digging in. It eats beautifully with lamb, but this one partnered first some pan fried rainbow trout fillets and then some braised duck legs the next day. And in the absence of any of the above I’d happily eat it on its own, on my own, with the lights off.

A simple recipe like this is just the sort of thing to tempt me to tinker and tweak – some garlic perhaps, or maybe a bit of grated gruyere? Take it from me, I have tried, and there is no need. There’s a beauty in the simplicity which does not need to compete with extraneous embellishments.

And in the unlikely event that you find me on the verge of renouncing earthly pleasures, do me a favour and rustle up a batch will you?

Whilst this could probably feed two to four as a side dish you may well begrudge sharing it with anyone else

  • 500g waxy potatoes cut into fine juliennes [see below]
  • A 50g tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 150ml double cream

First peel the potatoes and cut into fine matchsticks about 2 or 3mm square. A mandolin with the right attachments will help but do be careful with your fingers and use a guard – you will have noticed that chef’s blood is not listed in the ingredients above and in almost all cases it is an unwelcome addition to a dish. Leave your matchstick juliennes to soak in cold water.

Drain the oil from the anchovies into a pan, place on a medium heat and soften the onions in the oil. Chop / mince the anchovies and add to the onions – they will disappear into mix as they cook. Drain the potatoes and add to the pan, giving them a stir for  a couple minutes to warm, soften slightly and absorb the flavours going on around them. Pour in the cream and do the same.

Tip all into a gratin dish, season with black pepper and pop into a 180˚C oven for half an hour. Check from time to time and if burning on top cover with foil. If after thirty minutes the potatoes don’t yield to a sharp knife give it a few minutes extra. The top should be browned and slightly crispy, the innards soft, moist and frankly heavenly.

Mashed Memories

Golden mashed potato with Appleby's Cheshire cheese and spring onions

When I was a child mashed potatoes were made by robots from Mars and required no more complex preparation than the addition of some boiling water and a quick stir. Now, barely forty years later, we are once again reduced to grubbing up the raw tubers from the earth, washing them, peeling them, dicing, boiling and mashing them.

Clearly not as straight forward as it looks this progress business.

Back in my youth, if we’d been really good we might be allowed the cheese and onion version, though as it cost the same as the plain stuff I was never quite sure how it earned its ‘special treat’ status. My attempts to recreate this childhood comfort food par excellence though always lacked a certain something. The original had a slight tang which I could never quite reproduce, and then came my Eureka moment – yoghurt! Believe me, this will transport you straight back to the land of space hoppers and spangles.

This quantity could feasibly feed four as a side dish, unless they are as greedy as I am with mashed potatoes

  • 800g potatoes
  • 200ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 3 spring onions [white and green parts] diced into half centimetre slices
  • 130g Appleby’s Cheshire cheese, grated
  • 1.5 heaped tbsps natural yoghurt

Peel the potatoes [with your metal knives, as the Martians used to say], dice into even sized pieces and boil in salted water until tender. As the potatoes cook gently warm the milk, butter and spring onions in another pan. You don’t want this to boil, the heat is just to help the onion flavour infuse into the milk, so once it starts to tremble just turn it off and leave until needed. These days I always use a potato ricer for mash, a device which in the 70’s kitchen would have seemed more alien than one of those robots, but a potato masher will do the job. Add the infused milk and butter mixture, onions and all, and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the grated cheese and yoghurt and continue to whisk over a low heat until the cheese has disappeared. Check seasoning and serve with whatever you like – last night it was braised lamb shanks and peas, but go for fish fingers and spaghetti hoops if the fancy takes you.

Friday Fishcakes

 Salmon and potato fishcake, shown with a slice of lime and a frond of dill.

OK so I last made these on a Tuesday, but who’s counting? In any case there were no complaints from the Shopkeeper, either that night or when they appeared again the next day for lunch. These are comfort food of the first order – crispy on the outside, moist and flavourful within – but with enough by way of added refinement that they shouldn’t be embarrassed to show their faces at an informal supper party with friends. Having gone several days without peas and suffering severe withdrawal symptoms I served these with pea and pea-shoot salad [see page 5 of the summer edition of My St Margarets Magazine for recipe and details of my all-consuming pea addiction] and some honeyed pickled baby beetroot, but for something fancier why not try griddled asparagus and a lemony hollandaise? Or for a light lunch just mix some chopped watercress with crème fraiche and serve on the side. These quantities make 4 very large [my favourite, 1 each is plenty!], 6 large or 8 small to medium fishcakes.

  • 270g salmon, poached [see separate post]
  • 800g mashable potatoes
  • 1 heaped tbsp salted capers, rinsed well
  • 60g cornichons / gherkins, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
  • 50-100g white crab meat [I was using leftovers and would have added more if to hand]
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 60g butter
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • Breadcrumbs [I used walnut bread*, but plain white or perhaps panko will work fine]
  • Groundnut or vegetable oil for shallow frying

Boil the potatoes until cooked and then mash or pass through a ricer into a large bowl. Using a fork whisk in the butter and Dijon mustard, and a grating of nutmeg, until you have a smooth potato paste. Leave to cool.

Flake the poached salmon and add this to the potatoes along with the capers, cornichons, dill, and crab. Using a rubber spatula [or similar] fold all together, gently but firmly. You want to achieve a homogenous mass without breaking the salmon flakes beyond recognition. This is the time to check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Divide this into your desired number of cakes and with your hands make balls of the mix, then flatten into patties. Pop these into the fridge to chill and firm up for an hour or so, or prepare to this stage even up to a day in advance.

Now for the messy part… Dip each cake first in flour, dusting off the excess, then into the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. For best results repeat the egg and breadcrumb dips once more. Now you can return them to the fridge for another half an hour or so, or proceed straight to the pan.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until the surface begins to ripple, and gently lay in the cakes. Allow the cakes a quick sizzle in the hot oil and then turn down the heat and fry slowly. Give them a few minutes and then, using a palette knife or fish slice, take a peek at the underside. Deep golden brown is what we’re after – if that’s what you have gently flip over and do the same to the other side, if not continue to cook, checking every minute or so. The sides of the discs may not brown as much as the faces depending on the size and thickness of your cakes, and the depth of your oil. No matter, all will be well once the flat surfaces are done.

* Yes, it does help to run a shop selling bread if you want to have a good variety of frozen breadcrumbs to play with, but we can all take the remains of a loaf that’s a couple of days old, blitz it in the food processor and tip the resulting crumbs into a freezer bag, especially if you’ve shelled out for an interesting bread – it will make just as interesting breadcrumbs! In most cases, including this one, you can use breadcrumbs straight from the freezer.