Saturday 14 November 2009

Recipe: Potato Gratin

This is a wonderful dish for grey, wintry days. Simplicity itself, but with a glorious smell which pervades the house as the gratin slowly does its thing in the oven over a period of several hours. Although meat-free, the presence of a dash of nutmeg somehow implies the use of a rich beef broth somewhere along the line, which gives to the dish a surprising additional dimension.

This goes excellently with pretty much anything... and is equally fantastic when sneaked cold from the fridge on the following day.

For six.

Ingredients: 1 kg Potatoes (something like Maris Piper is fine); 6 medium Shallots; 2 large Garlic cloves; generous pinch of grated Nutmeg; 1 tsp dried Thyme; 8 fl oz Milk; 8 fl oz Cream; 2 tsp Salt; Pepper, half a dozen grinds of the mill; 2 tablespoons of Butter.


1. Heat the oven to 150 degrees C.

2. Peel the Potatoes and slice them finely, either (carefully) by hand or by using a mandoline. Put the slices immediately to soak in a large bowl of cold water, and leave them soaking while you prep the shallots and garlic.

3. Peel and finely chop both the Shallots and the Garlic; mix them together in a small bowl, along with the Nutmeg, Thyme, Salt & Pepper.

4. Drain the Potato slices into a colander (shake it to remove as much excess water as possible), and arrange a third of them in a layer to cover the bottom of a buttered baking dish. Cover this layer with half of the Sallot-Garlic mixture....then another layer of Potates, then the remainder of the Shallot-Garlic mixture, and finally a last layer of Potato.

5. Combine the Milk & Cream in a jug, and pour it over the top layer of Potato slices. Dice the Butter and scatter it over the top of the gratin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for two hours (and if you don't want to serve it immediately, it can then hold in an oven at 100 degrees C for a further hour, and will come to no harm).

Sunday 8 November 2009

Autumn storms are upon us...

Gale-force winds and torrential rain outside - if I hadn't seen it before, I'd worry for the survival of the garden (but since it happens every year at this time, then one can afford to be sanguine). Indoors, the combined aromas of pastry shells and a potato gratin baking in the oven, a pear poaching gently in red wine (for the top of a tart for supper), and celery tops, diced and sautéeing in butter (to form part of a stuffing for ravioli).

Two dogs sleep peacefully on the floor, having exhausted themselves by energetic games with a tennis ball, up and down the hallways.

Life isn't all bad...

Tonight's dinner:
Ravioli, stuffed with Celery, served in a Parsley & Cream sauce.

Slices of Chicken Breast, in Lemon & Capers; Potato Gratin.

Tarts of Vanilla-poached Pear, on a brandy-flavoured Crème Patissière