Potato

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

smoked haddock and potato bake

As usual this blog has been neglected during the school summer holidays. Today however, I have a moment of calm as I mind the shop while my lovely sister looks after my children. This gives me the chance to quickly post this brilliant recipe from good old Nige.

As allotment holders we have a wonderful glut of ‘Charlotte’ new potatoes at the moment and so have declared this ‘Potato Week‘. This means that we eat potatoes every day (note: this is not the same as the ‘Potato Diet’ where you eat nothing but potatoes which is bonkers).

So I’ve been thumbing through my book collection trying to find new ways with waxy potatoes and found this recipe for ‘new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise’. I wasn’t too sure about the combination of oily fish and cream but trust me it really works.

If you like creamy things and smoked fish you will absolutely love this. It is also simple to make and smoked mackerel is easy to get hold of (I like Co-op’s the best even in preference to my fish mongers).

The dish is very rich so you will only need the simplest of accompaniments, perhaps some steamed spinach or a simple green salad.

PS. I am off to Belgium on holiday soon but will be back with a vengeance in September when the children have returned to school. I have been reading a lot of Elizabeth David over the holidays and am inspired.

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

(From Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 2-4

  • 450g of waxy potatoes, scrapped clean (this is roughly 5 largish ones, I used Charlotte potatoes)
  • 225g of smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed (approximately 3 fillets)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 200ml of milk (the recipe calls for full-fat but I used semi-skimmed and this worked fine)
  • 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 190oC (fan).

Slice the potatoes lengthways about 3mm thick (the thickness of a pound coin) and put them in a shallow baking dish roughly 30cm in diameter.

Flake the mackerel into bite sized pieces and toss them gently with the potatoes making sure that the fish doesn’t break up too much. Tip the potatoes and fish into your dish, flatten down with your hands and tuck the bay leaves underneath the top layer.

Mix together the cream, milk and mustard and season with salt and pepper (not too much salt as the smoked mackerel is already very salty). Pour the mixture over the potatoes and fish and bake in the oven for one hour.

Serve straight away with simply cooked greens or a salad.

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Russian salad

russian-salad 3

The jury’s out when it comes to the ‘Russianness’ of this salad. Some say that it’s actually Italian and should be called ‘insalata russa’. All I can say in its defence is that I ate it a lot when travelling across Russia. It was a staple in railway buffet cars and one star hotels where I suspect it was made with tinned vegetables but I still found it tasty enough to attempt to recreate the dish at home.

This salad wouldn’t be considered a looker (unless you’re a three year old girl with a Disney Princess/colour pink obsession) but it is still delicious considering how easy it is to put together (although perhaps this is just because anything smothered in mayonnaise tastes good).

It’s also a great way to disguise lots of vegetables (although my four year old son, who prefers blue, is rather suspicious of the colour).

Russian salad

Serves two (as a hearty starter, or as a main course with bread on the side)

  • 1 medium beetroot, cooked (see below) or pickled
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, I used Charlotte potatoes
  • 50g of fresh or frozen peas
  • 50g of carrots
  • 50g of green beans
  • 1 pickled gherkin
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (or, I like to use one pickled beetroot egg – see my post Things in jars – pickling and pesto – and one hard boiled)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Some chopped fresh dill (if this is easily available, don’t use dried)

If your beetroot is raw then roast it in the oven (whole with the skin on) in a baking dish covered with foil at 160oC for one hour. Leave to cool then top and tail, peel off the skin and chop into small cubes. If you’re using pickled beetroot then just drain and chop into small cubes.

Peel and chop the potatoes into quarters then boil for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain, leave to cool and chop into small cubes.

Chop the carrots into small cubes, slice the beans thinly then blanch all of these with the peas in boiling water for one minute. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process, drain again and set aside.

Chop the gherkins into small cubes.

Cook the eggs in a pan of boiling water for 8 minutes. Cool in a pan of cold water, peel off the shell and chop into quarters.

To assemble, mix all the prepared ingredients together with the mayonnaise (leaving some of the chopped egg as a garnish) and put into small bowls or glasses. Garnish with the chopped egg and fresh dill.

If you want to work the presentation a little, then mix everything except the beetroot together and spoon two thirds of the mix into glasses. Then spoon over two thirds of the beetroot. Finally mix the beetroot with the remaining potato mixture and spoon this on top. You will then have distinctive, white, red and pink layers which I think looks a little more pleasing than all pink.

A hearty soup for a dull January evening – Caldo Verde

caldo verde

Happy 2014.

As usual the Sunday supplements and glossy magazines are full of diet tips for the New Year but I’m a firm believer in NOT dieting in January. The cold weather, dark nights and lack of parties just makes it far too cruel – better to wait until spring I say (if ever). I am however trying to eat a little bit more healthily than over the Christmas period, which considering the rubbish I ate isn’t particularly hard. We also spent a few days after New Year in Scarborough eating lots of wonderfully unhealthy seaside fare (fish and chips, ice cream sundaes, bags of fresh-from-the-oil donuts) so some hearty, wholesome food for January is definitely in order.

We’ve been making Caldo Verde – a Portuguese soup – for quite a few years now but rather infrequently. Every time I eat it I bang on about how nice it is considering its humble ingredients and ask why I don’t make it more often. It’s super easy and you’d think that using water instead of stock would make it rather bland but it’s actually very, very tasty. If you think soup on its own isn’t a proper meal then you could add a large chunk of bread on the side, but even my bread monster husband doesn’t see this as necessary. This dish is also very economical which is good if you spent a bit too much on Christmas.

Caldo Verde

Serves 2 as a main course

  • 80g of chorizo
  • 4 medium potatoes (approximately 400g peeled weight), diced into 1cm pieces
  • 160g kale (unprepared weight)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ½ an onion
  • 1 litre of cold water
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion, garlic and chorizo for a couple of minutes, until they begin to colour.

Add the water and potatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft (between 5 and 10 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the kale. Wash well and remove the coarse white stem running up the centre of the leaf. Then slice the leaves as thinly as possible. I find the easiest way to do this is to take several leaves at once, place them on top of each other and roll to form a rough cigar shape, then chop with a very sharp, large knife.

Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the pan from the hob and using a potato masher mash the potatoes into the soup so that they break up. I like to leave some bits fairly big.

Season with about ½ teaspoon of salt and about 10 twists of the pepper mill (or to your preferred taste), then add the kale and return to the hob.

Continue to simmer until the kale has softened, this will only take a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning and then ladle into large bowls.

I like to drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixed with ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika over the top of each serving for an extra punch but if you’re being healthy you could leave this part out.

Unglamorous gammon

gammon revised

Gammon is so uncool – it’s one of those foods that conjures up images of old people’s homes and really bad pub food. And I’m not going to do its reputation any favours when I tell you that when recuperating from a sickness bug that floored my entire family and made me lose my appetite for an entire week, this is the first thing that I actually fancied eating.

And who did I turn to for a recipe to cook this unfashionable foodstuff but the most uncool of cookery writers – Delia. I’ve cooked this dish many, many times and I don’t bother experimenting with other recipes because it works so well. First you boil the joint in cider which is a good way to use that run-of-the-mill stuff (like Strongbow) that sits around going out of date after a big party. Nigella does a similar thing with coke (the fizzy drink sort) which sounds bizarre but is probably nice and I’ve also seen recipes using ginger beer.

As a Sunday roast gammon is the boring one, the one that doesn’t come with anything – no stuffing, no Yorkshires, maybe just a splodge of parsley or mustard sauce (which I couldn’t stand as a child). But the great thing about a nice bit of gammon (and something that you only really appreciate as an adult who has to cook their own dinners) is that you can do so much with the left overs. A couple of slices are great with oven chips and a fried egg, or you can slice into thin strips and toss with linguine, egg yolks and parsley for a carbonara type dish. But for me sliced in a sandwich with English mustard is the best.

Some people serve gammon as an addition to turkey for Christmas dinner. That’s never been a tradition in our family but I think it sounds like a nice idea and this recipe would be perfect because you could do the boiling part a day or two before and then roast on Christmas day once the turkey is out of the oven resting.

Delia’s sugar-glazed gammon

Serves 4 with left overs

  • 1 piece of middle cut gammon, rolled, about 1kg – I prefer mine smoked but it doesn’t have to be
  • 1 onion studded with a few cloves
  • A bayleaf
  • 570ml dry cider
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper corns
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of English mustard

Put the gammon in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring it to the boil and then throw out the water which will look disgusting – all grey and foamy.

Now add the bayleaf, peppercorns and onion and pour in 425ml of cider and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for one hour.

Remove the gammon, let it cool and then remove the string and skin with a sharp knife. If you are doing this part in advance then wrap in cling film and store in the fridge until ready to roast.

Preheat the oven to 190oC fan.

Stand the gammon up (fat side uppermost) and smear the mustard and brown sugar over the surface – it’s easiest to do this with your hands. Then put the joint into a roasting pan with the remaining cider in the bottom and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, basting the joint a couple of times with the juices.

NOTE: In the original recipe Delia studs the gammon with cloves all over before roasting. This probably looks prettier but I don’t bother with this as I find the taste of that many cloves a bit overbearing.

Smeared with mustard and sugar before entering the oven.

Smeared with mustard and sugar before entering the oven.

I like to serve gammon with ‘pommes coq d’or’ (pictured in the main photo)

Pommes coq d’or 

Serves 4

Take 5 medium sized floury potatoes (I use Wilja). Cut the potatoes as thinly as you can with a sharp knife (or with a mandolin if you have one and can be bothered to get it out and wash it up). Generously butter a shallow tin (mine is 23cm diameter and 4 cm deep) and layer the potatoes in the tin overlapping them slightly. I save the neatest ones for the top. – you want about 4 layers. Crush two cloves of garlic and add this to 250g of chicken stock (made up with half a Knorr chicken stock pot), along with 10 twists of the pepper mill. Pour the stock over the potatoes until it comes to just under the top layer (you may not need it all), then dot the top of the potatoes with butter. Bake in the oven at 180oC fan for 40 minutes foil-covered and then 30 minutes without foil or until the top is brown and crispy.