Monday, 27 September 2010

A Potato Dish

This is not a dish for those who have a cholesterol problem or those who are afraid of fat.  It is a dish for those who enjoy potatoes and onions along with butter, cream and milk.  It's a variation of the old layered baked potato dish.  This one is a little different in the preparation and gives a result that is, I think, a little more subtle.

You need enough medium sized potatoes to feed how ever many people you are catering for.  Around one medium onion per four potatoes.  A bunch of a single fresh herb - rosemary or thyme or basil are good.  You can use sage but you need to use less than the others as it has a very strong final flavour.

Preheat your oven to around 180 - 200 degrees celcius.  This isn't a fixed temperature as you can cook this dish fast or slow.

Peel the potatoes and onions and then slice them as thinly as you can.  Put them in a pot and salt it to your liking.  Add water to just cover them and then put them on the stove to bring them to the boil.  Stir it from time to time with a spatula to mix the onion and potato together.

Chop your herb of choice.  If you are using basil you want a couple of handfuls of leaves.  Rosemary: a couple of decent sized stalks.  Thyme: a couple of table spoons of leaves.  Sage: your choice - be careful.

Lightly oil a low sided baking dish.  Sprinkle a few bits of your herbs across the bottom.  Add a bit of freshly ground pepper if you wish.

When your potato pot is getting near boiling, melt at least two tablespoons of butter in a pan on a low heat.  Add your herb and saute it lightly.   Keep the heat low.  You definitely don't want things to get too enthusiastic.  Pour in about quarter of a cup of cream and mix in well.   Keep it low on the heat.

When the potatos boil, let them sit on the heat for a minute or so and then drain them well.  I usually tip them out into a strainer and let them steam themselves dry.   Give them about a minute and tip them into your oiled baking dish and spread them out roughly.

While the potatoes are drying, add quarter to half a cup of milk to your butter, cream, herb mix and stir it in.  When the potatoes are in the dish, pour the herb/liquid mix evenly over the top.  Grind some black pepper over and crush a bit of Malden sea salt over the dish and then drizzle some olive oil over it to bind everything together.

Throw it in the oven for at least one hour, longer if you have the heat lower.  I have cooked this dish at heats from 150 degrees right up to 210 or so.  Lower heat means longer cooking of course and you may need to finish it with 10 minutes or so on 220 degrees.   (Sorry all you Americans who still use Imperial measurements.  It's easy to convert though).

Serve with .... whatever takes your fancy really.  Fish is good though as are lamb racks.

Originally this dish was done with vast amounts of sorrel which gives it a very nice slight lemony tang.  If you use sorrel:  a) use lots of it.  b) be very careful with the cooking in butter.  Add it to the butter and watch it very carefully.  It will start to go grey quite quickly.  This isn't a bad thing but you don't want to let it go too far.  Add the cream and milk, stir them in and get it on top of the potato dish quite quickly.