Dauphinoise potatoes


Does a recipe need much more introduction than that video…? Probably not, but I’ll give you one anyway. Back in June I mentioned that I was going to France for a couple of weeks, and that I would be attempting to eat and drink all the cheese and wine that the country had to offer. Well, we put in a good effort and ate like kings (or queens) for two weeks. We had delicious homemade meals expertly cooked by my Grandpa, dined on fresh local seafood on the island of Houat, tried regional specialties like gallettes and cidre royal in Normandy and had the most simple lunch picnics by the side of the road that were turned gourmet due to the amazing quality of the ingredients – fresh baguette, perfectly ripe tomatoes and soft, melty cheese (thanks to the heat!).

By far the best meal we had out was in a small town in Normandy called Sainte-Mère-Église. Although it’s small, Sainte-Mère-Église is well-known and gets a lot of day visitors. This is partly because it was the first village to be liberated on D-Day, but also thanks to the incident involving the American paratrooper John Steele. In the very early hours of the morning on D-Day about 13,000 paratroopers of the Airborne Division of the US Army dropped into Normandy. The parachute of one particular paratrooper, 31-year-old John Steele, became tangled in one of the church spires, leaving him dangling on the side of the church. Despite playing dead, he was cut down and take prisoner by German soldiers, but he managed to escape a few days later and re-join his division to continue fighting through France. John survived the war and regularly went back to visit Sainte-Mère-Église during his life. He was made an honorary citizen of the town and had a statue erected in his honour – a model of a man, parachute attached, hanging from the church steeple. On our last night in Sainte-Mère-Église we ate at the Auberge John Steele, which is named after the soldier and was recommended to us by my parents. And so this is all a very long way round of saying that I had the best dauphinoise potatoes of my life at this restaurant! They were just the side to my main dish of steak and mushrooms, but I decided right then that I had to recreate them when I got home. So here we are: my version of the most indulgent, rich, creamy side dish you could ever ask for…

One year ago:
Hot redcurrant and raspberry mousse
Ingredients for dauphinoise potatoes
Ingredients (serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!)
Butter for greasing
400g (about 2 large) floury potatoes e.g. Maris Piper, Red Rooster or King Edward
150ml double cream
100ml milk
1 garlic clove
Fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper
15g parmesan, grated

Method
1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease an ovenproof dish well with a little butter.
Greasing the ovenproof dish with butter
2. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes to roughly the width of a £1 coin, or thinner if your knife skills allows. You could also use a mandolin or a food processor with a slicer attachment. Don’t wash the slices potatoes as you want them to retain all their starch to help thicken the cream sauce.
Peeled and thinly sliced Maris Piper potatoes
3. Pour the cream and milk into a large saucepan and add the whole garlic clove, lightly crushed with the back of a knife. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Double cream, milk, garlic, nutmeg and seasoning
4. Add the potatoes to the cream and stir well to coat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your slices, until the potatoes are just cooked. Give the pan a gentle shake as the potatoes cook so that they don’t stick together or catch on the bottom of the pan. The sauce will begin to thicken from the starch in the potatoes.
Adding the sliced potatoes to the cream sauce
5. Remove the potatoes with a slotted or wide spoon and carefully place in layers in your dish. Pour over any remaining cream sauce (remembering to discard the garlic clove!).
Ready to layer the dauphinoise potatoes
Layered potato slices and cream sauce
6. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and browned on top – increase the heat for another 5 minutes until the top is crispy enough to your liking.
Sprinkling parmesan cheese on the dauphinoise potatoes
Homemade dauphinoise potatoes 2
Leave the dish to stand for at least 5-10 minutes after baking, while you get the rest of your meal prepared. Don’t worry – the dish will stay piping hot, but this allows the hot, bubbling potatoes to settle and makes it easier to slice and spoon out portions.
Homemade dauphinoise potatoes 4
Serve with any meat of your choice, though I’d recommend steering clear of any cream sauces, since this is such a rich, indulgent side dish! We had ours with this BBC Good Food recipe for chicken with mushrooms and peas, and a glass of crisp white wine. Perfect Sunday evening comfort food. Santé!
Homemade dauphinoise potatoes served with chicken with mushrooms and peas
Homemade dauphinoise potatoes for Sunday dinner

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries and cream

Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again (and many times more): Scottish strawberries are the best strawberries. Despite the amount of moaning we do about our weather here, we are actually lucky enough to live in a country which happens to have the perfect strawberry-growing climate: long daylight hours during the summer, consistent temperatures that aren’t too scorching (see, it’s good for something!) and water, water everywhere. Right now we can get a kilo of Scottish strawberries for £3 in our local supermarket, which is the perfect excuse for over-indulging in the small, sweet treats until your finger tips are stained pink and your tummy is just a liiittle bit sore.

And this weekend is the perfect time to fit some strawberry-themed baking into your schedule, since it’s the Wimbledon finals. This cake is just a regular Victoria sponge, but it’s a handy little recipe to have under your belt, or up your sleeve, or in whatever metaphorical clothing garment you desire. It’s the simple rule of 200:200:200:4, which means 200g of butter to 200g of sugar to 200g of flour and 4 eggs, and it works perfectly every time. A Victoria sponge is often sandwiched together with jam and butter cream icing, which is lovely too, but I think fresh strawberries and double cream are called for during the summer. And without horribly jinxing the outcome of tonight’s semi-final, maybe your Scottish strawberry cake will have a particularly patriotic connotation come Sunday afternoon…

One year ago:
Strawberry and vanilla muffins
Ingredients for Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
Ingredients
200g soft butter, plus a little extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
300ml double cream
400g strawberries
Icing sugar for decoration

Method
1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease and flour 2 x 21cm cake tins.
Greased and lined 21cm cake tin
Or if, like me, you only have one cake tin this size then just bake the layers one at a time. Be ready to wash out the cake tin, and grease and line it quickly the second time, as you don’t want the wet cake batter to sit for too long – the raising agents begin to react as soon as they come in contact with the wet ingredients so should be baked as quickly as possible.

2. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well to a light, fluffy consistency.
Soft butter and caster sugar
Creamed butter and caster sugar
3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one by one, and add the vanilla extract. A tip to avoid a split batter (where the mixture looks a little curdled) is to add a dessert spoon of the flour after both the first and third eggs.
Adding eggs to the butter and sugar
4. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the cake batter until well combined.
Sifting the flour and baking powder into the wet ingredients
Folding the dry ingredients into the wet mixture
Victoria sponge cake batter
5. Divide the mix evenly between the cake tins and bake for 20 minutes until they are golden brown. The sponge should spring back when gently pushed and a skewer pushed into the centre should come out clean.
Cake batter ready to be baked
6. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Cooling the sponge in the tin
Cooling the sponges on a wire rack
7. Whip the cream to soft peaks and prepare the strawberries by removing the stalks and cutting into thick slices.
Preparing the strawberries and double cream
8. Place the bottom layer of the cake (I usually pick the flatter sponge for this) onto the plate you want to present your cake on and arrange the strawberry slices into a thick layer.
Arranging the strawberries on the sponge cake
9. Carefully spread a generous layer of double cream on top of the strawberries.
Spreading the whipped double cream on the strawberries
10. Sandwich the top layer of the cake on top of the cream, pressing down firmly.
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 1
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 2
Dust the cake with icing sugar just before serving.
Dusting the Victoria sponge cake with icing sugar
This cake doesn’t really need to be served with anything, other than perhaps even more strawberries piled on top. And of course a cup of tea, or a glass of Pimms if you’re really doing things right, to wash it down with.
Slice of Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream Continue reading