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

Toad in the hole with onion gravy

Pouring onion gravy over toad in the hole
Toad in the hole is one of those inexplicably odd British phrases and no one really knows where the name comes from. A lot of people think that it comes from the idea that the sausages look like frogs peaking up through the batter…..I know, weird. But there is not really any evidence for this, and there is not a consensus on the correct origin. In the end, who really cares about the name when basically it gives us an excuse to combine Yorkshire puddings and meat in one dish. That’s all that toad in the hole is: Yorkshire pudding batter poured over golden sausages (or traditionally just cheap cuts of meat). It’s easy and quick enough for a weekday dinner, but also a nice idea for Sunday dinner since you don’t have to make individual Yorkshire puddings, which can be a bit of a faff.

Use whatever sausages you like in this dish – flavoursome types with lots of herbs or spices will give a lot of extra flavour, but whatever you have in the house will work. Apple is the perfect accompaniment to pork and the chunks of apple in the batter soften during cooking to give bursts of soft, sweet flavour. And, of course, we couldn’t have toad in the hole without a rich onion gravy to smother over the top.
Ingredients for toad in the hole and onion gravy
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
1 egg
100g flour
300ml milk
8 sausages
1 apple, cut into wedges
Vegetable oil

1 tbsp olive oil
Small knob of butter
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Small glass of red wine
1 tbsp corn flour
600ml beef stock
1 tsp red currant jelly

Method
1. To make the batter, mix the egg into the flour with a little of the milk until you have a thick paste. Slowly pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and leave aside for later – you can make this a couple of hours in advance and just cover with a dish towel.
Ingredients for the yorkshire pudding mixture
Mixing the flour and egg for a yorkshire pudding mix
Yorkshire pudding mixture for toad in the hole
2. Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C/Gas Mark 7. In a roasting tray, toss the sausages and apple chunks with a few tablespoons of oil and roast for about 15 minutes until the sausages start to brown.
Sausages and apples for roasting
Pour the batter into the hot oil and put the tray back in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the batter has risen and is cooked through.
Roasted sausages and apple wedges
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan and add the sliced onion. Cook on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes until the onions have started to become golden.
Softening the onions in butter and olive oil
Browning the onions in olive oil and butter
4. Add the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Adding brown sugar to the onions
5. Pour in the vinegar and wine and turn up the heat a little so the liquid bubbles away for about 3-5 minutes until it’s a syrupy consistency.
Adding balsamic vinegar and red wine to the gravy
6. Mix in the corn flour and cook for 30 seconds. Slowly add the stock and simmer until the gravy has reached the consistency you like. At the end drop in the red currant jelly and mix until it’s all melted into the gravy.
Onion gravy
With meat and carbohydrates combined into one dish, toad in the hole is pretty filling so I think that some vegetables are all that’s needed on the side – along with the onion gravy of course. However, I won’t argue with you if you want to serve up some mashed or roasted potatoes too.
Sunday dinner
Classic comfort food for Sunday dinners or cold winter nights.

Meatloaf

Homemade meatloaf
It’s officially autumn. October has arrived, bringing with it darker mornings, clock changes, early Halloween decorations and the need for extra layering and a big, cosy scarf. We can complain about the weather and the darker mornings, but in the world of food there’s a lot to celebrate. Apples, figs, plums, pears, pomegranate, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, parsnips and much more are in season and I’m hoping to pack in as many recipes as possible involving seasonal produce over the next few months. I’ve already planned some recipes involving apples, plums and carrots which I’ll post soon, but there will be plenty more to come.

Dreary weather and dark nights are also a perfect excuse for good old-fashioned comfort food. Again, I have a few recipes in mind to share with you, but we’ll kick things off with an absolute classic: meatloaf. I had never made meatloaf before, but after constant (unsubtle) hints from my other half (who never stops talking about his Grandmother’s meatloaf) I caved. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food, adding some extra ingredients for even more flavour like apple, mustard and thyme. Reviews after eating concluded that it was “very nearly as good as Grandma’s”, so I guess I’ll take that as a success…
Ingredients for homemade meatloaf
Ingredients (cuts into 8-10 slices)
2 slices stale white bread
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 apple
Small bunch of parsley
500g pork mince
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp grated parmesan
1 egg
8-10 slices of serrano ham or prosciutto

Method
1. Look out a 1.5 litre loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/Gas Mark 5.
2. Cut the stale bread into small chunks and blitz in a blender or food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.
Chopped stale bread for breadcrumbs
Homemade bread crumbs
3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley and grate the apple. You can also do this with a food processor if you have one – use the chopping blade for the onion, garlic and parsley, and then the grater attachment for the apple.
Chopped ingredients for homemade meatloaf
4. Mix together the pork mince, chopped ingredients, bread crumbs, parmesan, mustard, dried herbs and egg.
Meatloaf filling ingredients
Meatloaf filling ingredients
5. Line the loaf tin with the ham, overlapping each slice a little so there are no gaps. Leave about a third of the slice to overhang the edges of the tin.
Lining a loaf tin with serrano ham for homemade meatloaf
6. Spoon the meatloaf mixture into the tin and press down firmly.
Filling the lined meatloaf
7. Fold the excess ham over the top of the meatloaf so that it’s entirely encased.
Wrapping the meatloaf in serrano ham
8. Place the loaf tin in a roasting tray and fill with boiling water to about halfway. Cook in the oven for 1 hour until the loaf has shrunk from the sides. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 or 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid and lift the meatloaf out.
Wrapping the meatloaf in serrano ham
Cooked meatloaf
Serve either warm or cold. The first night we had it for Sunday dinner hot from the oven, with a homemade tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. After storing in the fridge we ate the remainder of the loaf cold, served with baked potatoes and a salad.
Homemade meatloaf
Sunday dinner of meatloaf, homemade tomato sauce, steamed potatoes and vegetables
What are your favourite comfort foods for autumn nights? Are there any recipes you’d like to see next…?

Rosemary and Garlic Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks with Mint Sauce

Slow-roasted lamb shank with new potatoes and spring vegetable stew
As my dad used to say (in a funny voice): “Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies is.” Weird, I know. But it’s true and we’re making the most of it with adventures into the outdoors and seasonal cooking. Nothing says spring to me more than lamb with mint sauce, and our little kitchen window-sill mint plant was getting dangerously out of control, so last Sunday lamb and mint was what we had to have.
Mint plant
Usually we would always choose a leg of lamb to cook with, but with only two of us eating we decided that lamb shanks were much more economical and manageable. If you’re cooking for more, then the recipe will easily double, triple, or more. Of course if you’re treating yourself then you can also halve the quantities. The same goes for the mint sauce: make as much as you need. The measures below are a generous amount for two, as I like to drown my lamb and potatoes in the stuff.

We decided to use our new tagine again (last time we did BBQ pulled pork) and were once more amazed with the results. There is something magical about a tagine that transforms meat into the most delicate, moist dish after just a few hours in the oven. We have also discovered that sliced onions cooked in a tagine soak up all the surrounding juices and end up sweet, caramelised and melt in the mouth. Our new rule of thumb? Onions in every tagine dish. However, don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine to cook in. This recipe will work well in any heavy-based pot that has a lid and can go in the oven, or you could simply use a roasting tin well-covered in tin foil.

Lamb Shanks
Ingredients (serves 2)
Ingredients for slow-cooked rosemary and garlic lamb shanks
4 sprigs rosemary
2 small onions
4-5 garlic cloves
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 lamb shanks

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 150C fan/ 170C/Gas Mark 3.
2. Remove the thin rosemary leaves from the woody stalks and roughly chop. Thinly slice the onions and crush the garlic cloves. Place in the tagine and sprinkle with the stock cube.
Onions with garlic and rosemary in the bottom of the tagine
3. Generously season the lamb shanks and heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Quickly brown the lamb on all sides over a high heat.
Browning the seasoned lamb shanks
4. Nestle the shanks amongst the onion layer and fill the tagine to roughly ¼ of the way up with boiling water. Pop the tagine’s hat on and cook for 3 hours.
Lamb shank tagine ready to go in the oven
Covered tagine ready to go in the oven

Mint Sauce
Ingredients for homemade mint sauce
Ingredients
Bunch of mint (about 10 sprigs)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp hot water (e.g. from a recently boiled kettle)

Method
1. Remove the mint leaves from the stalks and finely chop.
Finely chopped mint for homemade mint sauce
2. Put the chopped leaves in a small jug or bowl and mix with the vinegar, sugar and water. Adjust the balance of vinegar, sugar and water to suit your own taste.
Jug of homemade mint sauce

After three hours in the oven, the lamb shanks will be ridiculously tender and the meat will fall effortlessly from the bone.
Lamb shanks after cooking for 3 hours
Melt in the mouth slow-cooked rosemary and garlic lamb shanks
Serve with the soft onions, the mint sauce, steamed new potatoes and spring vegetables. We had a stunning vegetable side dish which I will give you the recipe for next time – it was a real treat! I don’t think this dish needs an additional gravy: the meat is so moist, the onions come swathed in a thick gravy-like liquid and the mint sauce is an added bonus.
Sunday dinner of slow-cooked roseamry and garlic lamb and homemade mint sauceEating this meal, with the windows thrown open and the evening sun sinking over the neighbouring buildings, made me so happy and excited for the months ahead. Spring really has sprung.