Tag Archives: potato

Spuds of Shame II

Not quite as high class as yer pommes fondants, these are a sleazy cousin, accustomed to loitering in the back alley. To feed four as the principal side dish you will need:

  • 800g medium-sized waxy potatoes, i.e. Charlottes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 500mL stock
  • at least 50g butter, and optionally
  • some herbs; maybe a bay leaf or a few sprigs of thyme

You’ll also need a broad shallow casserole or frying pan, into which the spuds will fit in a single layer. If it’s quite heavy and retains its heat well, and comes with a lid, then all the better.

  1. Assess how thick skinned your potatoes are. If you’re using Charlottes, then you won’t need to peel them, just slice them in half down the long axis. If you’re using bigger potatoes, then make sure they’re chopped up into pieces of roughly equal size, so they all cook through at the same time.
  2. Melt the butter in the pan, and throw in the chopped garlic, with a teensy splodge of vegetable oil to stop the butter burning, and fry ’til the garlic is pale gold.
  3. Add the potatoes, stock and herbs, and bring to a vicious boil, then reduce to a simmer. The liquid should just about cover the spuds, if not, a splash of hot water from a freshly boiled kettle will suffice.
  4. Now, here’s the tricky part. Just like pommes fondants, they’re done when they’re done, and not before, so you’ll need to poke the potatoes with a metal skewer every so often, until it goes through easily. You’ll notice that as matters proceed, the liquid is reducing or being absorbed into the potatoes.
  5. The ideal end state is that you end up with potatoes that are cooked through, and a small amount of sticky liquid left at the bottom of the pan. If the spuds are putting up a fight, you may need to add a splash of hot water. If the squds are cooking nicely, but you’ve got too much liquid, you may need to turn up the heat. That’s alright. Waxy potatoes are forgiving.
  6. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Once they’re done, turn the heat off and bung a lid on whilst you’re doing other things. This is where one of those enamelled cast iron things comes into its own. (Don’t bother with Le Creuset, though, just get a cheap knock-off.)



Given they’re in the news I thought it only fair to add my tuppence worth. I’m not going to mention the C-word, to avoid contention from the Glorious Southwest, so will merely propose the generic pasty, which can look like this…

…or like this…

…but hold the same amount of filling, and taste the same. To make eight of them, I used the following:

For the pastry, 450g plain flour, and between 130g and 200g of fat (I had 80g lard left over, so used that plus 80g butter), ½tsp salt, and enough cold water to bring it all together, probably around 200mL. You could add an egg, and some recipes inexplicably suggest baking powder. The less fat, the less flaky the pastry, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Whilst the pastry is resting, get cracking on the filling. I used 300g of braising steak – any lean cut will do – chopped finely with all the hard gristle and fat removed. Salt and pepper this, and then toss the pieces in a tablespoon of plain flour to coat, and set to one side.

You’ll need about twice that weight in veg, a mix of aromatics and roots. On this occasion I used the traditional combo of 300g potato, 150g swede, and a large onion. All of these need to be sliced or diced quite finely, so they’ll cook all the way through. Mix up the veg and pop into a separate bowl from the meat.

Now, rescue the pastry from the fridge, and divide into six or seven pieces. You want to roll each piece into an eight inch disc, using either your keen eye or a small plate as a template. I normally end up with enough offcuts to then form an eighth disc.

Fill each pasty, either by putting a layer of veg in the middle, meat on top, and then bringing the sides up so the seam is on top, or, by putting a layer of veg in a semicircle on one side, topping with meat, and then more veg, before folding the top over. Make sure your filling reaches into the corners. Either way, brush the edges with water to seal, and crimp like mad. Glaze with milk or a beaten egg, if you’re feeling fancy.

Place on baking trays lined with parchment, and use a sharp knife to poke a small hole in each to let out the steam. In my fan oven they get 15 mins at 220°C, 15 more at 180°C, and the final 15 at 150°C.

Lamb and Spuds

I dare not call this “hot pot” as it would offend the pride of a number of regions who claim hot pot as their own.

  • 500g of lamb neck fillet or shoulder, chopped into one inch pieces
  • a handful of diced streaky bacon (roughly 50g if measurements like “a handful” bother you)
  • an equal volume of carrots and onions or leeks
  • 750g of potatoes
  • stock (Marigold boullion powder is fine)
  • some fresh or dried thyme
  • Worcester sauce (this is the secret ingredient)
  • flour, butter, oil, salt, pepper

To avoid unnecessary washing up, pick a large pot that can go on the stove top and in the oven. I use a big cast iron pot for this: not a Le Creuset, but an el cheapo French thing from Robert Dyas; it was twenty quid and does the same job.

Pop the pot on a gas ring, gently warm it, and add the bacon. You want a low intensity sizzling sound, so the bacon darkens and oozes all its fat. Whilst that’s happening, slice the potatoes about as thick as a pound coin. Don’t bother peeling them unless the skins are particularly horrid or you’re having very posh guests.

Get the oven going at 140°C. (That temp works in my fan-forced, you may need to go a little higher in a gas oven.)

Hack up the lamb, turn up the temperature, and fry it in the bacon fat, in batches if necessary. We want to get it nice and brown on the outside, partially for appearance, and also for flavour. No need to cook it through, though, as that’s what the next stage is for. Once done, set lamb and bacon to one side, but leave any fat in the pot. Add the veg and fry, adding some butter or groundnut oil if there’s not enough fat from the bacon. (Avoid olive oil, as this would make it a little too Mediterranean. Mind you, add some whole cloves of garlic, oregano, olives and anchovies, and you could take this dish a long way south.)

Once the veg have softened a bit, return the meat, and add a splash of the stock. The stock needs to be hot if you’re using a cast iron pot, so the temperature change doesn’t cause the iron to crack. Give it a good scrape and stir, to release all the dark brown sticky gooey stuff from the bottom of the pot into the stock. Add a teaspoon of Worcester sauce, plus salt and pepper. A spot of dried thyme is good as well, if handy. Have a taste and adjust quantities.

Level out the meat/veg layer, and then layer the sliced spuds on top, and add the remainder of the stock, plus enough hot water to come almost level with the top layer of potatoes. (Having a freshly boiled kettle on hand is somewhere between useful and mandatory.) It’s a bit like pommes boulangères: we want the very top layer of potato to get crunchy, and the lower layers to get gooey.

Into the oven for about two hours, no lid necessary. Keep an eye on the liquid levels and top up if necessary. The idea is to achieve a gentle universal bubbling effect. Some people can do this on the stovetop, I think the oven works best. Towards the end, lever up the spuds and fish out a piece of meat. It should be tender, verging on the point collapse. If not, another half an hour won’t hurt.

Venison Sausages

Grumpy? Maybe it’s because it’s cold, wet and miserable, or perhaps there’s just not enough sausage in your life. This is based on a similar idea where Saint Nigel roasts thinly sliced spuds, and then slips some mackerel fillets on just before the end. In this case, I’m using venison sausages, although any kind of sausage is good.

To prick or not to prick? Some people get very passionate about this: see Matthew Fort’s articles. Out of scientific curiosity, I pricked half of the sausages, but couldn’t tell once they were done.

I used:

  • 6 sausages + 500g charlottes, sliced about 5mm thick; no need to peel
  • salt+pepper
  • you could add thyme, garlic, sage, bay leaves etc – I popped two unpeeled gloves of garlic in

Now, I don’t know how fatty your sausages are, nor how thickly you sliced your spuds, so there is no foolproof procedure for what happens next – St Delia would doubtless be horrified. Start with 45 minutes at 160ºC (fan forced temp) and then take a look. The sausages will most likely be done, but the spuds will need a bit longer, pick one of the larger pieces and taste it to make sure. Pop the sausages to one side (on a plate covered with foil is a good start) and put the spuds back in, turning the oven up to 200ºC, and see how they’re looking after 15 minutes. Don’t despair if they take longer, just slip the sausages back on top for a few minutes to warm them up, if necessary.

The final phase is straightforward. Dole out the bangers and spuds, tip out any excess fat from the tin (not down the drain!) and add a splash of port plus a generous spoon of redcurrant jelly. Tonight I used 30mL of port and about a tablespoon of redcurrent jelly, but feel free to mess around with the proportions. The port will hiss and spit, and the jelly will sit there unhelpfully, so stir like mad. (Or you could melt the jelly into the port in another saucepan if you don’t mind the extra washing up.) The resulting sauce/gravy is just the right thing, although might need to be pushed through a coarse sieve to get any recalcitrant lumps of jelly and spud out. (Munch them when nobody’s watching.)

Pommes Boulangères

I am always amazed at how something this simple can taste this good.

Legend has it that pommes boulangères originated with French housewives cooking this dish in the local bakers’ ovens. Why their own ovens weren’t up to the task history does not relate.

As usual there are a surprising number of variations, but let’s stick with the basics.

  • potatoes, either waxy or floury – the waxy ones will hold their shape, but the floury ones will make the liquid thick and gooey
  • and for each 500g spuds
    • one large onion
    • two bay leaves
  • enough stock to cover (meat or vegetable based)

Decide whether or not the potatoes need peeling. The Charlottes I’m using today have such delicate skins that it doesn’t seem worth the bother. Slice the potatoes thinly; about the thickness of a pound coin. If you have a lot of potatoes then a mandoline is a wonderful thing, although you may not think it so wonderful when you’re trying to clean it later.

Peel and slice the onions to about the same thickness as the potato.

Place a layer of sliced potato on the bottom of an oven proof dish, then all the sliced onion in a layer, then the bay leaves, salt, and pepper. You can also peel and sliver a clove of garlic, and add that as well. (I normally would, except that today’s main course involves two heads already.) Some people add a few knobs of butter at this stage as well. Then finish off with another layer of potatoes on top. You might want to save your most photogenic slices for this purpose, and it looks nice if they overlap.

Pour enough stock into the dish to just come up to the top layer of the potatoes. If you don’t quite have enough stock, just top up with water. This is definitely a dish which will benefit from some nice homemade stock, but don’t be embarrassed to reach for the bouillon powder.

Finally, pop into an oven at 180ºC. After an hour, some of the slices on top with be crisp and crunchy, and there’ll be a hint of mash developing at the bottom. Regardless of that, make sure the potatoes are tender to the point of a sharp knife.


I’ve just said three layers, which means a large and shallow dish. If you use more layers, you’ll need to increase the cooking time.

You’ll notice in the photos that I’ve used about six layers: this wasn’t a problem as the potatoes were cohabiting an oven at 150ºC for three hours with some slow lamb. When I took the lamb out to rest, I cranked the oven up to 200ºC for fifteen minutes to give the topmost layer a better tan.

Leek and Potato Soup

Again, but this time with the leftover potato and celeriac mash.

Peel, slice and fry two slim leeks: equivalent to, but containing more flavour than one giant leek. Fry the leek in butter with a splash of oil to stop in burning. You want a heat low enough so that it takes about 15 minutes for them to get lightly browned and sticky.

Add about a litre of stock, making sure you incorporate any gooey bits on the bottom of the pan from the leeks.

Then, about 500g of leftover mash, and bring it up to the boil.

Salt and pepper, and if in doubt, a bay leaf or two won’t hurt.

Let it simmer for a bit, so the starch in the spuds is unleashed and can thicken the soup. (A quick attack with the hand blender if, like me, you haven’t chopped the leeks finely enough or there are lumps in the mash. One need never fear making soup mid week with one of these in the cupboard.)

Once that’s all done, and the heat is off, you could crumble a small amount of Stilton or Gorgonzola into the soup, stirring until it has melted. Or just serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Then sit back and enjoy the comforting starchy goodness of it all.

Potato and Celeriac Mash

Celeriac doesn’t merely look unappetising in the shop: it looks like some kind of strange alien pod, that in due course will hatch a monster, or crawl away under its own steam. Shame, as it’s rather tasty.

Peel and chop equal amounts of celeriac and potato. The celeriac is “peeled” by dint of hacking off the outside with a large knife, until all the dirt, tentacles and other hideous bits have gone, and you’re left with something that looks like a giant lump of parsnip flesh. Both should be chopped into pieces roughly an inch across, I think.

Put them in a pan and pour over just enough cold water to cover, add some salt and bring to the boil. Once they’re boiling, reduce the heat, and give them about 15 minutes. After that, test with a skewer: you don’t wash them to turn into slush, but you want them soft enough that you’ll be able to do battle with a potato masher and not emerge red faced and defeated.

Drain, and mash. I added milk and crème fraîche, because that was what was on hand.

Bangers and Mash (Again)

Christmas Dinner pretty much happened as expected: foie gras, smoked duck, roast goose, and a pudding made with Guinness. Consequently, the last couple of days have been spent on a diet of tea, toast and fruit juice. (OK, there may have been a port and stilton binge, but the less said, the better.)

Sausages (pan fried) and celeriac mash today.

There are two schools of thought re cooking sausages. The first approach is to bung them in a roasting tin, and sling them into a medium oven (about 150ºC) for an hour, which crisps them all over, and results in nice crunchy skin. The second, championed by Matthew Fort, is to put them in a pan on a very gentle heat, for around an hour. I’m normally a follower of the first method, as it’s foolproof and requires no intervention. Today, I went for the pan.

I had a lot of trouble finding an exact setting for the gas low enough to cook them gently enough so as not to burn, and hot enough so as to cook through. This required a great deal more attention and faffing than I’m accustomed. End result was very juicy, very flavoursome sausages, and a load of sticky goo at the bottom that made good gravy. Chewy skins, though.

Whatever method you follow, don’t prick the sausages. That just lets the flavour out.


Theoretically, these are a healthier alternative to fries. However, I eat more of these, so I think that probably cancels out any virtue.

  1. Get the oven going at about 200C, a bit less if it’s a fan oven.
  2. Wash your spuds thoroughly, but don’t peel. I normally end up chucking them in the sink and getting busy with a Brillo Pad.
  3. Slice them into wedges. Well, duh. Small spuds probably need to go into six, larger spuds eight, and huge spuds probably twelve. You know how big you like them.
  4. Plunge them into boiling water (just enough to cover them, the less the better) brought back to the boil, and simmered for about five minutes. (Alternately, you could steam them.)
  5. Drain them, and let them cool enough so that you can handle them safely.
  6. Pop them into a large bowl with enough olive oil to coat them and salt to taste.
  7. Then, onto a baking tray with the skin side down. This maximises the area of potato exposed to the heat.
  8. About half an hour should do the trick, if not, crank the oven up as high as it will go, and give ’em another five minutes.

Sour cream and harissa, please. (Or the tomato chilli relish discussed previously.)


You could add paprika, pepper, and/or other spices to the olive oil and salt mixture. No need for fancy oil, either.

Spuds and Mackerel

I bought a pink silicone egg flip today. It looks, well, a trifle girly. Which makes it all the more odd, as when it was run up on the register, the lady says to me, “sorry, I’ve got to confirm you’re over eighteen”, before bursting into giggles. I says, “no problem, I know that even now, the estates are being stalked by gangs of hoody wearing teens, armed with egg whisks and slotted spoons, and it’s only right you should ask.” It’s almost not worth mentioning that the slightest smidgeon of a possibility that I looked under eighteen left me immeasurably chuffed.

Anyway, I’d like to point out that I am not a Nigel Slater Junkie, but he does write good recipes. Here is something else I like.

As usual, he’s infuriatingly imprecise, as Mr Barnes has pointed out, so here are my notes:

  • allow 200g of fish and 300g of potatoes per person
  • as long as the potatoes are medium sized (Mr Barnes: you’ll want them to be 105mm along the long axis, and 207mm in circumference) and not too thick skinned, the variety doesn’t seem to matter; tonight’s supper was done with some King Edwards
  • after 30 mins of roasting the potatoes, get in with some barbecue tongs and rearrange them to allow maximum opportunities for crisping

I’m afraid sheer unmitigated greed prevented me from taking photos until everything had been consumed.