Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Jamie Oliver's Winter Coleslaw

I made this for a lunch party where Giles baked a ham (I've no idea how he did it, so can't explain it here), and it was totally brilliant.

This isn't the exact Jamie Oliver recipe, but it's close enough.

In the food processor, with the coarse shredding attachment, I shredded some


and put it all in a massive bowl and squeezed lemon juice over it to stop it from going brown. Then we sliced up some

white cabbage and
red cabbage by hand, because putting it through the food processor kind of minces it up: no good.

I added the cabbages to the other veggies and tossed it around by hand. Then for a dressing I used

some large dollops of good quality plain yoghurt
some salt and pepper
one or two dollops of grainy mustard
a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped up

And it was out of this world. Jamie: the master.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Halloumi and quinoa salad

Oooh what a scrumptious thing this is. It's a Greek-inspired, fresh thing of lovliness, which can be tailored to suit your exact tastebuds. I had it for lunch just now and mine went something like this:

(For 2)

1 packet Halloumi cheese
80g dried quinoa
half a red chilli, deseeded and chopped very small
2 spring onions
1 stick celery, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
2 dollops natural yoghurt
pinch of salt

1 Cook the quinoa for about 16 mins and drain
2 while in the sieve, mix in all the ingredients except the halloumi
3 slice and fry as much of the packet of halloumi as you fancy - one packet is slightly too much for two people
4 pile up the quinoa mixture onto a plate, put a dollop of yoghurt on top, followed by the halloumi and sprinkle some more mint on top


Monday, 14 December 2009

Carly's salad

I don't like salad. I don't even, really, like vegetables that much. I like hot, fried things, salty, fatty things. I like meat. And pies. And, most of all, meat in pies.

But I've got to eat salad. Got to. I am a grown-up and a sensible person and what separates me from animals is the ability to act now for my future self - thus I must eat vegetables to be healthy and not die from heart disease before then next series of X Factor starts.

The other problem is that I'm not that great at making salad - especially not salad dressings. What will always prevent me, and anyone else, from being anything other than a perfectly competent home cook is a lack of clever taste buds. What makes, in my view, someone like Jamie Oliver, a genius, is his mastery of taste. He can create with taste in the way that a brilliant novelist can create with words. When it comes to taste, I'm barely past my ABCs.

Anyway, I put out a plea on Facebook for a great salad and my old friend Carly Chenowyth (try typing THAT when you're drunk) replied with a lovely asian fusion confection, that involved mung beans, which I've always dismissed as little more than tapwater in fancy dress.

But Carly is an Australian, you see, and does asian fusion off the top of her head, poof, just like that. So I went for it and it was magnificent (although I did add a lot of chopped, grilled chicken, just because I felt like it). Giles, who had initially made his just-seen-a-gross-mouldy-thing face, hoovered it up.

So here we go (this is not the exact recipe as Carly gave it to me, but this is my interpretation)

Carly's salad

Mung beans
sesame oil
large clove of garlic
sherry vinegar
0.5 fresh red chilli
light soy sauce
grated ginger
juice of half a lime
a small sprinkling of sugar

This is a very long list of ingredients, and you could skip out most of them except the beans, the sesame oil, the soy, chilli and garlic. Everything else is just vaguely asian salady-stuff I had hanging around.

Anyway, so start off with a base of about 3 parts sesame oil to 2 parts soy. Then add the garlic if you like garlic, or for just a hint (raw garlic at lunchtime doesn't work for me) chop up a really large clove into 3 chunks and let it sit in the dressing until you're ready to eat, at which point you can fish it out.

Add a sprinkling of salt and then the chopped chilli and you're done. If you want to add the other ingredients, add a little of each one and keep tasting as you go. The dressing tastes pretty overwhelming when it's neat, but over the mung beans and the carrots and alfafa, it's perfect.

I blanched the mung beans for one minute just to take the edge off and julienned the carrots rather than grated them as grated carrots always taste a bit weird to me. Throw the veggies in a bowl, pour over the dressing and that's that. If you want to add a bit of grilled chicken, brush it with the dressing before it goes under the grill and really grill it hard, to make it nice and crispy.

If anyone out there has a failsafe, tasty salad idea, send it my way.

A note about potato dauphinoise

Ok, I don't know a lot about a lot, but I do know about potato dauphinoise and enough people have expressed dismay at how their dauphs have turned out - 'practically raw' 'bland' and so on, for me to write about it.

The trick is to bung a LOT of salt and pepper and garlic inbetween your layers of potato. More than you think you need. A good sprinkle of salt, a good four twists of the pepper grinder and at least half a clove of garlic, chopped or microplaned.

Then you must, must, cook the sucker for ages. Like, two hours. You can just about get away with 1.5 hours if your oven is top-class. But nothing bad will happen if you blast it for 2 hours, so just throw it in there and forget about it.

A good dauph is the best thing ever, but it's not worth making an average one.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

O! For a Scotch Egg

God I love Scotch Eggs. I had forgotten how much until I rediscovered them at my amazingly food-fabulous local pub, The Bull and Last. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/eating_out/giles_coren/article4935099.ece

Here they have them on the bar, as a snack, although they are big as your fist (if you're a girl with small-ish hands) and they have, somehow, contrived to make them so that the EGG IS RUNNY when you cut into it.

Anyway, it turns out that they are a sublime doddle to make in one's own kitchen. Have a go, it's very jolly. And you can make three, put them in the fridge, forget about them and then be thrilled the following lunchtime because you've got a Scotch Egg to eat.

Scotch egg

1 egg

another egg, beaten

2 sausages' worth of sausagemeat (as good quality as you can get your hands on, I used Cumberland)

some bread - a bit stale if possible, whizzed up in the food processor to make breadcrumbs - about one, 1.5 slices


groundnut oil for frying

Preheat your oven to 180

1 Boil one egg for 9 minutes. Or for less, maybe 7 mins, if you are feeling brave and want to have a go at keeping the egg runny. Cool the egg in cold water and peel

2 Dry the egg off and roll it in seasoned flour

3 extract the top-end, high quality sausagemeat from your two sausages by scoring the sausage skin from top to bottom with a knife and peeling it away. mash it all together with your hand and then pat out in a circle about 1cm thick on a floured surface

4 place the egg in the middle of the sausage circle and then bring the sides up around and over it, bbeing extra careful if you've got a 7 minute egg not to squish it. smooth the sausagemeat around the egg until there are no gaps. This is very easy.

5 roll your ball of sausage and egg into the beaten egg and then roll it through the breadcrumbs, gently pressing as many crumbs into the surface of the egg as you can.

6 get your groundnut oil really smoking hot and then shallow fry the egg for about five or six minutes, until the breadcrumbs are a nice golden brown all over

7 transfer to a baking tray or sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Easy tomato and courgette gratin

What with all my pork pie and turkish delight making, I'm getting a bit fat. And it's not even, really, Christmas yet. I haven't even had the first mince pie of the year (more of which later).

So I'm going on a post-Christmas run-up, pre-Christmas diet, in anticipation of all the chocolate and potato and salmon-on-bread I'm going to be eating, starting in about a week's time.

Staring at the larder at about lunchtime yesterday, all I could think about was have a very large egg sandwich (or maybe 2) with a lot of butter and homemade celery salt:

(Celery salt:

The leaves from a head of celery

Cut from a head of celery all the leaves and arrange them on a baking tray. Put in the oven at 180 for five minutes until they are dry and crispy. Remove to a pestle and mortar and bash up, then add rock or sea salt.)

But I couldn't have that, all that bread. But what I did have was a quantity of tomatoes and some courgettes and remembered a Delia recipe for a tomato and courgette gratin. The secret with a gratin, I find, is to use about four times as much cheese as you think is reasonable and scatter, over the top a small quantity of breadcrumbs, which give a smidge of crunch and a tiny thrill of carbohydrate to the stodge-dodger.

Tomato and courgette gratin:

I used six large-ish tomatoes and two courgettes for this. It fed two hungry people, with a salad, with leftovers.
A large block of parmesan
a handfull of breadcrumbs
sage or other herbs

1 Slice up the courgettes thinly and sautee them for about ten minutes with sage and garlic (or thyme, or whatever herbs you have) and salt.
2 Slice up the tomatoes and the parmesan, leaving about a third of the parmesan to grate over the dish
3 arrange the tomatoes, courgettes and parmesan slices in layers. Delia recommends overlapping them, like tiles on a roof, but I simply don't have that kind of dexterity, so it all went in sort of higgledy piggledy.
4 grate over the remaining parmesan and scatter over the breadcrumbs and season generously with salt and pepper
5 stick in the oven at 190 for 30 mins

Monday, 7 December 2009

Mass catering

At the end of every dinner or lunch I give, by myself, I always - no matter how well everything has gone - think to myself "Next time I'm going to make a lasagne."

But, like a mad person expecting different results from the same actions, I always end up making something with multiple moving parts, vegetables to be timed at the last minute, something different for my Pescetarian, two different types of nibble. Madness.

At my Saturday lunch Giles, who is massively helpful in the kitchen (I'm not being sarcastic, he really is) was out for the day, so everything fell to me. And what did I decide to make? Risotto? Bangers and mash?

No. The full menu was as follows:

- Smoked salmon on brown bread
- cocktail sausages in a cranberry sauce

- Roast chicken with thyme and lemon
- Potato dauphinoise
- cod in breadcrumbs for the P
- brussel sprouts sauteed in chilli and garlic

- spotted dog

I mean, it was fine - I didn't cry, everything was really nice (I'm not too sure about the cod in breadcrumbs. The P is famously polite and would eat all of whatever hideous thing you put in front of him and go 'yum is there any more?') But by the time we sat down I was MAGENTA in the face and the kitchen was total and utter chaos, despite all my very Hyacinth Bucket preparations.

So, no more. Next time I'm by myself and want to have eight people round - which was great, incredibly jolly and fun - I really am going to make a massive lasagne, or a risotto, or bangers and mash and a salad. Because, in all honesty, if I went round to someone's house for lunch and found out they were doing a great big macaroni cheese, I'd be thrilled.

Spotted dog

This is really just spotted dick in disguise. The author of the recipe, (I can't see who it is now because I tore it out of a newspaper and tore off the byline), I remember, included a long preamble about how embarrassing the name 'Spotted Dick' was.

I don't think it's embarrassing, I think it's quite funny and sweet - a old-fashioned name for something from 1850 (the year the phrase "Spotted Dick" was first used) when Dick didn't mean dick. Or maybe it did, but they didn't mind so much that they had to find another name for it.

The author also, I think, made some changes to the recipe so that it was internally distinct from a Spotted Dick but I can't now remember what they were. Perhaps a Spotted Dick afficiondo can point them out to me.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for Spotted Dog I did on Saturday. I had never made a steamed pudding before and it could have gone wrong in any number of ways - but it was really, really fun and delicious and a total doddle. Anyone who quite likes messing around in a kitchen will get a thrill out of making a string handle for the pudding basin and lifting it out of the boiling water at the end of the cooking time.

By 3.30pm on Saturday, making custard was a bridge too far, so it was served with cream, but another time, under less pressure, I'd make the effort.

Spotted Dog

25g butter for buttering the basin
2 tbsp golden syrup
125g raisins
125g currants
2 tbsp brandy or whisky
225g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
75g butter for the mixture
50g suet (I used vegetarian suet for my Pescetarian, which worked fine)
2 eggs
1 litre/2 pint pudding basin
foil and string

1 Generously butter the pudding basin with your 25g of soft butter. Spoon 1tbsp golden syrup into the bottom (although if I was doing this recipe again, I'd use 2 tbsp here)
2 Put the raisins, currants, brandy or whisky, 1 tbsp golden syrup and 1 tbsp water into a pan and cook gently, stirring as it all heats up and smells very fruity and boozy. Put a lid on and cook for 10 mins. Then remove the lid and cook for 2 more mins until the fruit is bouncy with liquid.
3 Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the 75g butter into the flour and rub in until it's crumbly, like pastry dough.
4 Add the suet and mix thoroughly.
5 Whisk up the eggs and make the mixture up to 150ml with milk
6 Stir the fruit into the flour and add the egg gradually, use a knife to mix into the dough until it's cake-mix like and damp
7 Turn it into your buttered basin and smooth the top or give it a jiggle to even out the top (although my top was very uneven and it sorted itself out during boiling.
8 drape a large-ish piece of foil over the top of the basin, making a sort of small tented peak or ridge in the middle. Then wrap the string twice around the basin, under the lip and tie off. Then make a handle by tying another piece of string from one side of the basin to the other, secured to the string wrapped round the middle, so that you can lift it out of the boiling water. Frankly, this isn't really that neccessary as you could just lift it out with a pair of oven gloves. But it's FUN and looks cool and you'll feel like it's 1850, so I say go for it.
9 Put the pudding in a large pan with a lid that fits and pour boiling water 2/3ds up the side of the basin. Boil for 2 hours, remembering if you can to check the water level after 40 mins and top up with more water if neccessary.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A Saturday lunch for 9

Continuing on a theme, my other least favourite thing about myself is that I am the world's most stressed and neurotic hostess. I just can't take the pressure. I hate this. I want to be a bit more like my mother, who constantly filled our house with people, managing to divide one leg of lamb between 35, while cradling the phone between her cheek and shoulder, inviting more people round. Or like my sister who, when something goes wrong with dinner, just brings out more smoked salmon on tost, opens another bottle of champagne and acts like that eating at 10.15pm, so drunk you can't feel your face, is just the chic thing these days.

My dinner party crises leave me bruised and tearful for weeks. My first dinner at my flat, I made a mess of my mother's Idiot-Proof Chicken Stew (nothing is so idiot-proof I can't spazz it - recipe soon) and my guests were left eating raw onions and flabby chicken. I still actually writhe around in my chair with shame when I think about this. When a guest asked if there was any cheese I snapped "No" because I was so angry and upset and more or less threw them all out. Then, the other day, I set down a pan of potato dauphinoise on my new Corian surface in the kitchen, which you are strictly not supposed to do, and the Corian cracked from one end to another with a loud bang, like a gunshot. We waited weeks for that Corian, and it was magnificently expensive. I nearly comitted hara-kiri right there with Giles' Japanese sushi knife. I think at that point, he might have helped me.

Anyway, I won't have this. I want nice people to look forward coming to my house, not dread it for weeks. And neither do I want to dread it for weeks and be reduced to a freaked-out wreck if an extra person comes at the last minute. So I'm going to keep giving bloody dinners and lunches until I crack it.

Tomorrow, for example, there are 8 people (one pescetarian) coming to my house for lunch. At the moment, I feel quite relaxed about it all because my latest plan for stress-free entertaining (yeah, whatever) is to organise everything weeks in advance with military precision. There are lists all over the house of things to buy (logs, brussel sprouts, cream) lists of what to do when (night before: boil and chop sprouts, lay the table, cook cocktail sausages) and lists of my expanding and contracting guest list. At one point there were 11 people coming, as I was trying to get over my fear of too many people, but then three dropped out thank the Lord, so now I've just got the eight.

I am breaking a promise to myself that I made last time I had a dinner party, which was that I'd never again cook something for the first time for friends. But these two new things I'm doing tomorrow, I don't think can go wrong (can't believe I just said that - the house is going to blow up now). The first thing is a Christmassy cranberry sauce for the cocktail sausages and the second is a steamed pudding. Everything else (Nigel Slater's potato dauph, chilli and garlic brussel sprouts, roast chicken, fish in breadcrumbs for my pescetarian) I've done before.

My dad always says that as long as you can take a coat and get a drink in to a guest's hand within one minute of their arrival, you don't have to worry about anything else. And he's lived with my mother and her non-stop entertaining for 30 years, so knows a thing or two about having people round. Send me your top tips for having friends over without having a nervous breakdown and if I get enough I'll do a post. If I don't, I'll just assume no-one cares and, well, that sushi knife may start to look very tempting. No pressure.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Kitchen equipment - new cooks only

I remember the first time I scraped out a cake-mixing bowl with a spatula designed for that very activity. It was a revelation - truly, a marvel. If I had been a cartoon character, a small light would have pinged on over my head.

Up until then I had gone at a smeary cake bowl with wooden spoons, teaspoons, my own fingers and there had always been stuff left on the sides, which had to be swilled down the sink in gluey clumps. But with a slim, springy spatula, there's none of this waste and sadness, just clean bowls.

It was then I realised the importance of having the right kit in your kitchen. And when I say right, I don't mean expensive. So this is a guide to the most useful things that I have in my kitchen. I've called this post kit for new cooks only because it's really only for people just starting out. If you've been a cooking enthusiast for a while, you'll have our own treasured stuff - (Nigella Lawson swears by her microplane and Delia Smith declares that she couldn't cook without a skewer) - and just be annoyed by my recommendations.

So, the above photo, starting at the top, going clockwise shows:

1 A timer. My first teenaged attempts at cooking were cursed with my thinking that cooking was too easy for words. I never timed anything and it was always either charred and alight or scarily pink. I now time everything - and I mean everthing. If a recipe recommends letting something stand for 2-3 minutes, on goes the timer. And it has made cooking at least 50% less stressful for me. It's in use even now, in the photo - I am timing the dough which is resting in the bowl (3).

2 A knife. I think most people think that a kitchen knife has to be some giant, terrifying thing, with which you chop things up very finely, very fast. I do have one of those. In fact, it belongs to Giles and it is a huge, very sharp Japanese sushi knife purchased, I think, in Tokyo itself. Anyway, this is not a knife I reach for very often; the knife I reach for is my paring knife made by Victorinox (the same company that makes Swiss Army Knives). I'm sure it's not the right knife to use for all sorts of things I use it for, but I'd be lost without it and its dainty serrations and pointy end. They are available from John Lewis and cost about £9.

3 Stainless steel mixing bowls. I am very clumsy, but you don't have to be especially malco-ordinated to drop things in the kitchen, especially if you are doing something under time pressure or having mixed yourself, and then drunk, a too-large 'calming' drink. What I like most about these bowls, which cost about £4 each (again, these are John Lewis, but I think you can get them in most kitchenware departments), is that they are indestructible, light and very easy to clean. The downside is that they don't exactly scream 'Kitchen chic', but then neither do I, so we get along very well.

4 A plastic chopping board. (Only just seen in the picture - it's a rather similar colour to my worksurface.) I resisted getting one of these for a while, because I don't like the way they look. Yes, that really is how shallow I am. But it had got to the stage where if I had to wash up another wooden chopping board that smelled strongly of onions and garlic when I applied the hot water tap to it, I thought I might be sick. So I bought two of these anti-bacterial plastic chopping boards and have never looked back. They are just great and you can sling them in the dishwasher and boil the shit out of them and there'll be no more scrubbing stinking wooden boards.

5 A pair of tongs. I feel like Doc Ock from Spiderman 2 with a pair of these in my hands. They are basically an extendable pair of flame-proof, heat-proof fingers for turning things, poking things, picking things that have fallen into other things, out. When it comes to tongs, I find that the cheaper they are the better. I've got a pair of very snazzy ones with rubber grips on them and stuff, but they're just not as nimble as these, which come in a packet of 2 and were £3.99, made by a company called "Kitchenware" and purchased from a hardware shop very near Tufnell Park tube station.

These are my top five most useful things but when it comes to kitchen stuff I always think the more the merrier. There's nothing better than coming to the point in your life where you don't actually need to go out and buy a massive roasting tin because you've got one already, and you don't have to skip over recipes which call for measuring out anything, because you haven't got a set of scales, or stewing anything, because you haven't got a casserole.

Coming soon: chilli hot chocolate.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A word about gelatine

Whenever I fall into a conversation about pork pies (obsessed, me?) someone will eventually say "The jelly sounds scary" or "I don't understand gelatine". At which point I want to clutch them to my bosom in sympathy. My first few pork pie attempts, I just couldn't do the jelly. Sad things, they were - just a ball of seasoned pork roughly encased in pastry, the one coming apart from each other, underlining the basic uselessness of actually making a pork pie rather than buying one.

I couldn't do the jelly because I didn't understand what was going on. What do you mean boil up a pig's trotter? Calves' foot what? The alternative, to set some run-of-the-mill stock with gelatine seemed similarly alientating. How much? Which gelatine? Powdered, leaf? Argh! Can I pour the leftovers down the sink or will it clog up the plumbing for all of north London? The whole thing sent me screaming to re-read The Pedant in the Kitchen for absolution.

But, I've sorted a few things out for myself in my head about jellies and gelatine. So, for anyone who remains confused about the matter, here's my beginner's guide to gelatine use. This will be, to a lot of people, bleeding obvious and I don't, would never, claim to be an expert - this is just something I wish I'd read a few months ago.

Boiling bones to get jelly.
The reason that you boil up pig's trotters or veal bones is that they naturally contain gelatine. Pig trotter or veal stock, when cold, is jelly-like; when it is hot, it is liquid. It's amazing - you have to see it to believe it, but that's what happens. So when you're making a pork pie, the gold standard is to make a stock out of either a trotter or veal bones (but not chicken, because it doesn't contain enough gelatine), with vegetables and all sorts of delicious stuff in it. Once it's made you warm it up so that it's runny enough to get through the hole in the top of your pie and then when it's cool, it sets round the pork. Bingo.

Using gelatine to set stock
The trouble with gelatine is that the packets are so not user-friendly. They say things like "This packet will set 1.5 litres of liquid" - but I don't want 1.5 litres! - or "To set hot liquid, stir slowly into the mixture when it is cold, then heat gently, let cool, leave to stand and remove" or "One leaf of gelatine is equivalent to two teaspoons of powdered gelatine" - which will set HOW MUCH LIQUID? For someone who is useless at those "If it takes one man six hours to dig a hole" blah blah questions, this all drove me quite potty. But then I found a powdered gelatine by Dr Oetker, the instructions for which were, thank God, written for dimwits like me. One 30g sachet of powdered gelatine sets one pint of liquid. Finally. Thank god. I make pretty small pies, so I use only half a pint of stock, which is half a 30g sachet, which is 15g.

Like all things good and holy, Dr Oetker's beef gelatine is available at Waitrose.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Glorious Jin Kichi - Japanese food for the soul

I am quite dim and also pretty shallow, so I was very surprised when I found out that the Japanese grill things, as well as plucking them out of the sea, strangling them and eating them raw with green horseradish.

I like sushi, (I mean I genuinely think 'mmm' when I think about it), ever since I found out that the way to eat it is by paying about twice as much for it as you think is reasonable. Sushi, I was interested to find out, is not really that stuff you get at Pret.

But however much I can thrill, in the right mood, to a really fresh bit of fatty hamachi, when I catch a whiff of something grilled, fried, hot, fatty, salty, I can't really concentrate on the sushi stuff. I want dripping porky flavours, charred salty meat.

And really, there is no better place for this kind of thing than Jin Kichi in Hampstead. A tiny place, with a bar facing an open grill upstairs and more seating downstairs (but really you want to be at the bar), it's not the kind of place where you can just walk in off the street and hope for the best. Regulars know that you have to book in advance for any hope of a table, or if you want to sit at the bar (yes, you want to sit at the bar) you can usually get a spot for two or three people on the day, ringing when they open at 3pm.

I'm going tonight and I can't wait. The open grill, the delicious skewered niblets of meat, the fun of watching idiots who haven't booked being turfed back out in to the cold night and the soothing warm sake slowly denting my mental faculties... I mean... denting them even further.

Giles' Tartafin

My most unappealing trait, to my mind, is my hypochondria. At the moment, with a couple of aches and pains and with my tonsils playing up, I am entirely convinced that I am going to die. Of what, I'm not sure; I have to leave it for a bit before I go to the doctor again (I was in there about a fortnight ago convinced I had haemorrhagic fever) or she'll put me on her 'heartsink' list and I do, genuinely, want her to like me.
Coming a close second is my terror of getting fat. Some people carry a bit of extra weight and just look glossy and healthy. I look like a pudding. But still, I am unnaturally obsessed with not putting on weight. So for the last four years I have been a massive carb-dodger and hardly ever eat pasta, potatoes, rice or bread. And when I say never, I mean I eat them from time to time and feel horribly guilty.
Anyway, what with me certain to die any moment from my mystery terminal thingy, when Giles suggested last night that he make a Tartafin, a sort of layered potato pie, covered in cheese, I said okay, sure, why the hell not. For such a mega carb-dodger himself and general health freak, Giles certainly has a suspicious number of potato dishes up his sleeve (his other former signature dish being egg and potato pie).
I'm dying anyway, I yelled weakly from the living room to the kitchen, so I might as well go out with happy potato-and-cheese memories. And so off dear Giles went and made me a Tartafin. I'm still alive this morning (JUST) and, frankly, feel a bit more robust for a bit of potato loving. It'll be a carb neutral day for me today though.
Tartafin - for 2 as a main (if you're going to eat potatoes, you might as well make them the focus of your meal, accompanied by a few cold cuts and some kind of pickle, rather than eating it as a side to an enormous roast).
2 cloves garlic, finely slice or microplaned
3 waxy potatoes, like a Maris Piper, sliced as thinly as you can. If you are Angela Hartnett, they will be very thin, if you are me, some will be really thin, others less so. This is ok, just do your best.
Some olive oil
Some butter
Salt and pepper
Some cheese - ideally a kind of hard-ish Swiss cheese. Nothing blue and, if you can help it, not too much cheddar, which will just make everything taste like cheddar and it's SO greasy...
1 Cook the garlic in the olive oil over a low heat until the garlic is softened but not brown. Ideally, you'd use some kind of cast iron, Le Creuset-type pot, but we used a crappo stainless steel sauepan of a medium size and it worked fine.
2 Add the potatoes, a generous scrunch of salt and pepper and some butter and swirl around for a bit, maybe 2 minutes, until everything has been coated in seasoning and fat (but be gentle so that the potato slices don't snap in half.
3 Then with whatever kitchen implement you fancy, lay the potato slices horizontally in layers and put the lid on.
4 Cook on a very low heat for about 30 minutes: you know they are ready when you can sink a sharp knife through all the layers and pull it out with ease.
5 Layer your cheese on the top of the potato - we used the hard ends of the cheeses we had lying around - a comte, parmesan, some truffle brie and a bit of old cheddar. Cook for another five or six minutes until the cheese is all melty.
After cooking, the bottom of the pan will be very brown and hard-baked. This is the best bit, if you can hack it off the bottom. To clean, leave overnight soaking in some cold water with a couple of drops of washing up liquid. Trust me - it will defy any dish washer. A long soak is the only answer