Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise

I had some left over double cream, and as I hadn’t made Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for a while, decided to use it up making some.

Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise, otherwise known as gratin dauphinois (not to be confused with pommes dauphine), has to be one of the richest and most decadent ways of serving the humble spud. Sliced potato which is slathered in nutmeg and garlic flavoured double cream, before being baked until meltingly soft, what’s not to like?

As I don’t really have a dish small enough to make Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for one, I decided to use one of the frying pans I use for making tortilla española. Even though it’s non-stick, I still buttered the inside, as that’s just what you do. Rather than also rubbing a garlic clove over the inside, which you’re supposed to do, I crushed as small one and added it to the double cream along with some freshly grated nutmeg.

Then it was into a relatively moderate oven, 150°C for 25 minutes. I then raised the temperature to 180°C, for what was supposed to be only a further ten minutes, but I didn’t think the top had taken on the correct look, so left it in for a further ten minutes.

I ate it along with a simple salad of rocket, olives, halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta, which was left over from the previous day. The peppery leaves and salty cheese certainly helped to cut through the richness of the cream. I’m not sure I could have eaten any more of it on my own though, it was getting a bit much by the time I got to the end. Utterly delicious though and perfect for an autumnal or wintery evening meal.

Pommes de Terre Duchesse

While browsing the list of potato dishes on the source of all that is right and correct on the internet, I stumbled upon the page for Duchess potatoes and knew instantly that I had to have a go at making them. As luck would have it, there just happened to be three egg yolks in the fridge, so rather than waiting, I headed home to make some.

My only real worry, was the piping of the mashed potato, as I’ve never piped anything before. As it turned out, it wasn’t too difficult, although the end result left rather a lot to be desired in the consistency stakes. I’m not too disappointed though, as consistency in something like piping, is only achieved through lots and lots of practice. So I might have to start piping the mash onto the top of things like Shepherd Pie to gain the necessary experience.

As the Wikipedia article was a bit vague on the length of time these should be cooked for, I decided to pop them into the oven, with the fan on and the temperature set to 220°C. Duchess potatoes fresh from the oven... I took them out after twenty minutes, as they looked nice and brown and the outside and felt dry and solid to the touch.

If I’m being honest, hey weren’t that great. They were far too dry and were crying out to be slathered in some sort of gravy or sauce. I’ll put that down to baking them for too long, maybe you’re just supposed to do it long enough that they take a bit of colour. Maybe that’s why the temperature was stated to be 240°C, get colour on them quickly, then get them out while they’re still moist and a bit squidgy. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if I ever do them again, which I might very well do…

Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

I decided that we didn’t have enough mincemeat to make it through the Christmas period. As we had some pears left over, I decided to use them to make Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat.

The recipe for this was in the variations section, at the bottom of the page detailing the Plum and Russet Mincemeat recipe in Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. The method for producing it was exactly the same, so I wont go into details of that, just a couple of things.

I didn’t have any crystallised stem ginger to hand, just a jar of Chinese stem ginger in syrup, so I used that. I also didn’t bake it for quite as long, about half an hour less and I remembered to add the brandy. It did froth and steam at bit when I added it, as per the recipe, which leaves me wondering if all the alcohol was burnt off or not. It’s supposed to be required to aid in the preserving, so you’d hope some of it survived.

Plum and Russet Mincemeat

Plums softening in orange juice...

When we made mince pies last Christmas, I wanted to make some Plum and Russet Mincemeat, but I didn’t realise that it’s suppose to mature for a couple of months. When we were offered some plums and apples last month by a friend, I knew exactly what to use them for.

While the apples we were given weren’t russets, I didn’t think it would make that much difference, so didn’t bother trying to hunt some down. We also hummed and hawed about buying ginger wine and brandy, as neither is something that we have in the house. Plum and (not) Russet Mincemeat melding overnight... In the end we decided to buy both, as if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly.

You start by softening the halved plums in orange juice, before either blending the lot, or passing it through a sieve. As I have a Vitamix though, I wasn’t going to bother with the arm ache of passing it all though a sieve. The recipe says that you should end up with around 700ml of purée, I got waaaaaaaay more than that, so I’m not sure if my plums were extra juice or not. I added a bit of icing sugar to the remaining purée to turn it into a kind of plum coulis, it went quite nicely with some apple and bramble crumble.

Once you have your purée, you add everything else to it, bar the brandy and leave it overnight to meld. The following day, it’s into the oven to bake for two to two and a half hours. I decided to go for the full two and a half hours, I can’t remember why now, but I should only have baked it for two, as it was a bit too reduced and cooked for my liking. Plum and (not) Russet Mincemeat after being baked in the oven for too long... All that was left to do was add the brandy and pot it up, so I totally forgot about the brandy and shoveled it into recycled pasata jars and left it too cool.

I have no idea why I forgot the brandy, but as the alcohol is required as part of the preserving process and the fact that I actually went to the trouble of buying some, I’m quite annoyed with myself. Only time will tell if this was a fatal mistake or not. Only time will tell if using pasata jars was the right thing too, as I have not idea how I’m going to get all the mincemeat out of those when the time comes. I might have to buy a really long handled teaspoon or something; I’m not sure what I was thinking when I pulled those from the cupboard.

Macaroni Cheese

I love macaroni cheese, I think it’s the combination of pasta and cheese that does it, you canny beat a bit of pasta and cheese, mmmm, pasta and cheese… Anyway, I bought The Geometry of Pasta a while back, I’m not sure why, as it’s not exactly veggie friendly. It’s great to flick through though, as the design of the book is amazing with all the black and white line drawings and any book that tells you how to make Cacio e pepe is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

The recipe for macaroni cheese is quite nice, it doesn’t contain tomato for starters, sorry Felicity, that’s just wrong. It can feel a bit greasy though, which I think it mainly down to the choice of cheese. I need to try it with fontina, rather than cheddar and see if that makes a difference.

Having made this recipe quite a lot, I think the one thing that affects the outcome more than anything else, is the thickness of the bechamel sauce. Too thick and it all becomes a bit of a sticky, lumpy mess when it’s served up. Keeping it on the thinner side, means it’s nice an oozy when served up and feels less like eating a bit greasy brick of pasta.

One other thing about this recipe, is that it claims it serves two as a main course, two giants maybe, as it can easily feed all four of us and leave us all wishing we hadn’t eaten quite as much; so it should serve three normal adults with no worries.

I’ve also been looking at buying Modernist Cuisine at Home, that kind of scientific cooking looks quite interesting, if a bit involved. However, if you do the Amazon look inside thing on this book, you’ll see there is a whole chapter on Mac and Cheese, with a number of different ways of preparing it. The recipes are all there for you to see in the preview, so I’m really tempted to buy some sodium citrate and give a couple of them a try…