It was another of those Monday evenings when I was home alone, my wife was at the gym and I’d managed to get the kids off to bed with minimal fuss. I knew that dinner was going to include potatoes, but I just didn’t know how I was going to cook them. I’d attempted a rösti once in dim distant past, so decided that it was about time I had another crack at one.

A quick search on the internet turned up Felicity Cloake’s Guardian column on How to cook the perfect rösti, which seemed like a good place to start. As I didn’t have time to let them cool, I decided to go against her advice and didn’t cook my potatoes first. As you can see from the photos, I ruined a tea towel as I was ringing out all the moisture after grating them, just make sure you use a strong one.

I probably used a bit too much olive oil and I definitely used too much butter when I flipped the rösti after cooking the first side. I tried to mop up the excess with a sheet or two of kitchen paper, but it did feel a touch on the oily/buttery side when it came to be eaten. And nice eating it was too, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, I was quite pleased for a first attempt.

I’ve had a rösti for dinner another couple of times since this first attempt. The second one wasn’t as good, I’m not sure it was any different, but it just didn’t feel as good. The third one, which I had just the other night, was by far the best I’ve made. I used three potatoes, so it was quite thick, but there was no problem with it holding together as it cooked.

All three have used raw potato, I’ve not parboiled and to be honest, I don’t see the point, as that would really require me to decide the night before that I was going to have one. The first two both used butter and/or olive oil, the third solely used ghee and was the driest and least greasy of the three. This may have been due to there being more potato to soak it all up though. I didn’t season the first two, at least I can’t remember seasoning them. With the third one, I ground some pepper and salt onto the raw potato after I’d grated it though.

I like having a rösti for tea, it’s definitely something you can experiment with each time.

Fondant Potatoes


It was one of those nights where my wife is at the gym, so I was cooking for myself. I’d managed to get the kids off to bed and thus had some free time to potter about in the kitchen and have a go at something new for dinner. I can’t remember what I was having, but it involved tatties, which it normally does when I cook for myself, so I decided to have a bash at doing fondant potatoes.

I thought fondant potatoes were just cooked in a frying pan full of butter until ready, but a quick google search to find the exact ingredients indicated otherwise. Both the Hairy Bikers recipe on BBC Food and the Gordon Ramsey YouTube video amongst others all had stock as an ingredient and a cooking phase where it all goes in the oven. Not being one to argue with a recipe until I’ve cooked it a couple of times, I broke out the Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder and got to it.

I think our oven is having some heat issues, as the tatties weren’t quite soft the whole way though after the stated cooking time. So I whacked them on the hob for a minute to get the stock boiling again and stuck them back into the oven for a few more minutes. They were quite nice, not exactly what I was expecting, but definitely something I’ll try cooking again.

You always see them on Masterchef spooning vast quantities of butter over sizzling tatties in a frying pan, I thought that was it!

Practically everything we’ve cooked in the oven recently has required longer than it should have had, or necessitated the usage of a higher temperature setting. I think we need to get it serviced…

Roasted Ceps and Jerusalem Artichokes


I love it when the first packs of jerusalem artichokes appear on the shelves, it means I can get out my copy of Raymond Blanc’s Blanc Vite and cook one of our favorite recipes. I’ve never seen ceps for sale, at least in the places I shop, so we always end up making this with shiitakes. I should really try harder and go to a farmers market or something, as I’m sure it would be better with the real thing.

It took me quite a few attempts before I felt confident enough to have the pan hot enough to sear the artichokes and mushrooms and give them the required colour. I’m always scared that they’ll catch on the pan and the whole thing will turn out to be a mess. All it takes is getting the pan hot enough to start with, then it’s all fine.

The only real problem with this dish, is the issue of what to serve with it, we’ve tried tatties and yams in the past. This time, it was just some tatties that had been put through the ricer and then mixed into some melted butter and warm milk. I’ve found that while yams can be really tasty with it, they can also set like concrete if you’re not careful. I wonder if a rosti or something like that would be best though, as it might give a bit of crunch to the plate.

Finally, I can never make this look like the photo in the book, there’s just too much shallot in the vinaigrette! It looks so appetising in the book and so lumpy on my plate, I need to work on that…

Denis Cotter for Dinner

Portobello mushroom & aduki bean gratin with roast parsnip crust

My brother was round for dinner the other weekend, so I took the opportunity to break out Denis Cotter’s For The Love Of Food and cook a couple of recipes for the second time. I’d cooked both of these a few months ago when my Sister and Brother-in-law were down for a weekend and have been itching to cook them again. These are just some notes to remind myself to tweak various bits if I come to cook them again.

Portobello mushroom & aduki bean gratin with roast parsnip crust
The title of this one makes it sound really grand, but it’s essentially just a posh shepherds pie and a damn tasty one at that. If you’re going to use dried aduki beans, then you need to give them plenty of soaking time and allow up to 75 minutes or so for them to cook. If you don’t allow enough time, you can end up serving dinner rather on the late side, which is what happened the first time I cooked this. I could have just used a tin of beans, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been quite as good.

You may also need to vary the cooking time of the portobello mushrooms depending on their size and how ruberry you like them. Personally, I like my mushrooms cooked within an inch of their life, so ten minutes isn’t enough if they are really large. This time I gave them fifteen minutes and they were still rather on the bouncy side for my liking, although it may help to chop them into slightly smaller dice, so they soften a bit more during the final cooking.

That’s pretty much it for this dish, other than a note to use a large dish, as it makes quite a lot.

Citrus, sultana & maple rice pudding with raspberries
The first time I cooked this I was in a bit of a quandary, as I know citrus juice curdles milk and there’s a lot of milk and citrus juice in this recipe. I did wonder if this was intentional, as there’s no reference to it in the recipe, but I suppose it must be. Just keep an eye on the milk and cream, it boils over in the blink of an eye, which can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re in the middle of doing something for the aduki bean gratin.

The recipe says to bake in the oven for an hour until most of the liquid has been absorbed. As you can see from the photos below, after an hour, there is still a load of liquid left. There is no mention of how still the rice pudding should be, so it be really stiff, or still quite runny when served? I used an extra ten grams of rice this time, but was still concerned that there was too much liquid left; maybe my oven isn’t as hot as it claims to be.

I might try using a blowtorch on the sugar crust next time, as sticking it under the grill results in the edges of the dish going all burnt and messy looking. Maybe I should just wipe the excess sugar off the edges, before it goes under the grill, but then I wouldn’t get to use the blowtorch…

These are both recipes that I’ll cook again, as they are both really, really nice. The best bit about cooking stuff that will feed six adults, when there are only three of you, is that you’re setup with leftovers for the next few days. Which means lunch at work is far, far tastier than anything the cafeteria serves up…

Pommes Dauphine

I make no apologies for the fact that I watch MasterChef, MasterChef: The Professionals and The Great British Bake Off amongst others. I know that some people slag them off and claim that they are dumbing down cooking and baking, but I disagree. I know it’s a contrived environment and it’s all edited, so you don’t really know what’s going on, but I love seeing what people create and how they create it under pressure. I’ve watched quite a few episodes and come away feeling like I could do what I’ve just seen, especially with the baking, but I’ve never got my finger out and actually done it, until now.

In the second episode of Series 5, which was on nearly a couple of weeks ago now, the skills test was to butterfly some sardines and make some Pomme Dauphine. I’d never heard of Pomme Dauphine before, but anything that involves deep frying potato gets my full attention. So last week, I decided to have a bash at making some, mainly as a test to see if they would be suitable for replacing roast potatoes in a Sunday roast.

I started off by simmering the potatoes until they were just cooked and then shoving them through a ricer. I had a distant memory that Heston puts his triple cooked chips in the freezer after the initial cooking to dry them out, so this is what I did too. While the potatoes were simmering away, I’d put a baking tray in the freezer so it was nice and cold. The riced potato then went into the freezer on the cold tray until I was ready for it.

Never having made choux before, I was a bit nervous, mainly due to plenty of failed profiterole horror stories I’ve been told over the years. I broke out my copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and followed the recipe for choux pastry, which was relatively easy, although I’m not sure I cooked it for long enough before adding the eggs. I’m also not sure if I added quite enough egg, although it was dropping off the wooden spoon nicely.

By this point the riced potato was really cold, although I’m not sure it was particularly dry. I mixed it into the choux and using a couple of soup spoons, started to drop quinnelled portions into some 180°C oil. As it was quite sticky making quinnelles was taking too long, so I just started to drop lumps of the stuff into the oil, after a few minutes they’d turned a nice brown colour, so I removed them and kept them hot in the oven while frying the rest of the mix.

They were nice and crisp on the outside, with little bits flaking off in the mouth. The insides felt like a slightly doughy mash potato, which I’m not sure is exactly what they’re supposed to be like, I think they’re supposed to be slightly lighter. Either way, they were quite tasty, so I tried them with a few condiments to see what they would go with. Plain tomato ketchup didn’t work very well, although Sainsbury’s Organic Mayonnaise was pretty good, as was just a plain dusting of sea salt. My homemade chilli pepper jelly was also quite nice, on its own and with the mayo.

I’ll definitely do them again, but I think I’ll bake the potato, then I can make some gnocchi at the same time, as it too requires quite a dry potato. Not sure if I’ll put it in the freezer again though, but if I do, I’ll leave it for longer to cool down before it goes in. I’ll also try cooking the choux for a bit longer and adding a bit more egg to make it slightly runnier, as it gets plenty thick enough when you add the riced potato. Finally, I think I made them far too big, so I’ll be swapping the soup spoons for dessert spoons and trying to quinnelle the whole batch.