A classic favourite, a cousin of Pommes Lyonnais. You need 8 ounces of bacon pieces sliced, 4 or 5 potatoes peeled and sliced thinly, a big onion sliced, half a pint of milk, a dessertspoon of flour and an ounce of butter.
Slice the bacon, potatoes and onion thinly and set to one side for the moment. Make a straight-forward basic white sauce. Melt the butter in the pan- do not brown the butter. Add a good-sized handful of plain flour, and stir it in so that a greasy paste is formed. Throw in a bayleaf and some black pepper but do not add any salt. When the flour and butter are properly and evenly mixed and heated through, remove the pan from the heat and add a slosh of the milk. Stir the flour/ butter paste quickly into the milk- it is important to dissolve the paste as evenly as possible in the milk at this stage. As the initial sauce thickens from the heat of the pan, add some more milk- you can add quite a lot now- and stir the thickened sauce thoroughly into the cold milk. Return the pan to the heat and heat it gently, stirring thoroughly all round the pan so that the sauce does not stick to the bottom or sides. As it nears boiling point, the milky sauce mixture will start to thicken again. Adjust the sauce with more milk and re-heat it.
Take an oven-proof dish, a casserole, and grease the inside with a smear of butter. Spread a layer of about a quarter of the sliced potato over the bottom. Sprinkle on about a third of the sliced onion and then about a third of the bacon. Grate some black pepper over and add another layer of potato, onion and bacon, and then another layer of potato, onion and bacon. Finish it off with a covering layer of the last of the sliced potato. Pour the white sauce over, cover and casserole in a medium oven for 1 - 2 hours, removing the cover for the last half hour to brown the top a bit if it needs it. To serve, cut it across in quarters and see if you can get each serving out in a piece. It is very hot and delicious.
This is a straight-forward, simple one=pot vegetable casserole, but very good. There is something about this particular combination- it really needs nothing else. A word of caution though- the cheese is added last- it melts and sticks to everything.
Peel and roughly slice some potatoes. Chop a large onion, a clove of garlic and a tin of plum tomatoes21. Heat a little olive oil in your good cast-iron pan and soften the garlic and onion in it, then season with a little salt and black pepper, some oregano and basil, and a bay leaf. Add the chopped tomato (and half a glass of white wine, if a bottle is open). Add the the potatoes, and adjust the liquid with water. Cover and put to simmer on a very low heat for about 45 minutes or so- the potatoes take longer to cook if the liquid is not just water.
Meanwhile grate a good cooking cheese- in this case cheap, pale 'mild' cheddar with no taste is actually ideal. Take the the pan off the heat, and stir in the grated cheese- it will melt in the heat of the dish. Serve immediately. Do not heat the dish once the cheese has been added as the stuff sticks to everything and (a) it is almost impossible to heat it without it burning the food, (b) all the cheese ends up glued to the base of the pan anyway which rather defeats the purpose of including it in the first place, (c) it takes days to get the burnt on cheese off the pan afterwards.
Ahh! Baked potatoes- the staple of students, how often we ate them. Actually they are very nourishing and the various fillings make them very versatile. You need one large baking potato per person and an oven. Baking potatoes are specially large and unblemished, and are labelled as such. Wash the potatoes, inspect them closely, and dig out any blemishes. Make a cut with a knife over the upper surface and bake them (on the bars) in a medium oven for about two hours.
(Interestingly, if the potato skin is not cut and is also completely unblemished, then the potato can build up sufficent pressure during the baking to produce a charming explosion. Once a potato is ready to blow, almost anything can set it off. For instance, once when Scrote opened the door to remove a potato from the oven, the resulting bang was more than enough to decorate a large amount of his kitchen with the fluffiest mashed potato you ever saw.)
Now for the filling. Traditionally, you just split the potato and put a knob of salted butter in it. However, it is a lot better if you open it out, grate a huge heap of cheese over it, and serve it with a salad. Dedicated cooks scrape out the potato from the skin, mash it in a bowl with an egg, some cream and chopped chives, then refill the skin with the creamy mashed potato and return it to the oven for a further baking before serving. Homemade coleslaw also makes a particularly excellent filling for a baked potato.
This is a good way of using up old mashed or boiled potatoes- so good in fact that you should always make too much so that you have some left over. It actually works better if the potato has been around awhile and dried a bit. You need a bowlful of cold left-over potato, one or two eggs (depending on the amount of potato) and a little finely chopped onion or spring onion or, better still, chives.
Mash the potato thoroughly, add the chopped onion or chives and break in the egg(s). Mix it up smoothly, and add a little flour or matzo meal if it is too liquid. Form the mixture into little balls and flatten them with your hands into cakes. Fry them in batches slowly in oil about 5 minutes each side, so that they are golden brown, and serve hot. With a green salad they make a little vegetarian meal in themselves. Scrote thinks they're rather good.
For mashing you really need a 'masher' (which is a sort of metal grid on the end of a handle) and old potatoes that go 'floury' when boiled, such as King Edwards.
Peel the potatoes and if large, quarter them. Put in a large pan, cover with cold water, add a dash of salt, bring to the boil and cook at a rolling boil for about 20 minutes. Test with a fork to see if they are soft right through, then drain them and mash them roughly while they are still hot with the mashing gadget (or a fork will do the job eventually). Do not, however, ever use a blender or a food processor unless you wish to see what happens- it breaks something in the potato and the result is a thick, dense, inedible glue.
Having roughly mashed the potato, put in a big knob of butter, and a small amount of milk (or, for luxury cream, or for americans sour cream and chives). Now mash it again very thoroughly- some people have a thing about lumps in mashed potato. If it is not to be served immediately, for instance it is to go with a joint or there are more vegetables to cook, put it in the oven to keep warm.
For extra luxury, break a raw egg into the mashed potato and mix very thoroughly until the potato is quite soft and creamy. Put the mash into a baking dish, fork over the top to make rough peaky bits and return to a medium oven to bake for a further half hour.
Another old-fashioned way of jazzing up mashed potato is with the addition of chopped spring onion. Soften a bit in butter first or just add raw and mash in for slightly more 'bite', but make sure you include the fresher green bits, to give the characteristic flecks of green. See also Anglesey Eggs for the Welsh version with leeks.
The Irish version is to add chopped green cabbage. Again, cook a bit to soften the cabbage before you add it to the mashed potato, but not too much so as to make sure the green bits are much in evidence- a sort of unfried bubble-and-squeak.
Swede is a large British root vegetable with a hard, pale, apricot-coloured flesh. Swedes should not to be confused with turnips (which are smaller and have pure white flesh) in spite of swedes being called turnips or neaps, and vice versa in some areas of the country.
Traditionally, winter root vegetables were served simply boiled as an accompaniment to the main course, with the result that many people avoid swede. If it is cooked like this it is actually very good, but people will refuse to try it if they know it has swede in it. However they will like it cooked like this. Honestly. Trust old Scrote. Don't to tell them what it is they are getting and try this out on them one day.
Peel and cut into large cubes 4 or 5 large potatoes. Peel and cut into similar cubes a medium sized swede. (A medium sized swede is as big across as your hand and probably weighs several pounds. The flesh is pale yellow-pink but goes yellow as it cooks.) Put them all into a very large saucepan and cover with cold water with a dash of salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes and swede are well-done. Drain and mash them very thoroughly as they are.
Grate a good amount of a cooking cheese like cheddar (the cheap mild stuff will do fine) and mix it in well. Pepper it heavily with freshly ground black pepper (the pepper is an important ingredient), tip it into a baking dish. Grate some more cheese over the top and dot it with a few bits of butter. Bake it in a medium oven for a further 20 minutes. This is a very simple, clean flavour. It is good on its own but it also goes well with other uncomplicated flavours, like a joint of meat.
The classic acompaniment to the English sunday roast. Generally an oven gets hotter as you go up and the roast goes in the middle of the oven. You can either put the roast potatoes in the pan with the joint, in which case they will cook slowly and collect some of the meat drippings, or you can put them in their own pan at the top of the oven an hour before the joint is due out, which makes making the gravy easier.
In either case, the secret is to get the right sort of potatoes, peel and quarter them, put them in a dish with some fat (dripping or oil) in a hot oven, and then spoon the hot fat over them from time to time. They are not deep-fried, but they won't roast properly unless they have a film of oil over them, they will just sort of dry out instead. Roast potatoes come out with brown crunchy corners and edges, and soft insides. They shrink during the cooking, and people like them, so allow three or four each at least.