Friday, June 20, 2008

96 Degrees In The Shade

It’s amazing isn’t it how interest groups can dominate the news agenda, especially in this age of 24 hour rolling news. Apart from the mains news stories, most of the stuff you hear on 5 live is little more than an endless discussion prompted by a press release by some organisation trying to drum up publicity. The credit crunch is providing marketing people with undreamt of opportunities. The latest to get in on the act is the potato council, who are telling us that the humble spud is the answer to our current half starved state. The Guardian has a very good and expanding blog post on it and will be highlighting the magic of the spud in one of the weekend editions.

All of which gives me an excuse to post my favorite recipes. Poverty is not a fashion thing with me, I’ve been skint for years, so I know a thing or three about spuds and pasta, I can tell you.

A week or so back I saw a recipe by Gordon Ramsey for Jersey royals (who said the spud was cheap?) with black pudding, which I adapted, to what I happened to have hanging around. It was possibly the best thing I have ever cooked. You don’t necessarily need Jerseys, by the way.

Take a load of new spuds, peel them, if you want, chop ‘em small and par boil for about 7-8 minutes, drain, then throw into a big frying pan containing a good glug of olive oil. Chop a load of black pudding and throw that in as well, followed by a little box of cherry tomatoes, which you may or may not have skinned, let it all fry and crisp up a bit, then throw in some fresh sage leaves and spinach, followed by a not insignificant glug of balsamic vinegar. Trust me, it’s a good ‘un. Oh, season as and when you see fit..

Stovies: Take a load of waxy spuds, peel them and cover the bottom of a saucepan. Add about 3-5 mls of water and a big knob of butter, season, cover with greaseproof paper, stick a lid on and cook on a low heat for about 40 minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake.

Tartiflette. Bugger the reblochon, the last time I bought one it cost 7 bloody quid, a mixture of cheddar and gruyere will do.

Potato salad: boil the spuds, drain; mix with a simple vinaigrette and then when cool add a load of sour cream, mayo and dijon, which, clearly, you had previously mixed together.

Dauphinoise. Obviously you don’t need me to give you a recipe for Dauphinoise, but I have an easy and foolproof method. Take a load of spuds and slice as thin as you like, boil them up in a pan consisting of a pint of milk and half a pint of cream, with a clove of garlic, for about ten minutes. Put the whole lot in a baking dish, grate some nutmeg on top and slam it in a hottish oven for half an hour. Bob Is your Uncle.

You could take the Ramsey Recipe above, omit the sage , balsamic and black pud, put in some chorizo and use it for the basis of a big omelette, I know you can, because I have done it, although it did include some onions which I had softened to the point of being caramelized as well. Actually, the original thing might work. The next time I do it I will make a huge pile and use the leftovers to make an omelette which will then be the following days lunch at work.

Pasta and Potatoes: cook a load of chopped spuds and pasta shells (about 500 grams in total) in about a litre chicken stock for about ten minutes then add cream, butter, and loads and loads of parmesan and some parsley. Fanny is your aunt.

Barbecued: Slice, parboil, drain, mix up with whatever you want…………..Cajun type spices or an oregano heavy mix of oil and vinegar or lemon juice are good, or just leave them plain then Barbie the buggers!

Also on a Barbie, try those little battered slices of spud you get in the veg section at supermarkets. Just bung ‘em on for ages after the main work has been done and the Barbie is still hot, but not blisteringly so. They are much better than a bag of crisps to help the beer down on a warm night.

While we are on barbies, have you tried barbied carrots? Man, they are something else. Slice a load of carrots up really thin and Barbie the buggers on one of those little foil trays you get. They are a bit special.

There are loads more but I’m fed up now, except to mention the best spud dish of all, which, as everyone knows, is the chip butty. I go for the two fry method myself, when it comes to chips, although I appreciate that it is a contentious area.
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