Wednesday, July 21

How great the gratin....

I am still undecided over the success of last nights dinner . I was back in the kitchen with my friend Yotam Ottolenghi, making a Winter Saffron Gratin.

As you might have noticed I am a big fan of the gratin. You could take pretty much anything (and I mean anything, spuds, cardboard, last weeks leftovers..), chuck some sauce over, grill the top till crunchy and I'll be first in line with a spoon. So I was pretty excited about this, even when I got to the shops and realised a) I wasn't entirely sure what kohlrabi looked like and b) they didn't have any anyway. Ditto tarragon, which was annoying as I knew my little pot of aniseed heaven in the garden had succumbed to the cold weather. I would have to improvise. I hope non of my cooking class students are reading this. I always encourage them to stick to the recipe the first time around, then fiddle at will as I say, not as I do people!

Anyway, I sliced up a kilo of vege, roughly equal quantities of Jerusalem Artichoke (VERY roughly peeled, is there any other way with the darn things??), swede, parsnip, and my substitute kohlrabi, turnip. I was tempted to chuck a few sliced spuds in as well, which in hindsight I  wish I had. I blanched the vege for a minute in boiling water and drained, then stirred through my sauce. This was a bechemel made with 30 grams each of butter & flour, and 100ml each of water and milk, in which a 1/2 tsp of saffron strands had soaked. I find saffron very hard to measure as the strands are to long for spoons, so I eyeballed it, if anything I was a bit mean (it is expensive stuff!) yet the sauce still ended up very strong. I stirred in 150ml of cream which loosened it up, and a big handful of parsley. There should also have been 2 tbsp tarragon and 60 grams of basil joining the parsley, and I think in retrospect more herb flavour was required. 30 grams of grana padano (the recipe called for Parmesan) completed the sauce, with plenty of seasoning. The whole lot was put into a greased gratin dish (ok, it was a  casserole, but doesn't gratin dish sound nicer?) and covered with foil for a supposed 40 mins at 160C...........that would be dandy if you like crunchy root vege, I don't so it took another 35 mins at 175 and we were nearly there. The foil came off and another 30 grams of cheese was mixed with 3 tbsp of panko breadcrumbs and sprinkled over the top for cheesy crunchy goodness. 10 mins later we ate.
 It was good, creamy and comforting, but I think it was a little too strongly saffron, and a little sweet. The inclusion of a potato or two may have tempered this, my husband loved it and he has a very sweet tooth, so this could just me my taste buds. Next time I will infuse my milk with bay and onion as well as the saffron, for a more savoury note, up the herb quota but give the turnips a miss, and include some potato. I will also use a bit more cheese, maybe some Gruyere as well..........a bit like grandads hammer, its kinda the same recipe.........but not really!

I didn't do nearly as much cooking this weekend as I hoped. I intended to make these delish crackers from over at pod and three peas but instead made the mistake of hanging a picture. We have been in our house six months, but have resisted hanging many of our pictures as we intend repainting. When? Exactly, hang some pics and make the house look lived in. I am especially pleased with this one, as it is a cheap Ikea frame, with a picture that has started to warp. I replaced it with a beautiful piece of wrapping paper from Passion for Paper, pretty,  although my home handy boy is starting to wonder how much more pink he will have to live with......Anyway one picture turned into about six, then I realised just how dusty everything was & thought I had better tackle that as well..............six hours later I was done, and too knackered to do another more taxing the sit at the Civic with my girlfriend watching Certified Copy with the lovely Juliette Binoche. In the best tradition of European films it involved relentless talking and an ambiguous ending, the jury is still out with us but do see for yourself.

On Friday Mr PK and I saw Cooking History which was an unusual documentary charting the history of cooking through European field kitchens. Mr PK has a long standing love affair with all things military (he is very useful to have at pub quiz), combined with my love of all things food (and documentaries) we had a perfect date night movie............

PS My friend Tiff wanted all my readers who are skeptical to know Lardy Cake is the best and should be brought back into fashion......

'That’s fab, I used to love lardy cake at school, we used have afternoon tea at 4pm everyday after school, a cup of tea and cake, some days lardy cake, others sticky willies (iced buns) or donuts, all sorts!!! Lardy cake was my fav though. Can’t seem to buy it in cake shops these days though.'


  1. The colour of your bechamel looks gorgeous! Yes the gratin is a marvellous thing isn't it, I am definitely a dauphinoise girl...

  2. Thanks, it was actually even a little brighter than the pic, comfort food at its best isnt it:)

  3. It's true, lardy cake is very yum. And I am a real person - Mrs PK has not made me up to say nice things about her and her cooking!!!
    I used to live with her and Mr PK in London so I know her cooking is fab!
    Bath, England


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