Perhaps unsurprisingly, what with the recent passing of my Da, I am, these days, all about comfort food, seeking solace in sweetness, in soothing, creamy textures, in foods fondly remembered and – somewhat predictably for me – in spuds. Today, that meant a simple gratin, with potatoes poached in milk and baked with crispy skins on top – a dish made in my mother’s kitchen with basic, unfussy ingredients and enjoyed with that most comforting thing of all, family.
Potato Gratin with Potato Peel Topping
Potatoes, onions, milk and cheddar – these are things that I am always likely to find in my mother’s house (and in mine, for that matter). To these are added nothing more than some garlic and thyme for flavour and, rather than discard the potato peels, they are crisped a little and used to top the gratin. This was eaten today with, among other things, a steak pie, but baked ham would be good too, or just a simple salad.
- 1kg potatoes (about 5 medium-sized)
- 400ml milk
- 2 cloves garlic, slivered
- a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
- 1 small onion (about 100g), finely sliced
- 75g cheddar cheese (or more to taste), grated
You’ll also need:
- A baking tray – one that’s around 20cm x 30cm should do it – and an ovenproof dish – mine was approx. 20cm x 20cm and 5cm deep
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Scrub the potatoes well and peel them thickly. Keep the peels aside and slice the potatoes fairly thinly.
- Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the milk, slivered garlic, thyme, a couple of pinches of salt and a few twists of black pepper, followed by the potato slices.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the potato slices are just starting to become tender.
- While the potato slices are simmering, toss the potato peels and sliced onions with the oil and spread on a baking tray. Place in the oven to roast for about 10 minutes or until the onions are starting to soften.
- When the potato slices have finished simmering, stir in about half of the grated cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then pour the lot into an ovenproof dish. Spread the potato peels and onions on top. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the potato peels are starting to crisp up. Scatter the remaining grated cheese on top and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.
- You can get fancy with the cheese if you like – try a Gruyère and/or add some Parmesan – and vary the herbs according to what you have and like – add some rosemary or parsley, perhaps.
- Serves 4-6 as a side-dish