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Spud Sunday: In Handel’s Day

Musical Spuds (or Lyrical Duchesse Potatoes)

Musical Potatoes

Well, after that little rant, here’s a bit of sat-fat-and-carbs action for you – with due acknowledgement to Handel for inspiration in the musical shapes department. Musical shaping aside, these are basically duchesse potatoes, made when an egg-enriched mash is piped into shapes and baked.

The classic formula – as described in the likes of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire [1] and Larousse Gastronomique [2] – calls for butter, egg and egg yolks to be added to the mash, though you’ll see plenty of variants which add milk, cream and/or cheeses to the mix. Really, you can add whatever you like – I’ve used goat’s cheese and mint here – as long as you keep the mixture fairly stiff, which makes for firmer shapes that are that bit easier to pipe.

You’ll need:
  • 800g potatoes (about 4 medium-sized specimens), preferably a floury variety
  • 50g butter
  • 100g fresh goat’s cheese
  • 3 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
  • salt to taste, plus more for boiling the potatoes
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
You’ll also need:
  • A piping bag, star-shaped nozzle and a steady hand. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a clean plastic bag with a small opening snipped away from one corner.
  • A potato ricer is useful, though not essential, for mashing the potatoes.
  • You’ll need several large baking sheets on which to bake the shapes.
The Steps:
  • Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
  • Bring about 1.5l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 2 tsp salt and the potato slices.
  • Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 12-15 minutes or until just fork-tender.
  • Meanwhile, you can preheat your oven to 180C and grease your baking sheets.
  • When the potatoes are done, drain well and return them to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so while they dry out.
  • Place the butter in a small heavy saucepan over a medium heat and allow to melt.
  • Put the cooked and still warm potatoes through a potato ricer, if you have one, or mash with a potato masher or, if all else fails, a fork.
  • Pour in the melted butter and stir through the mash.
  • Crumble the goat’s cheese, add to the mash and stir well to combine.
  • Mix in the chopped mint and add salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Lightly beat the eggs and stir into the mash.
  • Now spoon enough of the mash into your piping bag to half-fill it, twist the top and, with a steady hand, squeeze the contents out onto your baking sheets and into whatever shapes take your fancy. You can just make shapes by hand if you prefer.
  • As soon as you have a baking sheet filled with shapes, bake for around 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden, and get to work on piping the next lot. I probably baked 6 trays-worth with this amount, though treble clefs do take up a lot of real estate. Simpler shapes can probably be done more efficiently.
  • Serve as a side-dish – with the mint, I’m inclined to think this would be nice with lamb – or serve as party finger food.
The Variations:
  • You could certainly add some garlic here if you fancied – throw a couple of whole cloves in when boiling the potatoes – and you can replace the goat’s cheese and mint with different dairy and herb combinations, such as, say, sour cream and chives or gruy√®re and thyme.
The Results:
  • This amount probably feeds 4-6 as a side-dish, though the actual number of shapes you get will obviously depend on the size of your piping bag and the kind of shapes you’re after.