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Spud Sunday: The Comfort Of Spuds

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 skins

Sunday spuds

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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.

You’ll need:

  • 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

The Steps:

  • 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.

The Variations:

  • 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.

The Results:

  • Serves 4-6 as a side-dish


  1. CaítríonaR

    I really like the idea of the potato peelings on top. Definitely one for me to try very soon.

  2. Daily Spud

    Another result of my endless tinkering where spuds are concerned Catriona – I think I’ll be trying other variations on this one myself in due course

  3. Lexy Vu

    I’m really glad to see another fan of potato skins! Did you use a specific kind of potato or can different potatoes (or a mix?) be used?

  4. Daily Spud

    Hi Lexy – I used Rooster potatoes for this, which are the most commonly found potatoes in Ireland and the ones that my mother happened to have in her kitchen. They tend to be on the drier, floury side, as opposed to waxy. Ideally for this kind of gratin dish, I’d prefer something waxier (and which wouldn’t tend to break apart as much when you cook it) but you can certainly try it with whatever potatoes you have, or a mix of them if you like.

  5. Lexy Vu

    My fear about cooking with potatoes is them breaking apart and losing the beautiful potato look/texture and end up looking like mash potatoes. I’ll definitely try this and correspond back to you and let you know how it goes. Thank you so much. =)

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