Tag Archives: Potato

Janssen’s Temptation

5 Jan

You’ll have heard of this recipe before, you may even have eaten it, and made it.

For me, it’s one of those go-to recipes when I’ve bought cream for something and then either forgotten what it was I bought it for, or just have loads left over. Or changed my mind. After all, what would be nicer than fillet steak with creamy potatoes? And brussels sprouts? OK, you might not all agree with the addition of the brussels as a side dish, but I’ve learned to love the wee critters. My spiced pickled red cabbage on the side would have created perfection on a plate, but I forgot it when I was serving up. I forgot to turn the oven off too.  So, it could have been the second time in 24 hours the house nearly burned down.

Yes, it’s been an eventful time.

We were relaxing in front of the fire (with a cheese board and some vintage port) when we noticed a car drawing up outside (we live far from anywhere, but beside a road, so notice these things on the rare occasions they happen). Then there was a knock at the gable window, beside where I was sitting. I couldn’t see who it was in the dark blackness outside. The Captain went out to investigate and asked if I was cooking anything when he went through the kitchen… but no, I wasn’t. And then we discovered that the kind stranger had stopped to inform us our wheelie bin (right beside our boiler and the side of the house) was on fire. It was seriously on fire, with flames shooting out of it and 3/4 of the bin now melted away. It was cold and dark and windy, with a drizzly rain spattering down on us. The boys pulled out the hose (not melted by the heat of the fire) and we spent the next half hour making sure the bin had no chance of bursting into flame again.

We’ll never know for sure what caused the fire, but suspect it may have been our house guest who had lit a fire earlier in the evening and burned lots and lots and lots of paper. The next morning she asked if it had been because she’d put hot ash in the bin. As I say, we’ll never know for sure.

Anyway… the next evening I attempted (yet again) to use up some more of the ingredients I’d bought in for the Christmas season, and it was time to finish that enormous pot of cream. I much prefer savoury to sweet (despite the huge number of recipes for sweet homebaked goods on this site) so decided on Janssen’s Temptation, that delicious potato gratin dish, baked in the oven till it’s all oozingly unctuous.

Janssen’s Temptation

  • A large pot of double cream
  • About the same amount of milk
  • A few large potatoes
  • An onion (or several if you are feeding the five thousand)
  • Anchovy fillets (although I’m reliably informed that this is WRONG and that it should be sprats, it’s just that we are a bit rubbish at translating Swedish and have translated ‘ansjovis’ which means sprats into anchovies… well, you would wouldn’t you?)
  • Some veg stock (or a cube, crumbled)
  • Seasoning
  • Some butter

I know, I know, I’ve not been too precise on the quantities here, but since I only ever make it when I’m using up what’s left int he fridge, how would I really know?

Preheat oven to 220C/400F/GM6

  1. Slice your onion (I always slice it in half long ways, and then put it on it’s flat side and slice it into thin crescent slices)
  2. Pop a dod of butter into a large heavy based frying pan and gently fry the onion over a low heat, till they are sort of soft-ish
  3. Butter a gratin dish. You choose the size, depending on the number you intend to feed and how many potatoes/onions you have
  4. If you’ve got a mandolin, slice your potatoes nice a thin. If you haven’t then you’ll take a bit longer over this bit, doing it with a sharp knife. If you don’t have a sharp knife or a mandolin then don’t even think about trying this recipe.  Go and buy a decent knife and a knife sharpener and then come back and get started
  5. Chop up some anchovy fillets. A whole tin if you’ve got it, or if you’ve got them in a big jar in the fridge, then chop as many as you fancy – you’ll need to add a few to each layer (see below)
  6. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of your gratin dish
  7. Add a think layer of onions
  8. And some anchovies and freshly ground black pepper
  9. Repeat this layering another one or two times, ending with a layer of potatoes
  10. Mix your cream with milk, roughly half and half. Add some veg stock if you have it, otherwise crumble in a veg cube
  11. Pour most of this over your potato layers, so it’s roughly half way up the side…
  12. Pop it in the oven and leave it for a good 20-30 minutes. Pour yourself a cocktail. You probably deserve it.
  13. Take it out of the oven and wonder at how tasty it smells and looks. Pour the rest of the cream mixture over it. And pour yourself another cocktail.
  14. Leave it in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, till it is soft all the way through when you poke it with a knife. You may need to turn the oven down a bit and leave it longer if you’re enjoying the cocktails too much and haven’t put your steak on yet. Or if you were sensible you would have made a stew the day before which just needs re-heating and no further cooking would be required.

And that’s it. Tastiness on a plate. You’d have photos if I hadn’t had cocktails.

I could give you a photo of the melted wheelie bin, but really, it would put you off all your meals in 2014.

Happy New Year everyone.

Better than Patatas Bravas

20 Oct

Potatoes. So versatile. What’s not to like about them? Well, apart from the fact that they are full of carbs and it’s oh so easy to fall into the trap of mashing them with lots of butter and/or cream or frying them oil or roasting them in goose fat. Yeah none of them will help reduce the waistline.

In Scotland we call them tatties. And this last week has been the tattie-howking holidays, although everyone I mentioned that to looked back at me blankly. I realise that we no longer put children to work in the holidays (and in fact in my childhood we were never put to work either) but still, surely kids should know that they traditionally get the week off at this time of year to help with the harvest, rather than just to give the teachers a much-needed break not two months after they’ve come back from their extended summer break.

So, in case I’ve lost you, tattie-howking means ‘digging up potatoes’.

What else can I tell you about tatties, before I move on to the recipe? Given that you’re about to get a Spanish recipe I could  do a neat wee segue-way with some Spanish related history of the potato. It seems likely that the English word derives from the Spanish patata. It was the Spaniards who brought the potato to Europe, in the second half of the 16th century after conquering the Incas. Initially European farmers were sceptical about the crop, but by the mid 19th century it had become a staple food crop. However, very few varieties had been introduced to Europe and this lack of genetic diversity meant that in 1845 the fungus-like disease of blight could spread wipe out vast crops and cause the Irish Famine.

So, a diversity of species is important, not just for flavours and fun, but because it could prevent further famines caused by crops being wiped out. Put that in your GM pipe and smoke it.

We had the day off on Monday, and went into Glasgow to see the Vettriano exhibition which I loved. And I’m not ashamed to say I love his work – there were images we’ve all seen in countless reproductions. But the originals have more depth and the colours in some really zing out, while in others there is such a dark broody moodiness you can almost feel the sexual tension in the air. And then there were many many images I had never seen before: his lady in a black hat as a nod to Cadell; his self portrait taken from a photograph of himself when he was in a dark black place; his paintings of Campbell and the Bluebird about to attempt the world speed record: a series of nautical paintings, commissioned for some anniversary of some place in Monte Carlo or Monaco or some other such place dripping with money.

Afterwards I was hungry, and the cafe at the museum was full so we ended up at a (rather mediocre) tapas bar and ordered some plates to share. The Patatas Bravas was the stand out dish, full of flavour and punch with melt in the mouth potatoes and a strong tomatoey sauce.

I was inspired to make a tapas style meal the next day, and it had to include a Patatas Bravas element (and many many scallops after I found a bag of them reduced in my local supermarket, oh how I wish I had a decent fishmonger!). But I came across a recipe for Patatas a la Extremena which looked tasty and included nothing but ingredients I happened to have already in the fridge or cupboards. So that is what I made. They come from the Extramedura region of Spain and are flavoured with lots of smoky paprika (or pimenton). I added a good dose of ancho chilli too, because I love the layers of flavour you can get when playing with various spices.

I could tell you lots about paprika, but we’ll save that for another day. All you need to know for now is that it probably originated in South America, like those potatoes.

Patatas a la Extremena (which in my head I always call Extreme Potatoes)

Based on a recipe from Sophie Grigson in her wonderful book, Spices.

  • About 4oz / 250g chorizo sausage (the whole sausage kind, not slices), cut into wee chunks
  • 3 or 4 large potatoes (or more medium ones, obviously), cut into about 1.5″ chunks
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into long strips
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into long strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely, or smooshed up
  • 1 TBsp smoky paprika
  • 1-2  tsp ancho chilli flakes – get them from the Cool Chile Co
  • 1 bay leaf
  • seasoning
  1. Get your biggest heavy bottomed, high-sided frying pan you have. There must be a name for them, but I don’t know it. If you don’t have such a thing, then I’d suggest either using the largest frying pan you have combined with a roasting dish, or a large saucepan. Or reduce the quantities so everything will fit into the frying pan you have.
  2. Over a medium heat, fry off the chorizo until it’s lightly browned. Lots of fat will melt out of the chorizo, but if you feel you need to add olive oil, then do.
  3. Reduce the heat, and add all the other ingredients
  4. Stir around for a minute or two with a wooden spoon – try not to break up the veg, so use a sort of scooping motion, picking the veg from the bottom of the pan, and then folding it over onto the top of the pan. then moving around the pan and doing it again
  5. Pour in enough water to cover the veg, bring to the boil and simmer nice and gently. Now, if you’re using the smaller pan and the roasting tin, you should have tipped your veg into the roasting tin before adding the water on top, and then popped it all into a pre-heated oven.
  6. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, but being careful not to break up the potatoes too much.
  7. Test that the potatoes are cooked, and make sure your sauce has reduced down enough so that it is thick enough. If it hasn’t, boil it down some more
  8. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if it needs it. I pretty much never add salt, but like to add a good screw or two of black pepper.

Mop up the juices with sourdough bread, if you have any. Eat with other tapas type dishes: prawns, scallops, calamares, anchovies, tortilla, meatballs, cheese and ham. Or just have a plate of this on its own as a light lunch or supper.




Gumbo party

14 Mar

Is it a soup?

Is it a stew?

It’s a gumbo!

One of my colleagues is in his early 20s and is really just learning about cooking properly. A few weeks ago he was very proud of the chicken gumbo he had made. He was surprised how easy it was to make something so tasty.

Fast forward to this Monday, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to cook for supper. All I knew I had in the fridge was a chorizo sausage. So, my colleague suggested chicken gumbo. Perfect!

The basic recipe which inspired this is on the bbc good food website here. If you haven’t checked out the recipes on bbc good food, you’ve missed out.  Go on, have a browse – they have more pics than I usually do.

A top tip here: chop up everything else and put them in bowls (doubling things up that are being thrown in the pan together) before you cut up your chicken. That way, you just need to clean the knife and the board at the end.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 4 – 5 chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smooshed up
  • 1 green chilli, sliced finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 TBsp plain flour
  • 1 large tin/carton chopped tomatoes
  • a chicken stock cube
  • a mug of boiling water
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple of stalks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • about 100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • a couple of new potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  1. Using a wee bit of oil, fry off the chicken in a large heavy bottomed frying pan
  2. Remove the chicken, and let it rest in a bowl till you’re ready for it again
  3. Add the celery and onion to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes
  4. Add the flour to the veg, stir and cook for a minute or so.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock cube and boiling water and stir together
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan, followed by all other ingredients, except for the spinach, and simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes
  7. Add the spinach and stir through – it won’t really need further cooking as the spinach will just wilt into the gumbo
  8. EAT!
This is great the next day once the flavours have melded together. I had it on its own as there is plenty veg in there with the meat. However, if you want more carbs, it would be lovely with noodles or rice.
It’s a pretty flexible recipe – add peas, sweetcorn, even prawns or fish. And make it as spicy or plain as you want. But you knew that already.
Next year it’s Gumbo instead of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday!

Fishy fishy

8 Jan

I did a REALLY stupid thing yesterday.

After a rare shopping expedition to Sainsburys, instead of my usual, closer Tesco, I left my hand bag hanging on the trolley when I left it at the trolley park.  I’d been home an hour, and had unpacked all the shopping before I realised what a muppet I’d been.

I phoned the store straight away and the bag had been handed in and was waiting for me at customer service, so I went back to retrieve it.  I was amazed that everything was still in it, from my cuter-than-a-button lego notebook (seriously it is like a great big piece of your favourite lego and you can write in it) to my mobile phone (OK, it’s just confirmation that my phone is a piece of shit) and my purse with all its cards in it.  Thanks Sainsburys customer, I think I love you.  And I will forward the good karma to someone else.

I was determined to stick to my shopping list yesterday. I have a habit of going off-piste in a supermarket, but one of my aims for this year is to get better at planning and sticking to those plans, and not just in relation to supermarket shopping.

But I like seeing what is fresh, and seasonal when I shop.  And I can easily be seduced by a bargain, especially if it’s in the ballpark of the list. So, fish was on the list. I want to eat more fish this year (see, I should just write a proper list shouldn’t I of all the things I want to achieve this year?).

And the fish pie mix was on special – half price, so I bought 300g of fish pie mix.  And a bag of mussels.  Mussels will be eaten today. They weren’t on the list, but trying new recipes is, so that’s ok!  The fish was yesterday’s supper – not a fish pie as such though, because the potatoes I’ve got don’t mash well. I know, why do I have a bag of new potatoes at this time of year?  But I do, and they are lovely just boiled, but not so good any other way.

Anyway, this is what I did.

Fish Gratin

300g mixed fish, cut into large cubes

2 leeks

knobs of butter

a TBsp or so of flour

about 1/2 pint of milk

about 4 TBsp double cream (optional – only used as there was some in the fridge which needed to be used)

a fish stock cube (or a veg one, or just use salt and pepper to taste)

a tsp dijon mustard

a few threads of saffron (again, optional, but I had some in the cupboard)

1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs

about 2 TBsp grated strong cheddar or other strong-flavoured hard cheese

Gas Mark 7 or 8

If you’re having potatoes with this, prepare them first, and put them in a pan of water.  If you’re a quick cook then start boiling them now, before you start the fish gratin, otherwise put them on to boil once you are half way through.

  1. Melt a knob of butter in a pan over a medium-low heat
  2. Slice the leeks down their length and then cut them into half moon slices and gently cook them in the butter till they are soft, but not browned
  3. Tip the leeks into a gratin dish and spread over the base
  4. Put the saffron fronds into a wee cup or dish and cover with a wee bit of hot water, from the tap is fine
  5. Add another knob of butter to the pan the leeks were in and melt it
  6. Stir in some flour to make a roux
  7. Add the milk, bit by bit, stirring all the while so it doesn’t go lumpy.  I added some hot water from the potato pot at this point.  You’re looking for a sauce that easily coats the back of the wooden spoon – but if it’s too thick, just add more water/milk.
  8. Stir in the fish stock cube, the mustard and the saffron water. Stir to make sure the fish stock cube is melted in properly and then add the cream
  9. Add the fish to the sauce and gently stir together
  10. Pour the fish mix on top of the leeks
  11. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and cheese on top and put in a hot oven
  12. Cook till it’s bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy and a caramel brown colour.  Mine was in for about 15 mins, but it could be in longer at a lower temp if it suited your plans better.

This was served with boiled potatoes and brussels sprouts.  Now, I never used to be a fan of brussels sprouts, but the man is and so I’ve discovered various ways to make them scrumptious and my vegetable of choice!  Oh yes, not just leftovers, I choose to buy and cook them!

Brussels sprouts with chestnuts

About 7 brussels sprouts per person

a knob of butter

A few roasted chestnuts

  1. Prepare the sprouts by chopping off their ends and the very outer leaves.  You don’t need to do anything else, no crosses in their bottoms are necessary, but if this is your traditional way of doing them, feel free to indulge
  2. Put them in a pan so they form a single layer on the bottom of the pan and add about 1/4 cup of water (this was for two people, you’ll need more if there are more sprouts in a bigger pan I suppose).  I use enough that I think will have all but disappeared in about 8 minutes of boiling (this recipe is an art, not a science.. or it is the way I’m writing it.  I guess I could be more scientific about it if I really tried but for now this is all you’re getting I’m afraid)
  3. Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, sit the lid on the edge of the pan, so it’s covering the pan but let’s a little steam out. Jiggle them around from time to time. If you run out of water, add some more hot from a kettle
  4. Once they look cooked (about 7-8 minutes I think) and there’s not much water left at all, add a knob of butter to the pan and jiggle them around again.
  5. Then crumble in the roasted chestnuts, and jiggle around some more over the heat
  6. Done!

You may have noticed I don’t add salt to many things as I go along. I used to, but a few years ago tried to cut down on salt intake when my blood pressure was slightly higher than was desirable.  I stopped adding salt to pans of boiling water – pasta, potatoes, vegetables, rice… and I discovered that after the first few days none of them needed it, or not in the blanket coverage way I used to add salt.  I now occasionally add salt at the end, when I taste it and think it needs some, but more often than not I don’t.  I probably wouldn’t get anywhere on Masterchef but my blood pressure is fine.

Summer chicken supper

2 Jul

I love those days when you have an abundance of flavours to play with.  They are usually summer days, with herbs a plenty in the garden.

Today I knew I had a chicken breast for supper. And some savoy cabbage. And we already had potatoes but we had a wee potato surprise mid-afternoon.  One of the pear trees had got blown over in the storms earlier this year, and in its place a potato plant had grown! No doubt the tatties would have grown anyway, but at least this way we could harvest without damaging a precious pear tree.

And my new quince tree had been delivered this week, and it needed to be planted in the old pear tree space.  So today we lifted the rogue potato, and harvested half a dozen gorgeous new potatoes.  And the quince is happy!

So, boiled new potatoes were a definite for supper.  And shredded savoy cabbage, quickly boiled so it retains its fabulous colour and all its cabbagey goodness.

I decided to stuff the chicken breast, with some herby mushroomy numminess.

Mushroom stuffed chicken breast

Half a medium onion, finely chopped

4 mushrooms, chopped

a garlic clove, chopped finely

a large bunch of marjoram, chopped

One large skinless chicken breast

About 4 slices of parma ham, depending on the size of the chicken breast

Add a swirl of olive oil to a small pan, add the onion and heat gently.  Once the onions start to soften add the mushrooms and the garlic and cook gently.  Add the herbs.

While the mushrooms are cooking, ‘open out’ the chicken breast, but pulling across the mini fillet and making the whole breast as wide as it can go.  If it is thick enough, cut gently into the thickest part of the breast to help make it even wider.

Now place the chicken breast on a large piece of clingfilm, fold the clingfilm over it, so the chicken is enclosed.  And start bashing it out further using the heel of your hand.  You’re aiming to get the breast thinner, and fairly uniform in thickness.  And also big enough that you can encase the mushroom mixture in it.

Once you’re done, spoon the mushroom mixture in a ridge towards the edge of  the chicken breast.  And find a way to wrap the chicken round the mushroom – don’t worry if it’s not perfect, as you’re going to seal it by wrapping the whole thing in bits of parma ham.

So, that’s what you’re going to do next.  Wrap the stuffed chicken breast with pieces of parma ham.  It’s lovely if they all come out in nice neat slices and you can lay them overlapping on a board and then roll them round the chicken.  But if they come out in half slices, just do your best, by overlapping one piece then another till the whole chicken breast is encased in parma ham.

Lightly oil a baking tray, and then place the chicken breast on the tray and pop it in a medium hot oven for about 40 minutes or so.  Until it’s done.

Serve in fat slices – a whole chicken breast will be enough for two people – with new potatoes and savoy cabbage. Scrumptious.

No pictures – we ate it too quickly.



Tattie scones

13 Mar


Tattie scones in the pan

So, as I mentioned, we were expecting G’s kids for supper on Friday evening.  On Friday they contated G to say that supper would be too late for their kids so they’d come for lunch instead on Saturday.  What is it with them that they think they can just dictate when they will come?  I suspect it’s all tied up with the fact he left them when they were relatively young; and they think they have rights over him, and that he owes them in some way. And from the other side, he does feel guilty and wants to develop a better relationship with them.  Ah well.  I prefer entertaining over lunch anyway, espeically when bairns are involved.


Anyway, I made a typical Wolffe-lunch with soup for starters, and then followed by a table groaning with tasty salady things: the beetroot and goats cheese tart, beetroot and blood orange salad, egg mayonnaise with capers, spicy prawn marie rose, green salad, teeny tomatoes.. and a cheese board with plumbrillo and quince jelly.  All deliciously tasty, although perhaps we needed another carbohydrate with the main dishes.

Anyway, as a result of the cancellation, we had a large pot of potatoes, peeled and ready to boil. I boiled them up yesterday and we had some of them mashed with some brown stew and champed neeps and carrots. The remainder were destined for tattie scones.

Tattie Scones

500g mashed potatoes

125g plain flour

2 TBsp olive oil


  1. Sift the mashed potatoes, or put them through a ricer.  If you’re working with freshly mashed potatoes, you probably won’t need to do this.
  2. If the potatoes are leftovers, and cold, then chuck them in a microwave for about a minute to warm them up again – this will make them much easier to work with
  3. Add the flour and olive oil into the bowl and bring together – start with a spoon, but then work with your hands. It should create a slightly sticky soft and pliable dough.
  4. Take a chunk of the dough and roll it out to slightly less than 5mm thick, in a big circle. Cut the circle into quarters, and prick the quarters all over.
  5. Pop the 4 quarters into a dry non-stick fry pan over a medium heat and cook on either side till they have the distinctive brown blotches all over them. You’ll need a fish slice at this stage, or it will end in tears.
  6. Place on a  wire rack to cool.
  7. Repeat the rolling, cutting, pricking, cooking process with all the mixture.

This is a slightly time consuming recipe, once it gets to the rolling and cooking stage. Apart from that it is easiness itself.  And so satisfying to make your own tattie scones.

This made 4 (or was it 5?) rounds of tattie scones – plenty for tea for you and half a dozen guests.  If you have biscuits too.  I never did put up that lemon kisses recipe did I?


Slather butter all over and eat.



I’m half way through making a scumptious other thing now – with yeast.  I can’t say any more about it as it’s this months daring kitchen challenge, and I can’t reveal it till the end of the month.  It’s looking good so far though.

And this evening I’m planning on making my first Jamie Oliver 30 minute meal – a salmon dish. I’m omitting the pudding, so it surely has to be possible? We’ll see.

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