The snow may have melted but there is apparently more on the way and you could be forgiven for slathering yourself in duck fat, wrapping yourself in foil and getting in the oven to keep warm. I have thought of it; well, up to the foil bit. It’s all very nice having an Edwardian flat but damn it’s draughty and cold at this time of year. This is the weather when certain foods become indispensable: fat-laden, stodgy, delicious ones. You know, the sort that seem justified after a hard day’s skiing, not that I’ve ever done more than a hard hour’s skiing, when your skin is rosy and your heart pumping and all you want is to fill those recently refreshed blood vessels with a ton of cholesterol. But a hard hour’s commuting is almost as exhausting, especially in London sleet, so reward yourself with the closest thing you will get to raclette or tartiflette this side of the Channel: tartafin.
Tartafin is just a posh French word for potatoes cooked with garlic, butter and cheese and I had never heard of it until a couple of months ago, when I edited Esther Walker’s marvellous soon-t0-be-ebook, The Bad Cook, based on her blog Recipe Rifle. Now, especially on a day like today, I can’t stop thinking about it. Just like a tartiflette, or a gratin dauphinois, this is comfort food of the highest order; it will cling to you like a blanket, make you glow like grown-up Ready Brek should and such pleasure is yours in 30-40 minutes or so. Best of all, this is a storecupboard special. Serve it, as I did, with something green, like Savoy cabbage tossed in chilli and garlic, then the next day you have the makings of bubble and squeak. Which, incidentally, my dictionary translates as ‘restes de chou et de purée de pommes de terres cuits à la poêle avec de l’oignon‘. Not quite as snappy is it?
For two portions you will need:
(the amounts for this are quite rough; I’d say 75g cheese to 4 potatoes for 2 people but I think it’s a question of taste e.g. Esther has 3 potatoes for 2 people)
Cupboard (or things I definitely have)
garlic cloves, 2
potatoes, 4-5 medium
salt and pepper
cheese, about 100g, a mixture of odds and sods is fine (something soft like Camembert or Reblochon or Swiss like Gruyère; I’ve so far used Vignotte, which was left over from Christmas, mixed with Parmesan scraps, Comté and something unrecognisable except that it was yellow and definitely cheese; they all worked. Esther advises against using Cheddar, saying it makes it too greasy)
1. Peel and top and tail the garlic cloves, then slice them finely.
2. Cook the garlic in the olive oil in a lidded casserole. over a gentle heat, until soft but not coloured.
3. Meanwhile peel and thinly slice the potatoes and, once the garlic is soft, add them to the pan, with a big lump of butter and some salt and pepper. Stir the potato slices around so that they are coated in the olive oil and butter, cover and leave to cook until the potatoes are tender (about 30-40 minutes).
4. When the potatoes are done, add the cheese and cover again. Leave for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.