I promised a full report on the tartiflette and here it is – from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you TransAtlantic Towers’ star cook – dungeekin.
Let’s be honest – Deb is right*. We all waste MASSES of food, and I’m as much of an offender as anyone else.
So when she suggested doing a series of pieces on using leftovers I of course applied Rule 3** and turned my culinary mind to how I could use those little bits of things from other meals that would otherwise head into Banbury’s composting bin. It also appealed to one of my personal peccadilloes – this ridiculous belief that you can’t eat well cheaply. More on that, I hope, in another series.
Last night, then, having produced triple-cooked chips (a triumph from Heston and one I urge you to try yourselves) with a mushroom, brandy & peppercorn cream, I was left with a bit of a dilemma – how to use up the potato offcuts from the chips and the leftover cream sitting in the fridge?
We were idly discussing it when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall came to my rescue in the form of River Cottage on the TV – and a simple tartiflette.
A BRIEF DIGRESSION INTO PEASANT FOOD
As with so many good dishes, tartiflette is French peasant food – taking what’s left and making something salivatingly good from it. And it’s all the better for it.
Even if we’re not committing the sin of ready-meals (urgh), we have all forgotten how much good stuff there is that we normally waste. We do our shop, buy this bag of veg or that punnet of mushrooms, make one dish then forget about them – and by the time we need them again, they’re sludge in the bottom of the fridge. And when we make our Sunday roasts, we might remember to save the carcass for stocks but how often do we use the leftover meat? Other than Christmas, I find that too often the leftover meat just sits there, drying out, until it’s thrown away while I’m prepping for the next weekend’s Sunday lunch.
That’s wrong on a couple of really fundamental levels. I’m not going to go all ‘waste not want not’ – I hate that phrase anyway – and neither am I going green-wonk ecological on intensive farming and all that. But think about it. We liked that meat or those veggies when we cooked the first batch. If we used the second in a different way, why wouldn’t we like them again?
And secondly – if you look on any restaurant menu, you will see things that, historically, were designed to re-purpose leftovers into something filling and enjoyable. Cassoulet, carbonara, hotpot, frittata – all were designed to eke out the mileage of those precious little remaining bits of protein in the peasant diet, and do so in an enjoyable way. We’d eat it in a restaurant – why have we lost the skill of peasant food at home?
But I digress. Back to dinner.
TARTIFLETTE A LA DUNGEEKIN
A quick squint in Transatlantic Fridge #1 showed that I had plenty to make a good supper. I added a couple of extra potatoes to bulk out the leftovers, but my only purchases for the whole dish were the two cheese & mustard scones we bought from this morning’s trip to the wondrous BakerGirl.
So the ingredients were:
- about 4 cold cooked potatoes (boiled in this instance), chopped into bite-size chunks;
- 2 leftover bacon rashers from yesterday’s bacon sandwiches;
- a big handful of oddments of smoked ham;
- 4 cloves of garlic (if you don’t ALWAYS have garlic in your kitchen, we can’t be friends any more);
- half an onion (I keep part-used onions in a bag in the fridge and sometimes get around to reusing them);
- 200ml double cream;
- a big handful of grated cheese (Cheddar in this instance, but anything would work).
And the steps are:
- Preheat the oven to 200C and put a heavy pan (ideally one that can go straight into the oven) on the hob on medium heat, with a splash of oil in it.
- Fry off the bacon and once it’s coloured a little and sizzling, turn the heat down a smidge and add the onion, the ham and the garlic. I just halved the garlic cloves but you could press or sliver them if you don’t like huge chunks of sweet cooked garlic…
- Let it all sweat for a couple of minutes, then add the ham and the potatoes and turn the heat back up to medium, letting it all cook together. Watch for the garlic and potatoes to just start to ‘catch’ on the pan a little and start to brown and maybe break up a bit, moving everything round the pan occasionally. If it sticks a little bit that’s fine, it all adds flavour!
- Once it’s all cooked through, turn the heat down to low and add your cream, stirring until everything is coated and covered. Then bring the heat back up to medium. At this point I added the leftover mushroom sauce I had, just to add another note – but unless you have a brandy & mushroom sauce left in the fridge, you can skip that bit.
- Once the cream is starting to bubble and the meat juices are colouring the cream, add a small amount of the grated cheese and stir through.
- Top the dish with the rest of the cheese, and pop the whole dish straight into the oven for about ten minutes until it’s browned on top and bubbling all over.
- Serve on crusty bread (or Bakergirl savoury scones if you live near me) to soak up that rich, unctuous, bacony-cheesy cream – and marvel at a dish that cost you next to nothing that you’d smilingly pay ten quid for in a French bistro.
Leftovers. You know they make sense.
* (editor’s note: You are ALL witnesses)
** Rule 3, according to my father-in-law: “if in doubt, say ‘yes dear'”. Words to live by.