Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gratin dauphinois and Citrus Drizzle Cake

These two are both old friends- long term standbys of mine, which both turn up regularly. As you can see, the gratin is very much appreciated- as potatoes and cream tend to be- this is all that was left after four people had been at it!

We had friends over for lunch on Sunday. It being cold and windy, and me trying to use up what is in the freezer, I dug out a ham that we'd bought when on half price over Christmas, and unfrozen it. There's one thing wiped off the board!

I paired it with a gratin dauphinois, made the way my father-in-law taught me, and a green salad. For dessert, we had a citrus drizzle cake, a recipe I've made so many times that I really shouldn't keep on needing to check proportions!

The gratin dauphinois is something I make quite often during the winter. When it's going to be a meal in itself, I add very finely sliced bacon (lard fume, or lard paysan, depending), and can increase the garlic at times... from a head to two!

Gratin dauphinois comme le fait Alain:
- 2kg potatoes (this, of course, depends on the size of your gratin dish!), peeled, sliced, praise all the gods for the invention of the mandoline! Note: do not put your slices into water to keep white
whilst you're slicing, it washes the starch off and your gratin won't "set" into a cake.
- 1 head (or two) of garlic, peeled, chopped, also thank the gods for the invention of the "smacky", which chops your garlic a lot faster than having to do it yourself!
- salt, pepper. Alain adds nutmeg. I'm not wild about nutmeg on it, but I do it sometimes. This time, I was using up a herbed salt that my mother gave me, so I didn't bother.
- optional: 2 packs of finely sliced bacon
- cream. Lots of cream. About a litre. At least.

Heat the oven to 180C. Prepare a layer of tin foil or baking paper to cover the oven tray, which will take the drips from the gratin dish. Don't miss this step, or you'll spend forever cleaning your oven!

Cover the bottom of your gratin dish with a layer of cream, season it with salt and pepper. Having peeled and sliced the potatoes, layer them over this in two layers. Please do it carefully- they can overlap, but not too much, and you really don't want to just chuck them in and swirl them around- if you do that, it won't set properly.

After two layers of potato, then strew all the chopped garlic (if using one head, if two, half) over the potato. Add a layer of potato, then pour cream over it all. Add salt and pepper. Add another layer of potato, then layer the bacon over the slices. Another layer of potato, then a layer of garlic if using two heads. Then layer the remaining slices until you use them up. Your slices should be just over the level of the sides of the dish. Add salt, and pepper, then pour cream over the top. The cream should reach up to the top of the dish!

Put it in the oven, and bake for about 2 and a half hours. You're cooking this slowly so that it absorbs a maximum of cream, and sets like a solid, albeit layered, cake.

Serve with a green salad with a nicely sharp vinaigrette- you'll need it to cut the fat!

I adapt this recipe to make a gratin of other vegetables, such as pumpkin (with onion, otherwise it's too sweet). The cream is totally OTT, but then for a dish which you make once a month, what the hell.

It also freezes very well, either in one slab or in portions, and reheats very well either in the oven, or in the microwave. The only disadvantage of the latter is the nice crispy top just stays soft!

Citrus Drizzle Cake

I got this recipe originally from a magazine. I've fiddled with it quite a few times since, and I think I'm finally getting there!

-150g butter, softened
- 200g brown sugar
- 200g self-raising flour
- 6 tbsp tangerine juice (this is where you can fiddle- I also can just use orange juice, sometimes it's blood orange juice)
- zest of one orange
- 3 eggs

For the syrup drizzle:
- juice of two oranges (again, it could be blood oranges, or tangerines, etc)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 100g sugar

Heat oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar, add the flour and zest, stir, tangerine/orange juice, stir, eggs, stir. Scrape into loaf tin, bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending. Leave in the tin.

Warm syrup ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Stab the cake all over with a toothpick/fine skewer. Pour the syrup over. Leave to cool.

Serve it with creme fraiche, and, ideally, warm. The creme fraiche is just sour enough to cut through all the sugar- so don't serve it with regular cream, it doesn't work.

Now, last time I had left-over syrup, so I heated that until it was thick, and then served the slices of cake with that syrup poured over as well, making a nice semi-topping. That worked well, and I'm going to experiment with that in the future!

However, one thing that gets me is that the first few times I made this, the syrup all soaked right down to the bottom of the cake, so it was lovely and moist all the way through. For a while now, however, just the top half has soaked it up, then it is a nice, but dry cake below. I need to sort this one out, it's annoying!

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