Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giles' Tartafin

My most unappealing trait, to my mind, is my hypochondria. At the moment, with a couple of aches and pains and with my tonsils playing up, I am entirely convinced that I am going to die. Of what, I'm not sure; I have to leave it for a bit before I go to the doctor again (I was in there about a fortnight ago convinced I had haemorrhagic fever) or she'll put me on her 'heartsink' list and I do, genuinely, want her to like me.
Coming a close second is my terror of getting fat. Some people carry a bit of extra weight and just look glossy and healthy. I look like a pudding. But still, I am unnaturally obsessed with not putting on weight. So for the last four years I have been a massive carb-dodger and hardly ever eat pasta, potatoes, rice or bread. And when I say never, I mean I eat them from time to time and feel horribly guilty.
Anyway, what with me certain to die any moment from my mystery terminal thingy, when Giles suggested last night that he make a Tartafin, a sort of layered potato pie, covered in cheese, I said okay, sure, why the hell not. For such a mega carb-dodger himself and general health freak, Giles certainly has a suspicious number of potato dishes up his sleeve (his other former signature dish being egg and potato pie).
I'm dying anyway, I yelled weakly from the living room to the kitchen, so I might as well go out with happy potato-and-cheese memories. And so off dear Giles went and made me a Tartafin. I'm still alive this morning (JUST) and, frankly, feel a bit more robust for a bit of potato loving. It'll be a carb neutral day for me today though.
Tartafin - for 2 as a main (if you're going to eat potatoes, you might as well make them the focus of your meal, accompanied by a few cold cuts and some kind of pickle, rather than eating it as a side to an enormous roast).
2 cloves garlic, finely slice or microplaned
3 waxy potatoes, like a Maris Piper, sliced as thinly as you can. If you are Angela Hartnett, they will be very thin, if you are me, some will be really thin, others less so. This is ok, just do your best.
Some olive oil
Some butter
Salt and pepper
Some cheese - ideally a kind of hard-ish Swiss cheese. Nothing blue and, if you can help it, not too much cheddar, which will just make everything taste like cheddar and it's SO greasy...
1 Cook the garlic in the olive oil over a low heat until the garlic is softened but not brown. Ideally, you'd use some kind of cast iron, Le Creuset-type pot, but we used a crappo stainless steel sauepan of a medium size and it worked fine.
2 Add the potatoes, a generous scrunch of salt and pepper and some butter and swirl around for a bit, maybe 2 minutes, until everything has been coated in seasoning and fat (but be gentle so that the potato slices don't snap in half.
3 Then with whatever kitchen implement you fancy, lay the potato slices horizontally in layers and put the lid on.
4 Cook on a very low heat for about 30 minutes: you know they are ready when you can sink a sharp knife through all the layers and pull it out with ease.
5 Layer your cheese on the top of the potato - we used the hard ends of the cheeses we had lying around - a comte, parmesan, some truffle brie and a bit of old cheddar. Cook for another five or six minutes until the cheese is all melty.
After cooking, the bottom of the pan will be very brown and hard-baked. This is the best bit, if you can hack it off the bottom. To clean, leave overnight soaking in some cold water with a couple of drops of washing up liquid. Trust me - it will defy any dish washer. A long soak is the only answer

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