I am writing this on a very dreary, wet and windy morning at the end of the dark month of November when the last of this year’s leaves are stubbornly clinging on to the branches of the thinning trees. The fire has been on every night for the past week and now the cottage feels chilly without its extra heat.
The festive season is now well on its way, the shops are bursting with Christmas gifts that will be reduced just after the big day, my local supermarket’s shelves appear to be stocked with enough chocolate reindeers, teddy bears and Father Christmases to keep a small country in sweets for a whole year and the ringing out of the Christmas carol music loops are already playing on shoppers’ nerves.
This is the time of the year when I was younger I would start thinking about shedding a few pounds to make sure I could slip into that little black dress without the need for spandex knickers and a shoe horn. My wardrobe does still have a few party dresses languishing at the back somewhere under plastic covers, no doubt pitted with moth holes and two sizes too small. Life in the country very rarely requires toggery to be anything more than casual and nowadays even the thought of having to dress up and take off my wellie socks brings me out in a hot flush. Luckily the friends I have now at this stage in my life are themselves like old, slightly misshapen baggy jumpers; comfy and warm to be around and very forgiving of my slowly expanding muffin tops.
So now my life is less taken up with concerns about waistlines and hip sizes, I can look forward to eating my way through the colder months enjoying the sort of food I love without any pangs of guilt.
In this weather, one of the most comforting combinations to eat must be potatoes and cheese. This dish is not quite up there with the decadence of tartiflette but it is still delicious and makes a change from a baked potato or mash. It is nice enough to be eaten with a just a plain green salad but for something more substantial it makes a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken or sausages.
Like all these types of potato dishes it does take quite a long time to cook so if you work during the week it’s probably more of a weekend dish when time is more freely available.
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (I use the processor)
- 100g Strong Cheddar Cheese, grated
- Knob of Butter
- 200ml Full Fat Milk
- 1 Bayleaf
- 1 Small Onion
- Preheat the oven to 180c
- Put alternative layers of potato and cheese into the buttered dish, it will make about four layers, finishing with a layer of cheese. Grind over a little salt and plenty of black pepper.
- Cover the dish with baking paper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- While it is cooking, peel and halve the onion and put this in a saucepan with the milk and the bayleaf.
- Heat very gently on a low heat and let the onion infuse into the milk.
- When the potatoes have cooked for 30 minutes, strain the milk over, re-cover and bake for another 40 minutes.