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COMFORT DISH Courgette and potato gratin yields layers of creamy, cheesy goodness

Food
Redmond Cabot

Oh dear, I am turning into my mother! Mum was famous (in our family at least) for seizing upon some kind of new dish or combination and then producing multiple versions of it, repeatedly! Thus we had gluts of apple crumbles, endless new types of baked mushrooms,  experimental oven dishes with tomatoes, some version of carrot soup, and so on and so on….
Variations of the same dish would appear for a number of weeks. Lest anyone imagine this was a succession of cuisine ‘hits’ I can inform readers it was here I learnt the value of both ‘hits’ AND ‘misses’ in informing our culinary knowledge and experience.
So it was earlier this summer I found myself walking down the road thinking what I could cook for the Brunette. She would be more content if this process took place more regularly, but my response is that Rome was not built in a day.
So there I am thinking about potatoes; are they good this year in the Country Market, are the new season potatoes in yet in other shops, are they holding back on old season, what varieties are in, what condition are they in, and what of those cheap versions that inevitably disappoint. Floury spuds, or pink, or waxy… And then the thought popped in, or out: Some kind of gratin with creamy, sliced potatoes, and maybe layers of sliced courgette between.
The colour and taste, as well as the texture combinations were ticking all the boxes, so off I went, and with young Penny’s inventful help over the next weeks, proceeded to produce several gratin versions – broccoli, cheese toppings, sliced onion, not sliced onion, less liquid, more liquid… You get the story. It’s out of my system now. You have my confession – and now you can have my perfected recipe for courgette and potato gratin.

Courgette and potato gratin
What you need

  • 8 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 courgette
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 150ml cream
  • 150ml milk
  • Water to add
  • ½  tsp ground black pepper
  • 75g grated cheddar
  • Seasoning
  • Knob of butter

What you do
Peel your potatoes and slice uniformly (I always cut and slice with a knife; mandolins exist for such a thing, but I live in fear of slicing a finger top). Whenever potatoes show green or several black spots or even worse the small spots on top that develop into bigger spots beneath the surface I start huffing and puffing about producers and shops – but that’s for another day.  Prepare your oven dish (I like to use a glass perspex one, or else a white ceramic dish) by greasing the inside with a knob of butter. Lay a first layer of potato slices – up to you whether you want it to be two slices thick, or the slices to be half over-lapping (oh the joys of variation!).
Next, lay a layer of courgette sliced into rounds on top, with one chopped clove of garlic sprinkled on top of courgette discs. Then another layer of potato and courgette and garlic, and keep building up to half your desired height.
At this stage, add in your liquid, the milk mixed with cream, and black pepper. Continue building layers until all your ingredients are finished. Cover with a lid and place in an oven pre-heated to 190°c. Turn down to 180°c after 15 minutes and sprinkle some cheese on top, then cook for about another 25 to 40 mins.
There is no other way to say this but you have to know your own oven, think about the size of dish you’re using, and use common sense to judge when it’s cooked best for you. Removing the top and inserting a short, sharp knife is the best practice for all these things. Trust your instinct. You may or may not have needed to add water before or during cooking … You want the liquid to bubble up over the top of dish; you don’t want it too dry, as the steamed liquid helps cook the dish, and yet you don’t want it drowned either.
Enjoy! Thanks, and send your frustrations to me please, via a postcard to Mayo News Living, The Fairgreen, Westport, Co Mayo, or electronically to living@mayonews.ie.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.

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