Yup. I’m here to tell you how to bake some potatoes. They’re a little bit fancy though – perfect for someone who’s celebrating the end of a cooking slump but also needs straight-up comfort food because she’s bored of watching everyone else have a good time on Instagram.
Social media has really done my head in recently, which is a weird thing to say because I know that’s where you’ve probably just come from. I posted a link to Instagram and you followed it? Thank you for doing that. But social media (be it Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) is a place which buoys you up when you’re up and kicks you hard when you’re down and that’s something I only tangentially understood until recently.
As I said, I’ve been in something of a rut, culinarily speaking. Coming out of it has been a little like watching a sunrise: at first, there’s a barely detectable change, incrementally increasing until a familiar warmth spreads through everything. Being creative on demand is tough until you get good at it and then suddenly there can be a period of weeks or months where you can’t grasp hold of the ideas any more.
These potatoes may not be the most revolutionary idea I’ve ever come up with but they hit the spot. The confit garlic and pickled mushrooms are both very easy – it just takes an hour or so to make them both. This is perfect if you’re emerging from a cooking coma and want to potter in the kitchen of an afternoon but if you can’t be bothered then why not just roast the potatoes with some garlic? And perhaps garnish them with some shop-bought cornichons? At the end of the day, it’s just a plate of cheesy potatoes. Don’t stress.
I’ve been contacted by a few food writers over the past few weeks who’ve let me know they often experience a similar phenomenon: a malaise that starts to become a vicious circle of not cooking + feeling rubbish. I’m beginning to think it’s part and parcel of being creative, something akin to sleeping where ideas and experience assimilate into something more foundational. I hope so at least.
Today shall be spent cooking an incredible Fosse Meadows chicken we found at the market in Herne Hill, along with a beer and sourdough bolstered celeriac gratin – both of them on the barbecue. I’m back in business and I’m loving it. However, my message to any cooks out there who feel like they can only manage a Deliveroo while lying on the sofa is this: please don’t feel guilty. The love will return because it’s too deep-seated to go away for very long.
Fancy Baked Potatoes Recipe (with Gorgonzola, pickled chanterelles and confit garlic)
1 kg new potatoes
Gorgonzola (a few chunks per serving)
Tarragon, leaves picked
Chives, finely chopped
Confit garlic (see method below or alternatively, chuck some in the oven with the potatoes)
Pickled chanterelles (see method below or serve with shop-bought pickles such as cornichons)
Preheat the oven to 190C/170fan/Gas 5
Put the potatoes in a roasting dish, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some coarse salt (be generous) and roast for an hour, or until tender on the inside and crisp and wrinkled on the outside.
To assemble the dish, preheat a grill.
Place some potatoes onto plates and crush lightly, then top with chunks of Gorgonzola and pop under the grill under the cheese has melted. Garnish with pickled chanterelles, confit garlic cloves, chopped chives and tarragon leaves. Extra garlic oil and salt might be a good idea.
For the confit garlic
4 bulbs garlic
Olive oil (enough to cover the garlic in the pan)
Peel all the garlic cloves and add them to a saucepan. Cover with olive oil so they are totally submerged.
Bring to a very light simmer then reduce to the lowest heat possible and cook for 40 minutes. The idea is to very gently poach the garlic, so the oil should not be bubbling. I find a heat diffuser (of the type you use for a tagine) is very handy here but it’s not necessary.
Once cooked, transfer to a clean jar and cover with the oil. IMPORTANT: It’s very important that you store confit garlic and garlic oil properly because it can breed botulism. As soon as the garlic and oil are cool, store in the fridge. Do not keep either at room temperature.
For the pickled chanterelles
150ml white wine vinegar
3 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
Few black peppercorns
Pinch chilli flakes
In a jug, combine the vinegar, water, honey, half a teaspoon of the salt, peppercorns and chilli flakes. Stir to combine.
Put a frying pan or saucepan over medium heat and add the chanterelles (no need to add butter or oil). Cook, stirring until the mushrooms begin to release their water.
Add half a teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Add the vinegar mixture and bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 5 minutes then transfer to a clean jar.