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 that 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 anymore.

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)

Serves 4

1 kg new potatoes
Gorgonzola (a few chunks per serving)
Tarragon, leaves picked
Chives, finely chopped
Olive oil
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

150g chanterelles
150ml white wine vinegar
30ml water
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.


Now I know you’re all thinking about diets, detox and exercise. So am I. Let me lead you astray for a moment though as I reminisce about this baked gnocchi I made for my boyfriend’s birthday. We’d started with a venison carpaccio to keep space inside for this baked behemoth – home made gnocchi crisped on top and creamy down under, oozing wads of Gorgonzola.

I’d not made gnocchi at home before and I was startled at the difference; they were very light compared to shop-bought. I was careful not to add too much flour to the mixture because that makes them tough, apparently. Then again, too much potato and they may fall apart during cooking. Many recipes stated so many different ratios of potato to flour that in the end I threw up my arms, huffed and stomped. Then I remembered that bible of Italian cooking, The Silver Spoon. Their recipe suggested 1kg  potato to 200g  flour which of course worked an absolute treat.

Baking gnocchi is a bit like frying or baking pasta, adding another texture on top. I used a creamy rather than piccante Gorgonzola as I wanted it nice and gooey; the cheese basically forms the sauce along with a splash of double cream for good measure. The spinach worked well although you could use chard, cavolo nero or other greens instead. A sharp, lemon dressed salad on the side will balance the richness. In your face, detox!

Baked Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Spinach

1kg potatoes
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten

Steam the potatoes for about 25 minutes, or until tender. Mash with a potato ricer or beat with an electric whisk (as I did) until perfectly smooth. Stir in the flour, egg and a pinch of salt and knead to a soft, elastic dough. Shape the dough into long sausages about 1.5cm in diameter. Cut into 2cm lengths. Press each gnocchi with a fork or the underside of a grater and set aside on a tea towel dusted with flour in a single layer.

Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi, a few at a time, until they rise to the top. Remove them and drain.

For the sauce

Gorgonzola (as much as you dare, I wasn’t really in a measuring mood. Probably used about 250g).
Double cream (again, wasn’t measuring. Look, there’s no way this can go wrong so don’t worry too much about quantities. Probably about 100ml).
Spinach, 200g (ha! I knew that one)
A little Parmesan for the top
White pepper, black pepper and salt

Preheat your oven to 180C

Wash your spinach and then, without drying it, put it into a saucepan on a low heat. Put a lid on. Let it wilt then drain it well and squeeze to rid it of some moisture (if you use more cabbage-like greens such as chard or cavolo nero you’ll need to cook them in boiling water). Put your cooked gnocchi into a baking dish, break up your cheese and spread it about; do the same with the spinach then pour over your cream. Season with white pepper, salt and black pepper. I think the two types of pepper makes a difference but you could leave one out. Grate over a little Parmesan and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.