Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gratin of potatoes, cheddar and pancetta

I generate a lot of leftovers and love the challenge that they bring as I hate throwing food out.  Towards the end of any one week I have at least two types of vegetable which need to be used up before the compost heap gets them.

Today I made a delicious gratin with potatoes, pancetta and some Montgomery Cheddar.
It is dainty with punchy flavours and I cannot wait to make it again on a larger scale.  I think it would be perfect for lunch with a side of salad, or as an accompaniment to a piece of simply cooked white fish.

I am also a great fan of cheese of any variety but for me the Montgomery Cheddar is the best Cheddar around, especially at this time of the year.  It originates from a farm of Friesian cows just north of Yeovil and South of Bristol - it is supplied in Dublin by Sheridans Cheesemongers  - I once carried a heavy truckle from London to Dublin for Christmas from the Neal's Yard Dairy and I cursed it the whole way, but in the end it was worth it and I would do it again! Maybe in November when I will attempt a repeat of my April ash-cloud spoiled weekend.

For two as a starter or side, you will need:

3 Chopin potatoes - I bought these for the first time this week from M&S (they were specifically developed by M&S probably to look, taste and act perfectly no doubt) - in fact they taste really creamy and have a great texture for this, but you could use any good all rounders like Desiree or King Edwards.
100g smoked pancetta, in small pieces
1/2 savoy cabbage - I used the lighter green inner leaves which were left over
75g strong cheddar, like Montgomery or Heggarty's


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
Lightly grease the inside of a gratin dish with butter or vegetable oil.

Slice the potatoes into 4-5mm slices, pat dry and season with freshly ground black pepper. (Note as the pancetta is quite salty, I do not add any additional salt to this).

Saute the pancetta pieces until they are slightly golden and using a slotted spoon remove them and set aside.
Add the seasoned potato slices to the pan with the pancetta fat and toss fro a few minutes in the hot oil.

Take each (cleaned) leaf from the cabbage and cut out the central stem leaving 2 drop-shaped leaves. 
Boil the cabbage leaves for no more than 2 minutes in boiling salted water and then drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process.  Pat dry and set aside.

Assemble in an oven-proof gratin dish with layers first of potato, then cheese, then cabbage and then pancetta - and repeat until all the ingredients are used up ending with a healthy sprinkling of cheese.

Cover the dish with a tinfoil, you could use baking parchment, and bake it for about 30-40 minutes in the oven.
Remove from the oven and leave it to cool for about ten minutes. 
You can serve the dish straight to the table or turn it out onto a wooden board and serve it in slices - I also pressed a circular food cutter into some of it today producing a perfect, neat accompaniment to fish. 
I am really looking forward to making this in a bigger quantity with more layers.  I will experiment next time with the addition of onion and perhaps a sprinkling of capers, and I do think that one could substitute the pancetta for some delicious flakes of smoked haddock. 
If you get there before me, let me know how it turns out.

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