… I love this time of year when the weather isn’t quite ready to make a commitment yet. Particularly here in the UK we’ve had some amazing Mays so we know it’s building up to something but it’s still a little bit down in the dumps… today for instance it has been glorious. An early morning start with the trainer in the park was like being bathed in light and warmth and then the walk to the station had me smiling at the cherry blossom bursting on the trees but the weather map says it’s going to be rainy and cold again tomorrow. Not entirely sure why this makes me so happy. I feel like the weather is like my generic setting for m mood… changeable. I guess it means we’re not quite there yet with summer food either. We can still make all my favourite foods with it being a little odd, so those gorgeous one-pot meals like soups and stews are still being made and there’s still a few meals left where we don’t have to think about our bikini bodies just yet…
slow-cooked mushroom hot pot
a couple of months ago I spent a glorious day with smeg and the lovely and very talented Mr Kerridge. One of the dishes that had a lasting memory was perhaps the most simple, an onion and potato hot pot. The dish was thick with sliced potatoes with an unctuous and deeply rich onion layer which had been slow-cooked in the oven for a few hours on a very low heat and you could taste the glory of all this slow cooking. The origin of the dish, Tom told us, was that in many towns across Europe back before people had kitchens in their own homes, they would take large earthenware dishes to their local baker who’s ovens were always on overnight and slow-cook meals. Very often they were hot-pot style dishes made with root vegetables and stock or tough, cheaper cuts of meat. One can only imagine how glorious they tasted. Each town and region would of course have their own local style of dish. I love this idea and wish we still had this type of communal cooking that brought people together… my dish really needed a few hours more in the oven and a thicker layer of potato to really work but I gave it a good 3 hours on 120C and it tasted phenomenal which I guess is the point. I love that with dishes like this you can make them at any time of the day, bung them in the oven and walk away, safe in the knowledge that you will have a good, hearty meal in the evening… it’s also wonderful if you live in a cottage with no central heating and spend a lot of time in the kitchen – it’s a dish that will keep you warm in more ways than one!
Many people ask me if I make two meals, one for me and
a large selection of potatoes – this really depends on the size of your dish and what you have in the kitchen… I used a bag of new potatoes that needed finishing off but any good quality white potato will work.
2 large onions – finely sliced
3 large flat mushrooms – thickly sliced
2 carrots – sliced
2 sticks of celery – thickly sliced
1/2 litre of stock made up of half white wine and half vegetable stock
butter and olive oil
fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary
use a large oven-proof dish with a lid or have plenty of foil to hand and pre-heat the oven to 120C
start with the onions on the bottom and layer the vegetables into the dish, seasoning well with salt, pepper and fresh herbs as well as a drizzle of olive oil between each layer
layer the potatoes on top – you want at least 3 layers of potato with plenty of nobs of butter between each layer – season well and then pour over the stock, then cover or wrap tightly with foil and bake in the oven for at least 3 hours if not longer
remove the foil, turn up the heat and let the potatoes brown for 15 minutes before serving
eat and of course, enjoy!