This is an easy and very tasty potato recipe, but the thing to bear in mind is that there are so many variables – the variety, thickness and how deep you layer the potatoes, the type of dish used, the efficiency of your oven – that you need to take the timing given here as a very rough guide. If the rest of the food you are serving can be brought together easily at the end, and you are not too bothered about how long you wait for your dinner, then there is no problem. Otherwise, cook ahead of time, and finish when you are ready by reheating and browning in the oven for about twenty minutes.
You can use waxy or floury potatoes for this recipe, depending on season and your preference. Traditionally, however, waxy varieties are used, as they hold their shape better when cooked.
An earthenware cooking dish is ideal for this, but you can of course use metal, heat-resistant glass or whatever you have.
Two pounds/900gram potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly into rounds
One pint/570ml milk, double cream or milk and cream mixed
One beaten egg if not using cream only
One clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
4oz/110gram good strong cheese, traditionally Gruyere, grated
Grated nutmeg – about a quarter to a half of one nutmeg
A little butter
Preheat oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F
Rub the dish all over with the cut garlic, and then grease well with butter. Add the sliced potatoes in layers. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to the liquid in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. If you are using egg with milk, continue to beat as it heats through so the egg does not curdle. Pour the heated milk/cream over the potatoes, sprinkle the cheese over the top, and put into the oven for around 45 minutes – as mentioned in the introduction, this could take longer. What you are looking for is that the spuds will be properly cooked through and soft while turning a golden brown on top. The sauce will have thickened and mostly absorbed by the potatoes.
Tip: one way to speed up this recipe, and to ensure that the potatoes are properly cooked through, is to simmer them in the milk/cream before assembly – don’t pre-cook them until they are starting to break up, though.