SPUDS YOU’LL LIKE:
From Spain’s bombas and India’s aloo bonda to the classic baked creations
@mattscravat ALIGOT TARTIFLETTE @Mattscravat
IN THE latest instalment of an occasional series on the world’s great ingredient pairings, here are the finest ways to pair the humble spud with the gooey goodness of melted cheese.
BAKED JACKET POTATOES
Bring back the humble baked spud. It makes the simplest of dinners – just an hour in the oven and a handful of grated cheese to melt into the scored flesh, all seasoned with salt and a grind of black pepper. It’s cheap, too. Leftover chilli, Bolognese, corn or tuna mornay are fine so long as they’re topped with cheese.
This cheesy mash from France’s Aubrac region blends cream, cheese, butter and garlic in mashed potato until it’s almost elastic. Your picky French housewife would use Tomme d’auvergne or Tomme de Laguiole, but equal parts mozzarella and cheddar work fine. Oh, and whisk in the cheese by hand – using a blender will make the mash horrid and gluey. Elastic good, gluey bad.
Potato gratin and dauphinoise are classic examples of potatoes baked with cheese and a liquid like cream, milk or stock. Next level, however, is a tartiflette, a creation from the French Alps. Waxy potatoes and sliced onions cooked in bacon fat are layered with crisp bacon and a slightly pungent washed-rind cheese (reblochon, taleggio or, from Oz, Tasmanian Red Square, Milawa Gold or Red Hill’s Fingal Gold), then baked until browned and bubbling.
THE ORIGINAL RACLETTE
If Swiss food was the Kardashians, the cheese fondue would be Kim, but the part of the more interesting Kourtney would be played by raclette, a dish of melted cheese of the same name with gherkins, pickled onions and small boiled potatoes. Like any Kardashian, it takes a good Insta pic, the raclette typically reclining in front of a log fire. When it’s bubbling and lightly smoked, it’s scraped onto warm plates to be eaten immediately. Okay, there are obviously flaws in this whole ‘if Swiss food was the Kardashians’ thing.
Whether it’s a rich creamy sauce made with blue cheese or just a light dusting of finely grated parmesan over these delicate little pillows which, when correctly made, are never less than 90 per cent potato. This is the potato and cheese combo at its most elegant.
From Spanish bombas to India’s spiced potato cheese balls, fried crumbed balls of mash hiding an intensely cheesy filling are a global hit. The bomba in that Barcelona tapas bar might ferry a filling of melted manchego with chorizo or tuna and come with a smoked-paprika mayo or spicy tomato sauce (two more partners for this potato and cheese party).
INDIAN CHEESY POTATO BALLS
In India potato and cheese are married in various golden balls – the malai kofta of the north where mash and grated
paneer are rolled into balls, crumbed and fried, or the modernised fusion version of aloo bonda from the South filled with nuggets of melting mozzarella. My favourite is when the mash is spiced with finely diced green chillies, chopped coriander, spices like cumin and lime juice. This mix is stiffened with a little plain flour, kneaded into balls and then flattened into discs. A cube of cheese – paneer, perhaps, or something meltier like mozzarella – is then wrapped up in this potato dough. The balls are then doused in a slurry of water and cornflour, crumbed and fried until golden.
CHEESE AND ONION CHIPS
Naturally, this is one of the most popular flavours whether it’s the bog-standard yellow packet, or something more gourmet (read: more expensive and wanky-sounding without actually tasting better) like ‘ Whiskered country farmer in tweeds vintage cheddar’ potato chips sold in a traditional artisan foil-lined paper bag with curly writing.
The craze for fries served with everything from crab and fontina to jalapeño and cheese sauce – maybe descended from the cheese fries of the early ’50s or the curds and gravy-packing poutine, which first reared its ugly head in Quebec in the ’50s – has got out of hand. The original idea was that chips must be better with cheese from a can (Cheez Whiz and its rivals hit the US market in 1952, about the same time as cheese fries first appeared. This is not a coincidence).