From Spain’s bom­bas and In­dia’s aloo bonda to the clas­sic baked cre­ations

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday -

@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.


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.


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).


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.


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).

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