Tag Archives: Potatoes

Skate with Clams, Leek, Potatoes and Celery

2 Mar

When I was growing up, my Mum used to make a lot of potato-leek soup. Something about the mixture of sweet, mildly garlicky leeks paired with the comfort-factor of potatoes just works. In this dish, I used potatoes and leeks as the base of a skate dish. Access to clams, cockles and the like were sometimes limited during the war because of defensive mining along the coast. They weren’t rationed, but could be tough to get hold of. This dish would work just as well without them, but I like the briny flavor and juicy texture of clams against the other elements in this dish. Celery is so under-rated as a vegetable. It has a great crunch when raw but I’ve also come to really enjoy it lightly cooked. In this recipe, I just sliced right through the celery stalks on the bias and tossed them into the vegetable mixture about 2 minutes from the end. They still had a slight crunch to them.

Of course, bivalves had kind of a bad association in peoples’ minds during World War II. Limpet mines were developed by the British navy to attach to enemy naval vessels using magnets, and a version for land use, clam mines, were later developed by the Brits too.

Skate with Clams, Leek, Potatoes and Celery

3 Servings

1 Idaho potato, or other thick-skinned variety, peeled and cut into batons
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
3 slices onion
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 leek, cut into batons, green section only
2 stalks celery, cut on the bias (reserve celery leaves)
6 clams (optional)
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 skate wing, cut into 3 servings along the lines of the flesh

Put the potato batons into a small pot of water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until 90 percent cooked-through, then strain and set aside. Heat 1/2 the bacon drippings in a sauté pan. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Add the garlic slices and cook through. Then add the leek, celery, clams and broth and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer then cover until the clams steam open. While the vegetables and clams are cooking, heat another sauté pan over a high heat with the remaining bacon drippings. Take the 3 skate portions and salt them, then sear in the hot bacon drippings until the first side is golden. Flip the fish portions over carefully using a fish spatula, and being sure to slide the spatula under the fish in the same direction as the natural stripes of skate flesh to avoid breaking up the skate portions. Cook on the other side until cooked through, then remove the fish from the pan and rest for 2 minutes. Carefully remove the clams from the vegetable pan and set them aside, Spoon the vegetable and broth mixture into the bottom of 3 large bowls. Top each vegetable portion with a skate portion. Add the clams to the bowls, and garnish everything with the celery leaves.


Day 25: Steamed Cod, Beet Greens and Potatoes

13 Feb

I don’t remember my Granny making beets when I was little, but utilizing the entire ingredient is what she was all about. And beet greens are a great example. You buy your bunch of beets. You can tell by the lush, healthy-looking, un-slimey leaves that the beets are still young and haven’t spent the last decade in a crate somewhere in the back of the store. You take em home, cook the beets and then save the greens. Be sure to thoroughly wash off the greens as they’re usually heavily coated in sand and dirt. Dry the greens and separate the leaves from the stems. This may seem unnecessary and finicky, but if you cook them all together, the leaves can burn or overcook before the stems are cooked through.

Remember to separate the stems and leaves of the beet greens

I tend to buy a mix of yellow and red beets, and some rainbow ones if available. One of the fun things about this is that the stems of the greens match the color of the beets, so golden beets have yellow stems. As you can see from the photo below, a mixture of red and yellow beet greens makes for a more colorful dish, with splashes of crimson and gold. In this cod dish, which is light on washing up since it’s made in one pot, the beet greens are the foundation of the dish. It’s also a fairly healthy main course, and contains little cooking fat. Best of all, it only takes about half an hour, including prep time, so if you’re having a busy day you can still throw it together when you get home. If you don’t have one already, this dish from All-Clad is awesome – oven-proof, a great size for this dish, and perfect in terms of heat distribution throughout the pot. In other words, it doesn’t really have noticeable hotspots so things cook evenly. They’re a tad pricey but basically you’ll never need to buy another pot. You could use any old sauté pan that’s about 2-inches deep and has a lid.

Steamed Cod, Beet Greens and Potatoes

1 Serving

2 to 3 tablespoons drippings
2 medium potatoes, thin-skinned such as Yukon Golds, cut into discs
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Greens from 2 bunches beets, separated into stems and leaves, both chopped
1 cup vegetable broth or water
1 fillet cod

Heat the drippings in a sauté pan that’s about 2 inches deep until the drippings are hot. Add the potatoes and brown on one side. Flip the potatoes and brown on the other side. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. When it becomes translucent, add the beet green stems and sweat. Add the leaves of the beet greens after 5 minutes, then add the vegetable broth or water. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season the cod with the salt and put it on top of the bed of potatoes and beet greens. Cover the pot and steam until the cod is just beginning to flake around the edges, about 5 minutes. If you prefer, you can also finish this dish on the oven after you’ve added the broth. Serve the cod on the bed of beet greens and potatoes.

Day 10: Potato-Celeriac Brandade de Morue with Brussels Sprouts

15 Jan

Fishing being what it is, cod has gone in my Granny’s lifetime from being so cheap that you feed it to the cat, to being one of the most expensive fish you can find in the UK. If you haven’t read sustainability superhero Barton Seaver’s For Cod and Country, it’s a fabulous peek into the world of sustainable seafood with a great guide into buying sustainable fish year round. And it touches a bit on  what’s made our fish the way it is today.

However, I digress. Salt cod is one of those Mediterranean staples – whether you call it bacallao (Portuguese) or baccala (Italian), or if you mash it into potatoes for a brandade de morue (French) – that has the lovely advantage of aging well. Unlike fresh fish, it won’t go bad inside of days, and once it’s been thoroughly soaked in several changes of fresh water, it tastes only mildly saltier than its fresh counterpart. It also tastes very fresh, since it’s usually packed in salt quite soon after being caught, butchered and portioned.

Brandade de Morue is one of my all-time faves. It began its life as a peasant dish and still does pretty well with a slice of crusty bread, slathered with butter or aioli.

This is what soaked salt cod looks like. Be careful when you season the rest of the dish – go easy on the salt, since the fish will still remain quite salty even after a thorough soaking.

Celeriac, or what you Yanks call “celery root,” makes an earthy addition to mashed potatoes.

Potato-Celeriac Brandade de Morue: Mustard-whipped Potatoes and Celeriac, Salt Cod, and Brussels Sprouts

2 Servings

3 pieces salt cod
4 medium potatoes, peeled
1/3 celeriac, peeled
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups Brussels sprouts, separated into leaves (you can keep the middle bit)
Water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon mustard

Soak the salt cod in several changes of water in the fridge, for about 12 hours. Put the potatoes and celeriac in a pot and cover them with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are cooked through. Strain the potatoes and celeriac and pass them through a potato ricer. Season with 1/2 of the milk, the butter, and salt and pepper. Return to the pot and keep warm.

Strain the salt cod and put in a small pot, covered with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fish just starting to become flaky. Remove from the heat and allow the cod to cool a little in the cooking water. When the water is just luke warm, remove the fish from the water and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Heat the remaining milk with the thyme and garlic in a small sauté pan until it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and mash with the cod in a bowl. Keep the fish in small pieces – it’s a bit more interesting texturally that way.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the sprout leaves. Season with salt and pepper and wilt slightly. Add a little water or chicken stock. (If you are not on rations you can cook them in chicken stock and butter). Cook just until the sprout leaves are cooked through. Remove from the heat.

Add the mustard to the potato mixture and mash it with the cod. Put in a lipped bowl and top with the sprout leaves. If you have some good olive oil, go ahead and drizzle it over the dish. Wish I could. Sigh.

Day 1: Parsnip and Potato Roesti

31 Dec

During World War II, Britain sourced a lot of its produce from other countries. When U-boats started targeting supply ships coming to the UK, Britain started a campaign pushing Brits to grow their own veggies and fruits, in “allotments” or plots of land. The Dig for Victory campaign began. Posters like this started appearing. Jaunty little fellow, isn’t he?

Image credit: Zazzle.co.uk

My Grandmother’s family had a small garden outside their house in Gravesend, Kent. The town is still quite small and the only reason any Americans have heard of it at all is mostly because it’s where Pocahontas died. She and her mother and sisters and brother grew vegetables and fruit. This time of year that mostly meant apples and pears.

Anything more exciting would have come from abroad – not an option.

Turnips, Brussels Sprouts, Onions - veggies that would typically have been grown

Since her father wasn’t around much any way (he was in the armed forces), it wasn’t anything new for her large family to be pretty thrifty. But to prevent starvation, the British government started rationing ingredients they knew they had a limited ability to produce. If I had been your average adult in WW2, and wasn’t sick or pregnant, here’s the limit of butter, tea, cheese and eggs I would be allowed in 1 week.

4 ounces bacon per week (3 thick cut slices)

2 ounces cheese, 4 ounces bacon, 2 ounces butter, 2 ounces tea, 1 egg - average rations per week for a healthy adult

Cooking fats of any kind hit the list in 1940. I know what you’re thinking…where’s the meat? You got about 6 ounces a week, beyond the bacon. Average meat serving these days in the US? 6 ounces. We eat in one typical serving of meat – assuming your not talking a giganta-steak – what your average Brit made last an entire week. That blew my mind. How the heck am I going to make the meat last a week?

More importantly, with 1 egg a week, how am I going to bake?? Daphne, my grandmother, used to tell me how her family pooled all their eggs for a week so they could make a cake, if it was someone’s birthday. Suffice it to say, it was usually a special occasion, and that cake was all the more important because those eggs were precious.

When I was little, she used to sit me next to her on her faded green velvet couch in their sitting room and try and teach me how to whistle…and knit. And I would quiz her endlessly about her childhood. About what it was like during the war. I still can’t knit worth a damn. And my whistle is lame. But those stories struck a chord.

As I try and put myself in her place, I examine my rations for the week. First problem? What the heck am I going to cook with? Not much fat here. I cut a few strips of bacon and render them. I decide to make a parsnip and potato roesti with a little parsley on top. I just came back from spending the holidays in Switzerland and I am having serious roesti withdrawal. Plus, it’s chilly outside today, I decide. I finish lunch with an apple and think longingly of 3 egg omelettes.

Parsnip and Potato Roesti

Parsnip and Potato Roesti


1/2 medium Russet potato, peeled

1/4 parsnip, peeled

4 or 5 batons of bacon

Salt and pepper

1 sliver butter

1/4 cup parsley leaves, chiffonade


Using the largest side of a box grater, grate the potato and parsnip over a clean kitchen towel. Gather the corners around the grated vegetables to form a little parcel. Insert the faucet of the kitchen sink inside the parcel and rinse the grated vegetables. Turn off the tap and twist the parcel, squeezing all the moisture out of the grated vegetables. Put them in a bowl. Render the bacon in a pan until it releases all of that bacon fat and until the bacon has half cooked. Pour the bacon fat and bacon into the bowl with the potato mixture. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Using the same pan, add the butter and pan fry patties of the potato mixture until crispy. Flip and crisp the other side. You may need to finish these in the oven if you make them too thick. Remove from the pan. Serve topped with the parsley.

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