Continuing the celebrations – week 5, 2022

During a global pandemic you have to take any opportunity for some joy, am I right?! That was our philosophy last week as Andrew and I enjoyed a couple of days of R&R (including a day trip to St Albans, pictured below) and some celebratory meals. This kind of prioritisation of pleasure is of course one of the reasons why Andrew and I are still together after 26 years!

At St Albans

Potato dauphinoise, in a pie

There are few things which, in my view, cannot be improved with the addition of a layer of buttery pastry. So I eagerly looked forward to making potato dauphinoise pie, from The Pie Room cookbook, at the start of the week. It is a bit of a faff as you have to make dauphinoise first, then cool and chill it, then make the pastry to encase it and bake it again. So I started with the dauphinoise on Sunday and baked the actual pie on Monday.

The dauphinoise was a lump of creamy, cheesy, onion-y goodness:

Potato dauphinoise

The pastry was a shortcrust which included eggs as well as the usual flour and butter (apparently eggs add richness to a pastry, as well as improve the colour). Here is the chilled dauphinoise on the pastry base:

Dauphinoise on pastry

And the finished product:

Potato dauphinoise pie

My verdict? Honestly not worth the effort. I found the thyme and rosemary in the dauphinoise to be a bit overpowering, and the layers of cheese and caramelised onion were not strong enough to add distinct flavour. I also didn’t love the pastry, which was not short, buttery, or crumbly enough for my liking (I guess because of the eggs).

Potato dauphinoise pie sliced

It looks very impressive, so would be great for a vegetarian centrepiece, but personally I’d ditch the herbs in the potato dauphinoise and increase the onion / cheese levels, and use a basic shortcrust pastry. I think Simon Hopkinson’s cheese and potato pie is much more tasty and comforting, so I recommend trying this recipe instead: Cheese and onion pie

Steak, chips, and homemade bearnaise

Steak and chips is our go-to meal of choice when we are after something celebratory but reasonably easy to make. Ever since I tried my first Hawksmoor at Home box and read how to properly cook steak (season bravely, and heat your pan so it is really HOT), I have to say (not very modestly) that I cook a mean steak.

Steak chips and bearnaise

My favourite accompaniment is bearnaise sauce, and I make my own because jarred ones are almost always a disappointment (also ones in restaurants can be hit or miss). I use Nigella’s recipe from How To Cook (my favourite cookbook ever) – basically making a reduction of white wine vinegar flavoured with tarragon stalks and onion, and then beating the reduction into egg yolks over a Bain Marie, adding cubes of butter which you beat in to the eggs over the heat until you have a thick sauce. Tarragon and lemon juice finishes your bearnaise, and it’s perfection with a steak.

Hot smoked salmon with potato cakes and herb butter sauce

Potato cake with salmon and sauce

Another one of our favourites, and this one comes with another punchy sauce (which is deceptively easy to make). The recipe I based it on his here: Cured salmon fillets, potato bread, poached egg and green butter sauce but it is essentially potato cake (mashed potato mixed with some flour and fried in butter), hot smoked salmon fillets (any smoked fish would work), a poached egg, and a sauce made from chopped onion softened in white wine vinegar and a splash of water, with butter whisked in, and chopped capers and parsley stirred in at the end. The combination of soft potato, salty salmon, runny poached egg yolk, and vinegary sauce is really delicious – I highly recommend it.

Mini chicken kievs, potato waffles, baked beans

Mini kievs ingredients

An anniversary celebration for Andrew and me is not complete without this dish – our favourite from our university days. Ocado doesn’t stock Bernard Matthews’ mini kievs (the snobs!) and so I had to make do with M&S ones, but this was a great blast from the past.

Ioan was also a fan!

Ioan eating mini kievs

In other news  …

Ioan decorated a shop bought birthday cake for Grannie Annie (although it’s not actually her birthday for a couple of weeks, we won’t see her until after her holidays, when we’ll make her a proper cake):

Decorating nanny’s cake

Menu plan for week 6 of 2022

This week we see Chinese New Year celebrations start on Tuesday, hence the inspiration for the day.

  • Monday – fish pie (here’s my simple but delicious recipe: A comfort food: fish pie)
  • Tuesday – Chinese takeaway style curry with dumplings
  • Wednesday – Beef stew with suet dumplings
  • Thursday – pasta with pancetta, leeks, and gorgonzola (see here for more: Week 7 2021 meal plan – heading into half term)
  • Friday – Takeaway
  • Saturday – lightly dusted fish with potatoes and peas
  • Sunday – roast dinner

What are your plans for the week – any New Year celebrations I should be trying?

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