I love the idea of having a meat-free day at least once a week at home, though it’s easier in summer than winter with the array of seasonal veg available.
Boulangère potatoes are often seen as a side dish, served with a Sunday roast instead of roast potatoes or a creamier gratin. But I love to enjoy it as the main event with some salad leaves and a tasty dressing. It will fill every belly with joy.
The trick for this recipe is to caramelise the onions — as if you are using them for a French onion soup — in butter, garlic and herbs for a good few minutes over medium heat. The more caramelised they are, the more flavour transfers to the potato in the oven.
My next recipe is a silky-smooth courgette soup. Packed with vitamins and minerals, courgette at this time of the year is always plentiful. Quick and simple to prepare, this soup is often underrated — but completely delicious.
Ingredients (serves 4): ■ 50g butter ■ 4 onions, thinly sliced ■ 1 tbsp honey ■ 3-4 garlic cloves ■ 4-5 thyme stalks ■ 100ml white wine
■ 900g potatoes, thinly sliced ■ 800ml strong vegetable stock or bouillon ■ Salt and pepper to season
Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 160C. 2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt some butter, and add the onions, honey, garlic, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook without stirring for 2 minutes. 3. Once the onions start to caramelise, stir once or twice and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes until fully coloured. 4. Next, add the white wine and gently stir to catch the flavour. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed. 5. In an ovenproof dish, place a layer of sliced potato, then add a layer of the caramelised onions. Continue to layer the potato and onions, finishing with a layer of potato. Season with salt and pepper. 6. Pour the stock over the potato gratin and add butter and some extra garlic if desired. For best results, a good quality vegetable stock or bouillon is best as it will help to flavour the potatoes (see top tip above). However, if you are not vegetarian, you can also use a good quality chicken stock. 7. Cover loosely with baking paper and place in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, until the potatoes are soft and the stock has mostly evaporated. 8. Serve the boulangère potato gratin warm. This handy dish can also be stored in the fridge for up to four days and reheated, or frozen in portions for later — a great way to get ahead if you are starting to stock the back to school freezer.
Ingredients (serves 4-6): ■ 2 tbsp butter ■ 5 shallots, sliced ■ 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped ■ 900ml vegetable stock ■ 100g feta cheese ■ 100g cashew nuts ■ 2 courgettes, diced ■ 4 tbsp mixed seeds and nuts ■ Sea salt and white pepper
Method: 1. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium heat, add the shallots, and gently sauté for 2 minutes. 2. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute. Then add the vegetable stock, feta cheese and cashew nuts. 3. Bring to the boil and add the diced courgette — ensuring the stock is boiling before adding the courgette will help heat-fix the green of the skin. 4. Bring back to the boil and simmer over medium heat for a further 4-8 minutes or until the courgette is just softened, but still green. Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper. 5. Remove from the heat and — using a handheld blender — blend the soup immediately to create just the right silky-smooth consistency. 6. Check the seasoning and add a little extra salt, pepper and butter if required. 7. Sprinkle the velouté with some mixed seeds and nuts and serve while still warm with some crusty rolls or a baguette.
TOP TIP:DON’T BE STOCK FOR FLAVOURFUL IDEAS WITH THIS STORE CUPBOARD HERO
If you want to add some oomph to your casseroles, soups or stews, I often use Dr.Coy’s Vegetable Bouillon instead of the usual chicken or beef stock. It is made with 23 organic vegetables, aromatic herbs, spices and just enough salt. The Irish company started out making delicious chocolate treats without the sugar spike. Since then, they’ve developed many products with a focus on quality and taste. Find it in supermarkets nationwide and at drcoys.ie.