One of the things I love about Irish winters is the justification to close the curtains at 5pm, build a roaring open fire, open a big bottle of red wine, and tuck into some winter comfort food. As the Italian’s developed cuisine around an abundance of sunshine, us Paddies were sticking to Irish stew and spuds to keep ourselves warm from the inside.
This recipe was given to my Mum about 25 years ago by dear friends in Carlow, hence the name that’s stuck to it ever since and been passed onto countless other friends and relatives. It’s a tasty, savoury side-dish for main meat dishes such as roasts and casseroles, but equally – on the those cold winter nights in-front of the fire – it’s makes a deliciously comforting meal all on its own.
- 2 lb potatoes (waxy work better than floury)
- 1½ oz butter or marg
- 1½ oz flour
- ¾ pint milk
- ½ tsp thyme
- ½ tsp basil
- ½ tsp marjoram
- Good pinch ground nutmeg
- 3 oz grated cheese (mature cheddar’s great or Gruyere if you’re a bit posher!)
- Peel and slice the spuds to about ½ inch/1cm thick.
- Put in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add salt, then boil and simmer until tender not mushy.
- For the sauce, melt the butter/marg in a saucepan, add the flour and stir together, then slowly add the milk over a low heat.
- Add the herbs, nutmeg and seasoning as soon as you’ve the milk in, and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Simmer until nice and thick.
- Now grease a shallow dish with a little more butter or marg and layer in the potato slices. Pour over the sauce and sprinkle the cheese on top.
- Now bake for 30-35 mins at 180 deg C, or until you see the sauce bubbling under a crispy top.
This is simple food so no need to get too wound up on the choice of wine. Try a good value Cabernet Sauvignon blend like the Heartland Stickleback Red or the Compass Navigator’s Reserve from Santa Alicia, but equally if you prefer white, try a fuller bodied Chardonnay like the Heartland Stickleback White blend, or the Santa Alicia Reserve Chardonnay.