As a cheese and bacon addict, I often have leftover cheese in my fridge, not to mention the stash in my freezer. There's often half a tub of sour cream or crème fraiche hanging around too, a few rashers of bacon leftover from a weekend brunch and half a bottle of mustard languishing in the cupboard.
And even though our harvest of home-grown potatoes was the lowest for several years, there are nearly always potatoes lurking in a dark corner of the kitchen.
So this pommes de terre Braytoises recipe adapted from Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow book was a perfect choice to counter the cold weather outside, be frugal with leftover ingredients and try something from a new cookery book too!
We adapted the recipe to 2 people, changing some of the ingredients and instructions to suit us better.
Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow
Diana Henry is a cook and food writer with six books under her belt including Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, Cook Simple and Food from Plenty. She also writes for the Telegraph and it's magazine, Stella, presents food television programmes such as Market Kitchen and broadcasts on Radio 4.
I'd read good feedback on her book of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African dishes (Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons) and likewise, for her latest title, Food from Plenty, which aims to share recipes made from "the plentiful, the seasonal and the leftover".
But I'd not really seen a great deal of discussion about her previous book, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow, originally published by Mitchell Beazley (an Octopus publishing imprint) in 2009, but with a new edition released in November 2011.
Having grown up in Northern Ireland, she adores snow, "its crystalline freshness, the silent mesmeric way it falls, the way it blankets you in a white, self-contained world". For this book, she travelled to several other cold climate locations, compiling a collection of recipes that represent winter food.
As for the name of the book, a passage in her introduction partially explains:
"On dark afternoons, my fifth-year teacher read us the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the simple snowy world of the American mid-west found in Little House in the Big Woods, an orange and a handful of nuts in the toe of a sock on Christmas day seemed as alluring as the seeds from a crimson pomegranate; fat pumpkins gathered in the autumn and stored in the attic were fairy tale vegetables. But it was the story of maple syrup that intrigued me most: how you could tap the sap of maple trees when there was a 'sugar snow' (snowy conditions in which the temperature goes below freezing at night but above freezing during the day), boil the sap down to a sticky amber syrup and pour it on to snow. There it set to a cobwebby toffee. Here was a magical food that you could get from inside a tree and make into sweets. I got my first bottle of maple syrup soon after being read this passage and have loved it ever since."
In a similar vein, throughout the book are passages from poems and books as varied as Robert Frost's Evening in a sugar orchard, Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney, Figs by D H Lawrence, Wild Fruits by Henry David Thoreau and Hans Christian Andersen's The Fir Tree.
Photography, by Jason Lowe, is beautiful and evocative. There are images of big hearty dishes, ingredients and scenes from the places whose food Henry brings together. That said, many of the recipes – I'd say well over half – don't have an accompany photograph, so this may not suit those who prefer to see what all finished dishes look like.
Oddly enough, whilst I really loved reading this book, flicking from recipe to recipe, reading the introductions and stories about the places, ingredients and dishes, I found that there were only a handful of recipes I want to actually cook. Partly, this is because there's a Northern European preponderance of walnuts and pecans, poppy seeds and cinnamon, dill, prunes, cranberries and juniper berries, chestnuts, dried mushrooms and smoked fish. Some of those ingredients I like, in some contexts, but less so in cooking. Others, I'm simply not a fan of. I like this book but can't see me using it very often.
That said, there are still many recipes that appeal as great comfort for a cold day – Antico Risotto Sabaudo (a Fontina-rich risotto), Poulet Suissesse (chicken with crème fraiche, mustard and cheese), Sobronade (an every day version of cassoulet without the duck), Beef Pie with wild mushrooms and claret (billed as better than cleavage for its seductive powers), Dublin Coddle (a layered bake of sausages, bacon, onions, potatoes and chicken stock), Poires Savoyards (cream, butter and sugar baked pears), Hot Lightning (featuring apples, pears and bacon), Apple Bread, Roast Figs and Plums in Vodka with cardamom cream and Scandinavian Pepparkakor (Christmas biscuits).
Pommes de Terre Braytoises
Cheese and Ham Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Adapted from Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow
Ingredients (for 2)
2 baking potatoes
25 grams butter
Salt and pepper
125 grams Camembert
4 thick rashers of bacon or about 60 grams ham, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
50-75 grams Comte, grated
Note: We used left over bacon, fried in a pan, so we added the bacon fat to the mix too.
- Prick and bake the potatoes (180 C fan oven) for approximately an hour, or until tender all the way through.
- Cut each potato in half, scoop out most of the flesh, careful not to pierce the skin.
- Mash the potato flesh with butter and season with salt and pepper.
- Roughly chop the Camembert and the bacon or ham. Mix with the mashed potato flesh, along with half the sour cream or crème fraiche, the mustard and the egg. Henry suggests discarding the rind of the Camembert before using, but we chose to use it.
- Divide the mixture between the 4 potato skins. Mix the rest of the sour cream or crème fraiche with the grated Comte and spread over the top of each potato.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the tops of the potatoes are golden and bubbling (180 C fan oven).
We really enjoyed these potatoes, they made for a very comforting and delicious week day dinner and were very easy to make.
We so often have cheese, bacon and sour cream or crème fraiche left over, we have already made these a couple of times and will certainly be making them again soon.
I'm submitting this post to Family Friendly Fridays, a monthly blog event hosted by Fabulicious Food.
Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow is currently available from Amazon UK for £10.55 (RRP £15.99).