There is something about the cold winter months that makes carbohydrates much more attractive during that time. I do try to limit them as there is no doubt that for me, too many induce lethargy. Add to that limited sunlight, cold wet weather and a warm snuggly bed and I have a recipe for staying too long in bed, weight gain and low mood. It makes perfect sense then for me to conserve my carbs for those I really love, usually rice or good pasta. Yes, I love bread but trial and error has proven to me that too much really does not agree with me; one or two slices per day of good sourdough is my limit.
With an Irish surname like mine, you’d think I’d love a potato but actually I can take them or leave them. Cue grandfather spinning in grave…
Recently however, I have been using potato a whole lot more and it’s all the fault of Angela Clutton and Borough Market Cook Book Club. Our January event was an homage to the late, great Antonio Carluccio and I was a bit slow off the mark bidding to make his Caponata, which I love. I therefore chose something that is also a family recipe, which in itself is a bit of a mystery and I’ll come to that later.
Having had Caponata nabbed from under my nose (you know who you are), I went for Gattò di Patate, which has nothing to do with cats (spot the accent!) and everything to do with a wonderful combination of potatoes, cheese, egg and cured meat. I ask, you in this weather, could you imagine anything more wonderful and tempting?
Gattò in this context is a corruption of gâteau and dates back to when Naples was a Napoleonic possession (although because this is Italy, there are other opinions!) and that is where the family mystery comes in. As you know, we are an Anglo Italian household and everyone on the Italian side comes from either Carrara in Tuscany, or Borgo val di Taro in Emilia Romagna, so how a Neapolitan recipe comes to be in the family repertoire is a complete mystery. Perhaps someone visited Naples and fell for this complete carb fest and brought the recipe back north. In truth I’ve avoided making it until now, not being much of a potato lover, despite plaintive hints from Edoardo from time to time.
Now, however, its time had come. Comparing the Carluccio recipe with the family one revealed some interesting differences (again, perfectly normal in Italy) but I played by the rules for the Cook Book Club and made the recipe in the Carluccio Collection. That version mixes the meat and cheese components throughout the dish and it was tasty but now having made the family version, to me that is the more delectable version, and is the one I’ve described below.
You’ll see that I have listed specific cured meat here but in truth, the meat component can be leftovers or good bacon, anything that will cut into nice little matchsticks. If you are buying something specifically for this dish, don’t buy anything that will disintegrate under the cooking conditions, for example thinly sliced Mortadella will disintegrate (although if you buy a chunk of it and cube it, that will be OK).
The potatoes are important – they must be a floury variety so for example Alouette, Maris Piper, Desirée or even good old King Edward. The cheese (apart from the Parmesan) must be a type that melts easily such as Taleggio, Provolone, Scamorza, Mozzarella or Fontal. In the picture I have used Montasio which is a DOP cow’s milk cheese from Friuli and the Veneto but I accept this can be tricky to get hold of in the UK.
This is quite a rustic carb fest and although it is frequently served as an accompaniment with a roast meat or fish, we have enjoyed it most as a supper dish in its own right with a clean, fresh green salad (my favourite here is Little Gem, rocket and fennel in a sharp lemony dressing).
Do try it now, before spring arrives and this will be too carby – it has converted me to the humble spud!
GATTÒ DI PATATEPrint Recipe
- 1kg floury potatoes, scrubbed but left whole
- 50g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
- 6 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
- 4 medium eggs, beaten
- 3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 75g grated Parmesan, Gran Padano or Pecorino Sardo
- 150g cured meat eg salami, speck, prosciutto or mortadella (buy in a piece and cut into slim pieces, like slightly thicker matchsticks; if you use speck, I like to lightly fry it first)
- 150g cheese that melts well, eg Taleggio, Provolone, Scamoza, Mozzarella, Fontal, Montasio, sliced
- olive oil or butter to finish
- sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
- a 25cm springform cake tin or ovenproof dish, well buttered and coated with about 4tbsp of the breadcrumbs
Pre heat the oven to 180C fanBoil the potatoes in their skins until soft when pierced with a skewer
Drain and allow to cool and dry off
Peel and then mash or use a ricer to produce a dry potato powder (I have seen a recipe that says sieve it but honestly, life is too short)
Add 50g butter and mix in well to achieve a smooth potato mash
Add the meat, parsley, 50g of the Parmesan or other grated cheese and then the eggs
Mix well until smooth and spread half on the base of the tin or dish
Layer the sliced cheese over the potato, cutting up the cheese to ensure every bit of the potato is covered with cheese
Cover with the other half of the potato mix and press down quite firmly
Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and breadcrumbs and either drizzle with a little olive oil or dot with butter
Place in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown; if it hasn’t taken colour by 25 minutes, ramp it up 10 degrees for the last five minutes
Serve warm or cold with a refreshing green salad with a lemony dressing
If you’ve used a springform tin, it looks good turned out onto a pretty plate to serve I have also then used a small biscuit cutter to create bite sized pieces to use as stuzzichini, perhaps topped with a parsley leaf