a month of gratin

one of the other things I love to do with my time is cook. i always like to plan and cook something interesting every day, and get quite miserable when something i have made is boring or hasn’t worked out.

something that has made this more interesting recently is that i have subscribed to a farm direct delivery system (foodconnect adelaide, http://www.foodconnectadelaide.com.au/). every week i pick up a beautiful box of fresh fruit and vegetables, which then form the basis of our menu for the rest of the week. cooking seasonably is something that i have long been interested in, but had been putting off as a significant commitment. now i have no choice! all of my fruit and vegetables are locally produced, organic where possible and definitely seasonal.

this has also made me realise how many if my cook books (and i have many!) are based around meat. this is not the case with many of my middle eastern or asian books, but is definitely the case with my modern australian, or restaurant-based books.

the box is quite large and we struggle to eat our way through it each week, so i’ve started learning to make more recipes that are more vegetable heavy. this has inspired me to learn how to make several dishes that i had never made before.

accordingly, april has become the month of gratin! i started with the classic gratin – potatoes, sliced finely, layered with gruyere, cream and seasoned well with a final layer of cheese on top. the only difference was the addition of a few slices of pumpkin that I had leftover. absolutely beautiful but so rich! what i was really after was a gratin that i could eat any day of the week, something tasty but not too rich, and preferably lactose free (for Nick, who is lactose intolerant).

second experiment was a tomato, potato and feta gratin with stock, inspired by the beautiful cook book Sunday Suppers at Lacques, that my sister Julie had bought me a couple of years ago. this a beautiful book, and has a french twist to the cooking style which is different from my typical way of cooking. so, this gratin was not so great. it was tasty but too sharp, i used too much feta, and the combination of tomato and feta left the feta quite grainy. tomato and feta – one of these would work well, but not both! i should say that this was not the fault of the book – it was the fault of the cook who was not following one recipe, but three

gratin number three: potato, gruyere and stock with some thyme. a great replacement for the classic. still very creamy and very tasty. this one could be a winner, particularly with a good lactose free or low cheese with similar properties. i will be trying this again.

which brings us to gratin number four! this time was potato, bacon, and kefalograviera with stock. this is one of my favorite cheeses, not really a melty cheese as such, but i thought it would work well with the bacon. i only used a little bacon, crisply fried, and cheese on each layer, as i was looking for flavor and a little texture rather than overload. i think we have a winner here, or at least, something worth exploring further.

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