Today's special for National Vegetarian Week: the humble spud, jazzed up to dinner party standard OR just as good on the couch in your jammies...
Ruth says: "This is a good recipe for using up spuds that are going a bit soft, or a bendy leek that’s lurking in your veg box or fridge. You can use any melty cheese you like, and can make this a dinner party dish with some fancy additions… nothing if not versatile! And non-vegetarians will feel satisfied with the combination of cheese and carbs, so it’s win-win. This is adapted from my husband's Gran's famous cheese and tattie pie - his absolute favourite tea."
150-200g grated hard cheese (choose a veggie option from your local shop – use more than one type if you want!)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 leek, sliced finely
A little olive oil for sautéing the leeks
330ml semi-skimmed milk (keep extra standing by in case you need it)
A large knob of butter or margarine
1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional things to make this a dinner party sensation:
Fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme or tarragon would be nice)
A dash of white wine (about 50ml)
200ml single cream (to substitute milk)
Breadcrumbs tossed in a little melted butter
Parboil the spuds and place in your chosen over/casserole dish.
In a saucepan, gently cook the sliced leeks in the oil until softened. Add the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and, if using, a glug of white wine and any chopped herbs you like. Continue to sauté until the wine has all but evaporated.
Add the butter to the pan and heat until melted. Stir in the flour until you have a loose, almost dough-like mixture. Cook this mixture on a low heat, keeping it moving, for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.
Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously to keep the mix smooth. You’ll end up with a thick sauce. If desired, continue to add more milk until the sauce is the consistency you want. For a richer sauce you can substitute some of the milk for a small carton of single cream.
Add most of the grated cheese to this mix, setting some aside for the topping.
Pour the cheese and leek sauce over the parboiled potatoes, giving the whole thing a gentle stir to ensure the sauce is covering everything.
Top with the rest of the cheese and, if using, the breadcrumbs too. Cook in a 200 degree oven (180 fan oven) for 45 – 60 minutes. If desired, finished under the grill for a golden brown crispy topping.
Serving suggestion: Serve with steamed asparagus and spring greens tossed with the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, or some roasted veg – peppers, tomatoes and courgettes make a tasty companion. My husband Jamie likes this with lots of 'broon sauce' and some veggie sausages. Enjoy!