18 May 2016

Cheesy Ham and Potato bake - a trip back in time

Oh I only wish I could show you how excited I am by this dish - and how completely stuffed but happy I was by the time I'd eaten it.  You see, it took me back to years ago when I would spend a week at my cousin's house and then she would spend a week at ours.  Happy days!  My aunt would cook dinners like this - comforting, kids' dinners of potatoes and cheese.

A Facebook friend was responsible for the inspiration for this dish, though.  She posted photographs of a very similar thing, but with sliced potatoes instead of chunks, that instantly reminded me of this sort of meal and how much I liked it.  Her recipe was very much made for adults though, being a version of scalloped potatoes and using garlic, much more double cream and some creme fraiche.

So I looked at various recipes and tried to recall the way my Aunt's dinner looked and tasted - and this is the result.  No, it won't win any awards for gastronomy but I suspect it could win a few where reminiscence is concerned!

It really is simplicity itself.  Par-boiled potatoes are mixed with diced ham, sliced spring onions and a good, thick and cheesy sauce seasoned with English mustard powder and nutmeg.  Cover with cheese and bake in the oven.  I love dishes that have a great payoff for minimum effort - and this is definitely one of those.

You can tinker about with the recipe as much as you like, to your own preference, too.  Add peas or sweetcorn, use a cooked supermarket ham hock for the meat instead of sliced ham - just shred the meat before you add it.  Add the chopped chives to the cheese sauce.  Maybe adultify it a little by adding garlic granules to the sauce.  All manner of tinkering about could go on!

I served mine in two ways - I served mine simply with a baked tomato.  For my son, I cooked some sausages and gave him some raw tomato that had been tossed with chives as growing boys need their protein and he doesn't like cooked tomato.  Oh boy, it was so good!


Ingredients :

4-5 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced into half inch pieces
4 spring onions, sliced
10-15g salted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
300ml skimmed milk (you may not need it all)
100ml double cream
1 tsp plain Philadelphia cream cheese
a scant pinch of sea salt
a good pinch of ground black pepper
a quarter tsp of grated nutmeg
1 tsp English mustard powder
250g of mixed cheeses, grated (I used Gouda and mature Cheddar)
200g thick sliced ham, cut into half inch pieces
30g of grated cheese (I used Red Leicester)
chopped chives to serve.

Method :

Place the potato dice into a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes until just slightly softened, then drain and tip the potato into the baking dish.

Slice the spring onions and add them to the potato in the baking dish.

In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and once melted, add the flour and stir well. Cook over a moderate heat for 1-2 minutes, then add a little milk and remove the pan from the heat. Stir the milk into the butter/flour mixture until lump free, then return to a reduced heat and add a little more milk. Stir that in and add the cream, cream cheese, seasoning, nutmeg and mustard powder and stir through.

As the sauce heats, make sure to keep stirring to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the pan. You need a fairly thick sauce at this stage, you can always add more milk once the cheese is melted, if necessary.

Add the mixed grated cheese and remove from the heat as it melts. You need the sauce to be fairly thick, but still of pouring consistency. When you are happy with the sauce, plate it on one side.

Add the ham pieces to the potato/onion mixture and stir through. Pour the cheese sauce over and give a light stir, just to make sure the sauce is right the way through the potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place into a pre-heated oven at 180degF/350degC/Gas 4 for 45 mins or until the potatoes are soft and cooked through.

Sprinkle with chopped chives for colour and serve.

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