"If you can't afford truffles, you indulge in Truffade"
I think I'm only on about my fifth post on this new website and already I'm resorting to a lucky dip. Moreover I actually cheated and asked David to pick the book. I picked the recipe.
And here we are with Elizabeth David and a slim volume full of pretty rustic and plain dishes. Which doesn't mean that it's not good, I hasten to add. It is a pretty stained and used book, so I think I have made quite a few things from it - a cassoulet from a page or two before might have been one of them.
This dish is from a chapter called Luncheon, supper and family dishes. I think, from her introduction that she sees this section as a section on food that essentially is made up on the spur of the moment with whatever is to hand. Not very exciting but homely and tasty.
The section is fronted by a line drawing of a large family gathered around a table for lunch. I wouldn't have included it as it isn't really relevant but it so reminded me of the luncheons that I enjoyed in my days as an au pair at my employers' family home in the
Jura countryside - well the family home of the lady of the house. Anyway the whole family would gather - with just such a window at the end of the table and talk, and discuss life, the universe and everything, not to mention the glorious food on the table. There wasn't a maid that I remember but there was the cook who served the food.
But back to the lucky dip dish. I haven't made this dish - well not that I can remember, though I might have been tempted. It's got my favourite potatoes in it after all. It's actually called La Truffade, and it's from the Auvergne, specifically the Cantal district of the Auvergne. I say it's 'actually' called La Truffade, because Elizabeth David calls it La Truffado for some reason. Maybe that's a dialect version of the same word. But it's famous in the Auvergne - a blogger from Cantal said it is the dish to eat when you are in the area. And that quote at the top of the page infers how it got its name. Initially I looked up La Truffado and found a whole lot of Spanish dishes which were indeed related to truffles - things stuffed with truffles in fact. And les truffles is the french for truffles. No truffles in the dish though - or mushrooms either. Though I guess if you were going to fiddle you could add some.
And maybe you can only eat it there because it uses a particular kind of cheese called Tomme fraiche de Cantal. Elizabeth David says you can substitute Cheshire, but I don't really think so. Cheshire seems to be simultaneously more crumbly but also harder. So what is Tomme fraiche de Cantal? Well one source said described it thus:
"The tome fraîche, sometimes called tomme d’aligot, is a strongly pressed, slightly fermented and unsalted curd made from cow’s milk,"
It looks like it is often bought in small slabs in plastic packaging. And on looking at it you could be tempted to buy processed cheese slices, but Elizabeth David says no, no, no. I don't think it's quite a Cheshire though. And it's not Tomme de Cantal either (one of my French favourites by the way) because that's a hard cheese. I did see other people suggesting Gruyère or Cheddar - even a mixture of Gruyère and mozzarella - Gruyère for the taste and mozzarella for the stringiness.
I suspect the cheese may indeed be crucial because when I looked for pictures of the finished dish they varied a fair bit, from a cheesy mush to crispy kind of potato croutons. And I suspect that may all be to do with the cheese, though it might be the method too.
I don't think I can find a picture of Elizabeth David's version. There certainly wasn't one in the original book. We are talking about her recipe after all. However, in her recipe she refers you to another of her recipes to follow to begin with, and then you add the cheese later. The rather beautiful photograph at left is from Elizabeth David on Vegetables - a much more recently published selection of her recipes - with pictures. On the page opposite to this is a recipe for Galette de Pommes de Terre - shown here - and below that the recipe for La Truffado. All of which does seem to imply that it should look more pancake like than anything. So here are the two recipes just so that you can have a go. It's often served with sausages by the way. Generally as a side dish anyway. And everyone seems to agree in a general way on the ingredients - potatoes, an animal fat, bacon, garlic and that cheese. They vary a fair bit in technique though. This is what Elizabeth David does:
"This is a peasant dish from the Auvergne, made with fromage de Cantal, which is something like English Cheshire cheese, which can be used instead, but it must be real Cheshire, not processed cheese, which will not melt.
Sllce 1lb of raw potatoes thinly and cook them in a frying-pan as for the Galette de Pommes de Terre (below), with the addition of a few small dice of bacon and clove of garlic finely chopped. When the potatoes are almost cooked add the cheese, about 2 oz. cut in very small pieces and turn the potatoes once or twice so that the cheese spreads all over them.
Cover the pan, turn the fire off, and leave the cheese to melt in the heat of the pan for 5 minutes before serving."
GALETTE DE POMMES DE TERRE
"Peel about 1 1/2 lb of potatoes and slice them very thinly and evenly. Wash them in plenty of cold water. In a thick frying-pan heat a tablespoon of butter and one of oil (the mixture of butter and oil gives a good flavour, and the oil prevents the butter from burning).
Put the potatoes into the pan and spread them evenly; season with nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper; turn the heat down as soon as they start to cook, cover the pan and leave them cooking gently for 15 minutes; by this time the under surface will be browned and the potatoes coagulated in such a way as to form a pancake; turn the galette over and leave the other side to brown for 3 or 4 minutes; serve either turned out whole on to a flat dish or cut into quarters."
I suspect this is one of those simple sounding dishes that is fraught with disaster - burnt potatoes, can't turn them over, cheese sticks to the pan and you never get it all out of the pan. I don't envy whoever is doing the washing up. But if I ever visit the Auvergne again I might give it a go. It's a lovely part of France.