Potatoes — Les pommes de terre

My mother taught me that homemade food is the norm — I don’t even question it. At home, we never ate take-outs, simply because they did not exist — and how could they, in a small village in rural France, nearly thirty years ago? For us, the rule was simple: our meals were always prepared by mum, and it still continues to this day in my parents household. She feeds her love to us through her homemade food.

With the years going by though, like many of you, I’ve developed a true love and interest in dining out. To be inspired, surprised, to learn about new ingredients and cooking methods, to share special times with the people I love, and of course, to get a break from the kitchen.

But I must say, it will never replace the taste of a homemade meal.

potato soup smoked salmon

Potato Soup

My mum also taught me that modest dishes can make the best meals, as long as care is given to choose the right ingredients, those that are the most seasonal and local, and homegrown if possible.

I find such differences really noticeable in the quality of vegetables, potatoes (les pommes de terre) in particular.

I still remember the joy I had the first time I went out to dig for potatoes with my grand-mother. An entire side of her large garden was in fact dedicated to potatoes only.

C’est de la bonne terre à patates,” she used to tell me as we worked along (the soil is good for spuds).

The whole process fascinated me. I thought it magical to find so many potatoes under only one plant. Each time, actually, was a surprise, as we never knew how many potatoes there would be once we started to dig. I liked to pick them up, rub off the dirt carefully, and pile them into my small woven basket; it gave me a sense I had found a precious treasure.

Le trésor de la Nature.

Later in the day, mémé L. and I would arrange the freshly picked potatoes in cagettes that we stored in the cellar, the darkest and coolest place in the house, to ensure they would keep longer during the winter.

And I clearly remember their amazing taste, especially the rattes variety that we made sure to plant every year. These potatoes revealed a unique nutty flavor, remaining firm in the mouth, yet smooth at the same time.

So between P. the Irish, and me the French, it is no surprise if I tell you that we both love potatoes. All of them; they inspire my cooking tremendously. Like in the recipes for this potato soup and stuffed potatoes. I remember how excited I was to visit Peru because I knew I would discover an amazingly large range of potato varieties.

So when I purchase these pearls of the soil, I am fussy about their quality. Like everything else, you can buy amazingly good potatoes, and terrible ones — think a piece of fruit rushed to grow without sun, not a good sight, is it?

During the summer when I can cycle to the farmer’s market, I buy them from local producers. I like the fact that most of them have an irregular shape. And when the markets close for the season, I always buy organic potatoes as they’ve always proven better in texture — and taste.

And of all, the best thing for me is actually to observe P.’s face when I tell him that I’ve prepared potatoes for dinner. His face lights up like a flower opening at the crack of dawn. Simple things like a homemade dish of potatoes make him truly happy.

Did I ever tell you what I used to tell Agathe when she would bring potatoes on the table?” I asked P. as we were sitting at the dining table, eating les pommes de terre farcies (the stuffed potatoes) I had prepared.

Agathe is my grand-mother’s oldest sister, a strong woman in love with gardening, cats, and good life.

Non. Quoi ?

Well, Agathe used to baby sit me when I was just two and my mother went back to work. Apparently, every time she brought potatoes on the table, I would exclaim “Oh les bonnes poterres**!” She still mentions it today!”

P. would well be capable of such a thing today too. I wish you could just see his face when I bring a dish of potatoes on the dining table.

It’s magical too.

And while we wait (the last month, already!), we’ve already decided that bébé will like pommes de terre.

Just like papa et maman.

PS: It surely looks like I have my own big potato in the oven, doesn’t it?


** For those of you interested, poterres is actually not the correct way to refer to potatoes in French. I do not want to teach you incorrect French, or have you walk around referring to potatoes as poterre. At the age of two, I was simply incapable of pronouncing pommes de terre correctly.

Stuffed Potatoes with Mushrooms

Stuffed Potatoes with Mushrooms

You need:

  • 6 medium-sized organic potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1 leek, white part only, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated finely
  • 5.5 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat) or dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons mixed chopped parsley and oregano
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • 2 slices of smoked salmon, diced

Steps:

  • Wash the potatoes and steam them, unpeeled, until still firm but cooked; let cool.
  • In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one of butter in a frying pan. Sweat the leek, garlic and shallot for 5 minutes, without browning.
  • Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and continue to cook for about 4 minutes.
  • Add the Vermouth and continue to cook until all the juice is evaporated.
  • Place this preparation in the bowl of your mixer and mix.
  • Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly before adding the mascarpone cheese and herbs; set aside.
  • Preheat your oven at 350 F.
  • Once the potatoes are cooled, remove 1 inch slice from the top of each. Scoop out the flesh, making sure to leave the shell intact.
  • Add the potato flesh, pieces of salmon and a dash of nutmeg to the mushroom mixture, and mix well.
  • Spoon each potato with this preparation. Place the potatoes in a dish, add a splash of olive oil on each and bake for 15 minutes or so.
Potato Soup

(For 4 people)

You need:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, diced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 lb 3.5 oz peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • 5.5 oz parsnips
  • 8 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups cold water
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • A few fingerling potatoes, steamed
  • 4 large smoked salmon slices, diced finely
  • Crème fraiche
  • Fleur de sel (optional), to serve

Steps:

  • In a cocotte, heat the butter and oil. Add the leek, shallot and garlic and sweat for 5 minutes, without browning.
  • Then add the potatoes, parsnip, sage leaves and bay leaf. Cover with water, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook on medium to low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are fork tender. Discard the bay leaf and mix the soup; keep warm.
  • Peel the fingerling potatoes and dice them. Heat 1 tablespon oil in a frying pan and add them with the salmon. Brown for a few minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon crème fraiche at the bottom of each plate. Add the soup and garnish with the sauteed potatoes and salmon. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and add chopped parsley.
Le coin français
Pommes de terre farcies aux champignons

Ingrédients :

  • 6 pommes de terre bio à chair ferme de taille moyenne
  • 15 g de beurre
  • Huile d’olive
  • 1 poireau, partie blanche, émincé
  • 1 échalote, hachée
  • 1 gousse d’aïl, râpée finement
  • 150 g de champignons des bois, nettoyés et émincés
  • 1 càs de Vermouth sec (Noilly Prat) ou de vin blanc sec
  • Sel et poivre
  • 1,5 càs de mélange de persil et d’origan hachés
  • Pincée de muscade
  • 4 càs de mascarpone
  • 2 tranches de saumon fumee, coupées en dés

Etapes :

  • Lavez les pommes de terre et faites-les cuire à la vapeur avec leur peau jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient cuites, mais restent fermes. Laisse-les refroidir.
  • Pendant ce temps, faites chauffer 1 càs d’huile d’olive avec le beurre dans une poêle. Faites surer le poireau, l’aïl et l’échalote pendant 5 minutes, sans brunir.
  • Ajoutez les champignons, assaisonnez de sel et poursuivez la cuisson pendant 4 minutes environ.
  • Ajoutez le Vermouth et poursuivez la cuisson jusqu’à ce que le liquide se soit évaporé.
  • Mettez cette préparation dans le bol de votre mixeur et mixez.
  • Transférez dans un bol et laissez refroidir avant d’ajouter la mascarpone et les herbes; mettez de côté.
  • Préchauffez le four à 180 C.
  • Une fois les pommes de terre refroidies, coupez un chapeau pour chacune d’entre-elles. Evidez les pommes de terre en prêtant attention à garder les bords et le fond intacts.
  • Ajoutez la chair de pommes de terre, les dés de saumon et une pincée de muscade au mélange de champignons. Assaisonnez de sel et de poivre, et mélangez bien.
  • Farcissez chacune pomme de terre avec cette farce. Mettez les pommes de terre dans un plat allant au four. Arrosez-les d’huile d’olive et faites cuire pendant 15 minutes environ.
Soupe de pommes de terre

(Pour 4 personnes)

Ingrédients :

  • 15 g de beurre
  • 1 càs d’huile d’olive
  • 2 poireaux, partie blanche, hachés
  • 1 échalote, hachée
  • 1 gousse d’aïl, hachée
  • 550 g de pommes de terre Yukon Gold pelées, coupées en dés
  • 150 g de panais
  • 8 feuilles de sauge, hachées grossièrement
  • 1 feuille de laurier
  • Sel et poivre
  • 1 l d’eau froide
  • Persil frais, haché
  • Quelques rattes, cuites à la vapeur
  • 4 grandes tranches de saumon fumé, coupées en petits dés
  • Crème fraiche
  • Fleur de sel (facultatif), pour servir

Steps:

  • Dans une cocotte, faites chauffer le beurre avec l’huile. Ajoutez le blanc de poireau, l’échalote et l’aïl et faites suer pendant 5 minutes, sans brunir.
  • Ajoutez les pommes de terre, le panais, les feuilles de sauge et la feuille de laurier. Couvrez avec l’eau froide, et assaisonnez de sel et de poivre.
  • Faites mijoter à couvert pendant environ 20 minutes, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient tendres. Retirez la feuille de laurier et mixez la soupe; gardez-la au chaud.
  • Pelez les rattes et coupez-les en dés. Faites chauffer 1 càs d’huile dans une poêle et ajoutez les dés de pommes de terre et de saumon. Faites brunir pendant quelques minutes.
  • Ajoutez 1 càs de crème fraiche au fond de chaque assiette creuse. Versez la soupe chaude dessus et garnissez avec les dés de pommes de terre et de saumon. Saupoudrez de fleur de sel et de persil frais haché.

64 comments

  1. Préparées aveec autant d’amour qu’il en transparait dans ce post, Bébé ne pourra que les aimer, les poterres de sa jolie maman…

  2. ma poste favorite. c’est une histoire adorable, sentimental – et j’aime les poterres :-)

  3. Bea, c’est vraiment beaux, ces photos. Ma grandmere a aussi jardiné et nous avons tous les étés manger en legumes du jardin.
    What a pity it is so difficult to grow our own produce in the city now, non? One day my grand desir is to have my own kitchen garden, with lots of sun, to grow my own.

  4. Bea, speaking if potatoes, are daphinoise potatoes the national dish of France? I said this to my French teacher a few years ago and he almost flunked me.

  5. I’ll never forget the first time I visited a farm that grew potatoes. Little me thought they were rocks filling the field, and I asked my father, “How do they farm in this field with all these rocks?!” Thanks for bringing back the memory. Lovely post.

  6. jolie future maman, joli poste, jolies photos = joli bebe, I’m sure !

  7. I completely agree. We also grew up eating at home the food that my mom made. Take out, frozen food or even soda. we never had any of it. just plain ingredients. I still like to cook our everyday meals myself and hopefully I will teach my son that same thing my mom taught me. These potatoes look rustic and comforting and I know bebe is well fed. Hope you are feeling healthy during this last stretch!

  8. Adorable photo of you and your potato in the oven! You photos are always so full of inspiration and beauty. Have you written a recipe book? If so, please let me know, I would love to have it in my kitchen!
    These dishes look amazing and you are so blessed to have been surrounded with gardening and delicious French food from a young age!

  9. A super post, just love your photos….bright and inviting..My stepfather still has an allotment, always bringing veggies for us!! Yes he is Irish too and loves his potatoes, as my boys and husband do as well :-)..I love the picture of potatoes at the top…I remember digging for potatoes..what fun.

    I try and cook most days during the week, but nearly always at the weekend…I have stopped cooking a lot since my boys left home, maybe I need to pick it up again. I wish we had more markets like yours.

    How funny “Potato in the oven” . Hope all goes well, we are awaiting the birth of our 4th grandchild due anyday now.

  10. I don’t have a food processor (yet) so I had my potato leek soup nice and chunky. Of course, I made too much and ate potatos for an entire week. I love the smoke salmon garnish though-great idea!

  11. La recette des pommes de terre farcies a l’air bien intéressante! Je vais devoir l’essayer bientôt! 2008 est d’ailleurs l’année de la pomme de terrre, il faut lui rendre hommage pendant qu’il est encore temps!

  12. Déjà le dernier mois! Que le temps passe vite.
    J’ adore les rattes et les rosevaals, que malheureusement je ne trouve pas à Rome. Ici les pommes de terre ne semblent pas avoirt de nom. Quelle tristesse. Je pense souvent à faire du trafic avec ma mère…

  13. Absolutely stunning photos. Love the potato soup recipe, I have an old icelandic recipe for potato soup somewhere in my scrap books….will try to dig it up and post on my site.

    thanks

  14. Homemade food always get my thumbs up!! I love pomme de terre too!! Soup… baked… frites…..
    By the way, I have never used the purple/pink potatoes.. do they taste the same as the normal ones?

  15. Bea, tu es resplendissante, bon courage pour ton dernier mois! De mon cote, plus que 7 jours avant le terme!
    J’ai justement fait un gratin dauphinois il y a quelques jours, mmmmmm ;)

  16. Oh Béa, if my husband were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food to sustain him it would be potatoes! He’s laughing at me as I write this, but it’s true! Because I love him so, I will make him a pot of your wonderful soup tomorrow. I can’t believe you’ve only one more month to go. A New Year’s baby?

  17. Bea,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog for the last few months after returning from Europe. Your beautiful pictures and prose really helps me to recenter my thoughts and feelings and focus on what’s important….being food of course! But really, you bring an element of nature and nostagia to your writing that my generation lacks and unfortunately as a globalized world we are losing our connection to the simplicity of life and the beauty within the most simple aspects of that life.

    Sorry to get philosophical, but the crazy, non-stop, pre-made American life drives me nuts sometimes.

    Many congratulations on your baby!
    Erin

  18. Ton blog est vraiment superbe. Bravo ! J’aime les photos, les recettes et l’écriture. C’est toujours un régal. Merci.
    MC

  19. the potatoes sound delicious, and your pictures are beautiful. and your belly is waay prettier than a big baking potato ;)

  20. You look absolutely gorgeous Bea! Well, you know I share the same experiences about growing up in France and home cooked meals. Here, it won’t surprise you either that I still cook, everyday lunch and dinner and even when our schedules differ there is something on the stove to heat up. And if it was up to me it would always be a potato dish! With a dad from the North…it has to be a potato somewhere!!
    Love the soup Bea! Another one of your recipe I know we’ll have soon!

  21. In India this is the culture too…Amma cooks food at home and its faulty those days if you eat out. The infused love and care should have made us this strong and loving too. The soup and stuffed potatoes look adorable. I wish you a safe normal delivery! Welcome little bebe!

  22. Wow, delicious!
    I just love the idea of pimping up the soup with salmon and potato dices, I will be serving this one soon, for sure.

    I stuff my potatoes with mushrooms too (plus diced bacon plus potato flesh plus chervil or parsley and butter and nutmeg), but I prefer not mixing the farce. Purely a matter of taste. Finally I use to bake my stuffed potatoes with cheese slices on top.

    Mmmmm…

    PS: Love your blog!

  23. Quelle jolie photo de toi! Les autres photos sont superbes également. Et que dire de la recette! ,)

  24. Hello

    i had it yesterday- it was delicious. As i commented already at the chocolate cake…a tartine book with all the wonderful pictures, recipes would be fabulous…
    All the best especially for the arriving of Bébé,
    Alex

  25. I will definitely have to try both recipes soon – we are huge potato fans here at our house as well. I hope that this last month of your pregnancy is restful and as relaxing can be. Stock up on your sleep as best you can. Congratulations!

  26. Coming to your blog makes me wish I lived here. I always leave feeling very inspired and thie post on potatoes of all things is no exception.

    Beautiful, simply beautiful.

  27. I can’t believe you still have the energy to cook on the last month of pregmancy! Happy Holidays to you, P and bebe!

  28. Wow! The colour composition in your photos are fantastic! I have never heard of stuffed potatoes but after looking at your recipe I am definitely going to try them!

  29. The dress you are wearing is adorable! Would you share where you found it with me? It looks handsewn. The other dress too, brown with flowers (you had a photo of yourself in it a month ago) left me wondering where you are finding these treasures. I am a lover of food and of fabrics and textiles.

    Thank you!

  30. Ah such a happy time Béa and somehow potatoes seem just the right thing here now. Many refer to me as the potato freak because I really do have a fixation for them – all kinds, all ways. Specially love the first photo. Potatoes and babies always win my heart.
    Wishing you safe delivery and happy baby.

  31. i ‘m reading your blog about six months now ..you are so talented!i am always surpised with your photos, your recipes and your posts!i am fron greece and i’ m very happy to read tha you love greek food!

  32. Ton ventre est bien rond ! la cigogne va bientôt prendre son service… je suis très tentée par ta petite soupe, une sorte de réconfort dans la tempête hivernale…

  33. Oh, digging for potatoes – I wouldn’t have changed a single word when descriping this small adventure ..

    Potatoes generally – so manifold, you could eat them for every meal in another variation. Do you know German Christmas pastry? (Maybe it’s the same in France) Thinking of it, there is at least two biscuits mainly made of potatoes – Kartoffel-Lebkuchen (p. gingerbread) and Liegnitzer Bombe (similar to honey/fruits cake)..

    I wish all the best to your baby and a very good birth you can remember as the most exciting and happiest moment in life later!

    And I’m also interested in the origin of this dress ;-)

  34. Quand j’étais jeune, je n’aimais pas trop les patates mais j’ai appris à les cuisiner différemment et à les aimer. J’ai acheté récemment un sac de toutes petites pommes de terre de toutes les couleurs, c’était joli et vraiment délicieux.

    Tes recettes me plaisent beaucoup et j’ai bien envie de les essayer bientôt.

  35. Si tu demandes à un grand chef, quelle est sa nourriture préférée, la plupart du temps la réponse est un plat tout simple, préparé par une maman ou une grand-mère. En robe des champs, ou en ce moment en robe de chambre, si la pomme de terre est de qualité, c’est un régal tout simple. C’est super d’avoir votre bébé au moment des fêtes, bon courage.

  36. Another lovely picture, Bea…. and in just one more month bébé will be here!!!! Time flies…

  37. Love the potato garnish for the soup! Quite an indulgence. Are there people who don’t like potatoes? The stuffed potatoes are also darling!

  38. I haven’t been here in a long time because I’ve mostly been sick with my pregnancy (but look at you with your dainty belly! je crois que le mien est seulement un peu plus petit but I’m a full 3 months behind you) but potatoes are one of the only things I’ve been able to eat all along, even at my worst, which probably attests to the “power of the potato” in my family . I look forward to your recipes for bébé as I am planning on making my bébé all his food as well. Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl or are you waiting for the surprise?

  39. What a fabulous post, it’s like part of a book, really.

    Your first photo makes the potatoes look like Easter eggs!

  40. I’m so excited for you all! Having a baby? The best experience in the world. And we know this little one will eat well. All the best breathing and laughter to you in the home stretch.

  41. Another beautiful photo of you Bea. And honestly, I think it would be a very strange person who did not class potatoes as one of their favourite things to eat.

  42. Hi,

    I name is Evelyne and I am from Montreal, Canada.
    I found your site while surfing the net and really enjoyed it. I love the articles and quality of your site. I linked your site to my food blog.

    This coming March 2009 I will be celebrating my 2nd year of a dinner group I created. Its called Cheap Ethnic Eatz…well because we go to relatively cheap ethnic restaurants.
    Not long after its creation I started a blog to do reviews of places we have discovered and I also write the occasional article on food or cooking. I also built and am currently writing a website on World Ethnic Food DOT com.

    I would very much like for you to consider adding my blog or website to you blog roll.
    If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

    http://cheapethniceatz.blogspot.com

    Thank you!
    Evelyne

  43. Many many thanks everyone for your lovely notes! They all touch me, you need to know, even if I am unable to respond individually.
    The dresses? Kanabeach and Gap Maternity! ;-)

  44. Superbe billet, de plein de façons différentes. L’amour est si évidemment et lumineusement dans votre univers, c’est magnifique. Et les poterres… Une de mes filles les appelaient pototerres…

  45. What beautiful photography! Splendid indeed. Love all your recipes. Congrats to your pregnancy and to a safe delivery! Cheers!

  46. Pingback: Some sort of stir-fry « Le Petit Passant

  47. Oh, look at the colours of those potatoes – too gorgeous! And the soup sounds fabulously comforting for this time of year. How can anybody NOT love pommes de terre?? Lovely photo of you too, Bea – holding thumbs that all goes smoothly with your little potato bun :)

  48. What spectacular photographs!! … potatoes and soup, two of my most favorite things, this I have to try!

  49. Gorgeous photography. You look like a very radiant mum-to-be in your portrait! I completely agree about potatoes. There are so many things you can do with them, savoury and sweet. I despair with the lack of choice of different varieties here… one day, when I have a garden maybe I’ll try to grow my own.

  50. I cooked the potato soup this evening, it’s DELICIOUS! The creme fraiche and the salmon are a must.
    There are still some more so I can make my co-workers jealous tomorrow ;)

  51. Bonjour, Je viens tout juste de recevoir une copie de votre livre qui est, soit dit en passant SUPERBE !!! Il y a plein de recettes inspirantes, ça donne l’eau à la bouche. Cependant il y a quelques photos dont les recettes ne sont pas dans le livre et je me demandais où on peut les trouver. Merci à l’avance !!!

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