Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Broad Bean and Potato Gratin

I think everybody should learn how to make a white sauce, or béchamel: my French mother did too. She insisted on teaching me before I got married, along with how to make pastry, and I have been grateful ever since.   Once you have mastered it, you are all set to produce a variety of dishes ranging from gratins  to different kinds of lasagne, macaroni cheese, fish pies, quiches and even  delicious croque monsieur. So it's a great addition to your culinary repertoire.

But what is a gratin dish?
broad bean and potato gratin
Basically it’s cooked vegetables covered in a white sauce, sprinkled with cheese and baked in the oven to an attractive golden colour. So simple, so tasty, the ideal accompaniment to any meat or even fish dish. Or if you are having a buffet supper party and want to add a dish to make the table look richer, this is a good one to have up your sleeve.

Broad beans – bakla in Turkish -  are such a wonderful spring legume and right now in Istanbul, the markets are full of them. They do have the dubious honour of having to be podded not once but twice if using like this, but not difficult. I love the cheery bright green colour once you get there!

removing the outer skin

Ingredients for Broad Bean and Potato Gratin
adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly

Serves 6

1 kg broad beans/ bakla, shelled

5 med/1 kg) potatoes

30g butter

2 tbsp plain flour

2 cups/500ml milk

2 tsp chicken stock powder

1 clove garlic, crushed

⅓ cup/40g grated cheddar cheese/eski kaşar

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese


·        *Boil, steam or microwave beans till tender. Drain, refresh under cold water, then remove and discard outer skins.

the discarded outer skins
the beautiful inner beans

·        Cut potatoes into 2cm pieces; cook in a large pan of boiling water, uncovered, until just tender. Drain.

For the white sauce:

·        Melt butter in a small pan over gentle heat; add flour a spoonful at a time, stir with a wooden spoon or use a hand whisk, over heat until bubbling. Keep on stirring, if there are lumps, they will disappear if you stir! If things are happening too quickly for your liking, you can always take the pan off the gas and incorporate the flour away from the heat.  Cook it gently just a little: this is to take away the floury taste.  Very gradually stir in milk until mixture boils and thickens. Season accordingly.

 beautiful velvety-smooth white sauce

·        Stir in stock powder, garlic, cheddar and half the thyme; cook 1 min.

I added a little chopped dill as I didn't have thyme 

·       Combine beans and potatoes in a shallow 1.5-litre/6-cup ovenproof dish; pour sauce over vegetables. Scatter combined parmesan and remaining thyme over top.

broad beans and potato in the dish and covered with the sauce
waiting to be sprinkled with the remaining cheese

·        Bake uncovered for about 35 mins at 180C° -190C°/350F°-375F° or until browned lightly.

I couldn't resist a sprinkle of Turkish flaked red pepper/pul biber
before putting it in the oven

Any gratin dish can be made in advance, covered with cling film and kept in the fridge till required. Best made the day it is to be eaten. Make sure the oven is nice and hot when you put it in. You may find it takes more time than specified here. Freezing is not a good idea.

afiyet olsun!

·        *To boil a kilo of shelled broad beans, add them to a large pan of boiling water; boil, uncovered, 2 mins. Drain then refresh under cold water ie run them under the cold tap in a sieve. This is to stop the cooking process and to preserve the bright green colour.