My Nana was a really interesting woman. I spent a lot of time with her when I was young. In England our Summer holidays were 6 weeks long, and I used to spend almost the entire summer at her house as my Mum was working. Almost all the memories I have of her involve food. She was a stickler for timing. Dinner was at 1pm every day. Tea was at 6pm. She had a defined number of dishes that she would rotate around. When the summer holidays started, she would plan the menu for every day of the time we would spend with her. She stuck to it as well. It was quite impressive.
She used to make potato cakes from leftover mashed potatoes. I really think that it might be here that the seeds of mashed potatoes being my ultimate comfort food were sown. I know my mother sometimes made these too. I don't remember exactly what they tasted like. It was a very long time ago. I have a vague memory that she used to shape them with a gingerbread man cookie cutter. I wish I could remember better.
I always say that if I could, I would wish for a chance at a conversation with Nana as an adult. I have so much to ask her, so much to thank her for. I was thirteen when she passed away and I had no idea how many things she had taught me until I couldn't go back and ask questions for more detail.
There are a few recipes in my playbook that are inspired by her, and several I am still trying to master. I've made these a few times, and though I can't make them exactly like Nana's, I like them anyway.
I'm really into sifting flour right now, and you should too. It makes such a difference in everything!
Potato Cakes with Creamy Mushroom Gravy
For the Potato Cakes
2 Cups Prepared Mashed Potatoes
8 Tablespoons Flour, sifted
1 Cup Grated Cheddar or Parmesan Cheese (or a combination)
A few grind of Salt and Black Pepper
For the Mushroom Gravy
4oz Mushrooms (chopped)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
A few grinds of Salt and Black Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the ingredients for the Potato Cakes together in a large mixing bowl to form a dough. The dough will be a little sticky. On a lined baking sheet, portion out 8 balls of mixture. Shape into little patties. If you are having trouble with the dough sticking to your hands, wet them before you shape the balls. Top with a little more cheese.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn on your broiler and broil them on high for two more minutes to get a little color on the top.
While those are baking, make the gravy.
Melt the butter in a skillet or saute pan. Roughly chop the mushrooms and brown them in the butter. They should be lightly browned but not to the point of being crispy, and they should be at the point where they are releasing their liquid into the pan.
Pull out the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the flour to the pan and then add a little of the vegetable stock to form a paste. Add in the rest of the vegetable stock, the bay leaf, and the red wine.
Mix well and let simmer for about five to ten minutes until it starts to reduce and thicken. When the consistency is thicker but not super thick, fish out the bay leaf, add the mushrooms back in and then stir in the cream. Simmer for five more minutes, keeping an eye on the thickness.
When the sauce is the consistency of gravy in the manner you like it, take it off the heat. It will thicken more as it cools. This should be around the same time as the potato cakes are done.
Spoon some mushrooms and gravy over the potato cake. Garnish with a little fresh parsley! These are also really good reheated in the oven. The gravy also goes really really well on a grilled chicken breast.
Makes 8 Cakes and about 1 1/4 Cups of gravy.
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