It’s all about the side dishes

Hi Everyone, they can make or break a meal. Very often, they are the most memorable things about a meal; without them, let’s just say that your meal will be average with the ham, turkey, roast pork, beef or chicken all standing alone. Lonely. Side dishes are headliners in their own right.

20091205tasteEach holiday, whether it is Christmas, Easter, Eid, Diwali or Independence, the topic centres on food – what to cook, what traditional dishes to make and what new things to try. We get caught up in a frenzy of pre-ordering meat. Shopping lists grow long, lines to the cashiers snake through aisles, and, battle weary, we carry the heavy bags into the house, catch our breath before unpacking and checking the list to see what we have to get tomorrow, the day after, and the day after. All of this hard work leading up to that one spectacular meal you are planning and preparing for.

Assembled Potatoes Anna (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Assembled Potatoes Anna (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

The easiest part of the meal is the main course, the main item, the entrée. What’s not so easy is what to serve with it. What is going to best compliment the entrée? How many side dishes should you have? What should they be? Side dishes often come in the form of starches, vegetables and salads. They can be hot or cold, hearty or healthy. One thing is for sure, they are varied; after all, we want our tables to look outstanding with a plethora of colours and textures. One thing I’d like us all to think of this year as we prepare our cast of supporters (yeah, I mean side dishes), let us pay attention to the special diet considerations of our guests, those who may suffer from diabetes, have cholesterol problems, food intolerances and allergies. Showing thoughtfulness in your food says that you care.

Potatoes are always a hit at the table and this week, I want to share with you, two potato side

Roasted Potatoes Anna  (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Roasted Potatoes Anna (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

dishes that are sure to wow your guests, have them coming back for more and asking you for the recipes. Without further ado, I give you Duchess Potatoes and Potatoes Anna. Both of these potato dishes have their origins in France but they are really simple and easy to make. Oh and did I mention, absolutely delicious!
Duchess Potatoes

Yield: 6 servings

Sliced Potatoes Anna  (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Sliced Potatoes Anna (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)


2 pounds potatoes


Salt to taste

2 tablespoons salted butter

¾ cup grated cheddar cheese

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon water

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 medium pot and cover

1 large bowl

1 potato masher

1 rubber spatula

1 large plastic zip bag

6 small ramekin bowls
1 baking sheet/tray

1 small bowl

1 pastry brush

Duchess Potatoes  (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Duchess Potatoes (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)


1.  Peel potatoes, add to pot, cover and bring to a boil. When the pot comes to a boil, add salt to taste. Cook until fork tender.

2.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3.  Mash potatoes while hot and ensure that there are no lumps. Add butter, white pepper and cheese to potatoes while it is still hot. Mix thoroughly and taste for seasoning (salt and pepper).

4.  Mix in beaten egg ensuring that it is fully incorporated into the mixture.

5.  Snip one bottom-end of the plastic zip bag about ¾-inch across.

6.  Add the potato mixture to the bag and squeeze the top in order to force the mixture through the hole in the bag.

7.  Pipe the potatoes into the ramekins going in a circular motion until the ramekin is filled about 1 above the rim. Repeat until all the bowls are filled. Transfer the bowls onto baking sheet/tray.

8.  In the small bowl, add the paprika and ½ teaspoon water and make into a paste. Using the pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of the potatoes.

9.  Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown.

10.  Serve hot
Potatoes Anna

Yield: 1 (10-inch) Skillet

3 pounds potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 vegetable peeler

1 mandoline or slicer

1 (8 – 10 inch) cast iron skillet or a pie plate

1 pastry brush

1 spatula

1 large plate or serving platter

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Peel and slice the potatoes

thinly  about ¼-inch thick.

3.  Liberally brush the skillet or pie plate with melted butter.

4.  Starting in the centre of the skillet/plate, place one slice of potato and continue to lay down the potato slices in a circular fashion, overlapping the slices. Brush this first layer with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat the circular layering, brushing with butter and seasoning with salt and pepper until all the potatoes are used up. The final layer should be of butter, salt and pepper.

5.  Turn stove on high heat and place the iron skillet. Let cook for 4 minutes (do not do this if you are using a pie plate!).

6.  Transfer the skillet to the oven (if using a pie plate, place directly into oven after layering and seasoning).

7.  Bake for 50 – 55 minutes if using the skillet and 1 – 1½ hours if using a pie plate.

8.  Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 – 20 minutes. Using your spatula, gently loosen the potatoes from the sides of the skillet/plate. Slide the spatula along the bottom to loosen the potatoes. Take the plate or platter, turn it face down over the skillet/plate and invert the potatoes. Slice and serve.



Last week’s White Bread Recipe by Nigel Slater had under ingredients an amount of 1½ tablespoons of salt. It should have read 2 teaspoons salt. An error was made in transcribing and converting the amounts. The Scene apologises.


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