When I was a teenager and student, gratin was one of my go to dishes. Simple, cheap and indulgent – what more could a student want? Back then I usually made it with potatoes, cream and cheese, occasionally throwing in other vegetables for a touch of excitement. Or most likely, when my student loan had come in… I was so into gratin as it was one of the first non-Indian dishes I learnt, thanks to a charity shop-bought Linda McCartney cookbook.
Nowadays though, potatoes are a rare sight in my kitchen. I don’t have anything against them – I’m not one of those people that declares them bad, evil or unhealthy, I just find them a bit dull and prefer other carbs to balance my diet. Unless we’re talking tatties from Edinburgh’s Baked Potato Shop. Or chips. I’m a sucker for chips, especially proper chippy chips with brown sauce (you can take the girl out of Scotland….)
However, now and then I’ll find myself with a big bag of spuds to get through, like most recently following my Burns Supper. A few days later I decided on an impromptu French cooking session (see my stuffed mushroom recipe), going back to my gratin-based roots fitted perfectly.
This was the first time making a vegan gratin, and despite my best efforts – i.e. checking a couple of local supermarkets on the way home on a Friday – I couldn’t get my hands on any dairy-free cream. So a make-it-up-on-the-spot session ensued and I ended up with this deliciously creamy, rich potato and leek gratin that was the perfect accompaniment to the stuffed mushrooms, a bean ragout and of course the mandatory baguette!
Potato and leek gratin
- 3-4 medium potatoes, sliced
- 1 leek
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsps of dairy-free spread/butter
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1/2 cups almond (or other) milk
- 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to season
Preheat the oven to 180°c.
Parboil the sliced potatoes until slightly soft. Drain and leave to cool.
Cut the leek into quarters then slice each quarter in half so you have long pieces of leek. Rinse in cold water as they are sure to be muddy inside.
Melt 1 tbsp of spread/butter over a medium heat then add the garlic and leeks. Once soft, add the vinegar, a little salt and pepper and mix then remove from the heat.
Melt the other 1 tbsp spread/butter over a low heat and add the cornflour. Blend until you have a smooth paste. If it starts to stick to the pan add a tiny bit more spread.
Slowly add the milk, about a tablespoon at a time and mix until the paste turns in to a smooth sauce. Adding it bit by bit should prevent it from lumping. You are aiming for a white sauce consistency.
Add 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast, plus the mustard, salt and pepper. Mix, simmer and taste. If you want it thicker add more cornflour, little by little. More nutritional yeast will also thicken it slightly, and will create a richer sauce. More milk will thin it out. Add any ingredients a little at the time to stop it from going lumpy or too runny. Once satisfied take it off the heat.
In an ovenproof dish, layer the leeks, potatoes then sauce. Repeat. You can then sprinkle with a little more nutritional yeast on the top which will add a golden crisp. Bake in the oven for 15 mins or until slightly browned on top.