Greece and France, especially Paris, are two of my favourite places in the world. I have daily daydreams about moving to Crete or Corfu or Rhodes, and I was once so moved by the beauty of Paris by night that I burst into tears as my taxi sped alongside the Seine. The beauty and the food of both places keep me coming back. In France, I have enjoyed many a potato gratin, while in Greece, spinach and feta is a classic, comfort food combination that makes everything better.
Last night, my passion for the food of both these places came together in the one baking dish with a potato and celeriac gratin with spinach and feta for a Greek twist. Just as I used some of the enormous Asda bag of spinach leaves a few days ago for a spinach and feta soup, I used a few more in this delicious gratin that I served alongside roast pork with gravy and asparagus, which I cooked in the oven with diced bacon.
The potato and celeriac slices give it satisfying carb-laden stability, the use of double cream is heavenly, and 200g of feta is crumbled throughout. Products labelled “Greek-style salad cheese” work just as well as the more expensive feta cheese – I got mine for 75p in Asda and it was full of the salty, creamy goodness that you expect from feta.
For the rosemary, I grow my own – it is a plant that is pretty much impossible to kill. A rosemary plant from a supermarket produce section generally won’t cost any more than about £1 (or 50p at Asda), they grow well in pots so you don’t need a huge garden, they are hardy in the worst of British weather, and it means you never need to buy rosemary again. I plant them all over the place, mostly to remind myself of the glorious rosemary hedges that grew with abandon at a hotel we stayed at in Crete.
Sigh, I really miss travel…
Two tablespoons, olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
200g celeriac, chopped into 0.5cm thick, rectangular slices.
500g potatoes, chopped into 0.5cm thick slices
3 cloves garlic, crushed
300ml double cream
200g feta, crumbled
300g spinach leaves
Seasoning: Salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg and rosemary to taste. If you’re nervous with seasoning, start with half a teaspoon of each, have a taste, and increase it little by little until you reach the flavour level you prefer. If you’re using fresh rosemary, chop the leaves into small bits, and save a few sprigs to garnish on top before it goes in the oven – or a sprinkling of dried rosemary is fine.
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the onion, celeriac, potato and garlic until the vegetables start to soften.
- Add the double cream, milk and seasoning to taste. Stir well, turn up the heat until it just starts to bubble, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- In a baking dish (the one in the picture is 7 inches by 10 inches), spoon a layer of the creamy vegetable mix on the bottom, then a layer of spinach leaves and crumbled feta, then more cream vegetable mix and so on, until the dish is full. Garnish with a few more leaves, some extra rosemary, and crumbled feta.
- Bake for 45 minutes and serve hot.