Gateau de Pommes de terre aux oignons – Potato cake with onions

The lovely Classic Voices (from Quadrille) sent us a little teaser of their summer releases, one of which is ‘Simple French cooking for English Homes’ by X. Marcel Boulestin, first published in 1923 and containing the advice which every food blogger has taken to heart: ‘Food which is worth eating is worth talking about‘.  (On this blog we take that even further, by also talking about food which isn’t always worth eating.)

The snack-size preview proves the title is accurate and this pleases me. I like French food but am unable (i.e. too lazy) to cook a lot of Escoffier recipes, as I don’t generally keep meat jelly in the fridge. I have one volume of  Julia Child, but the long, long explanations put me off. (Though I am thinking of deploying it the next time I fancy some meringue.)

Last Sunday night it was very chilly and rainy for June,  I had not a lot of ingredients in the house and no desire to change out of my pyjamas and go out and buy some.  This is what happened:

Puree de pommes de terre
Wash, cut  and put your potatoes (the white  floury kind is the best) in salted water and bring them to the boil. When cooked, drain the water well. Mash them, add salt and pepper, a piece of butter and a little boiling milk. Whip it well over the fire. The puree must be neither too thick nor too clear and very light.

Gateau de Pommes de terre aux oignons
Cut two large onions into slices and fry them in butter till very brown. Add them to about a pound of the potato puree, add a little more salt and pepper, and put the mixture, well worked, in a buttered fireproof dish. The dish should be rather flat and the mixture not more than three quarters of an inch thick. Add a few pieces of butter on the top and brown well in the oven.

You can also do this in a frying pan, frying first one side, then the other, It gives a slightly different taste.

This is a very straight forward dish to make for any number of people, as a large potato will yield about ½lb of mash. I used 2 medium potatoes, two medium onions and needed a  5 inch square, 1 inch deep oven dish in which to cook it.

This isn’t how I normally make mash – I usually don’t peel the potatoes or add milk, boiling or otherwise. The amount of stirring in this method causes the starches in the potato to become sticky but the mash is then lightened by the added milk and butter.

If I’m baking mash, I always twirl a fork through it. No exceptions. I never miss an opportunity to increase the amount of crispiness in my diet.


This method of cooking potatoes is lovely – the end product soporifically satisfying. The texture was soft and creamy, the richness balanced by the flavours of the onion. It was good to make a vintage recipe where the author is as much of an allium fiend as I am.

This amount made two portions (for the appetites of that evening, I would never tell someone else how much mash to eat!). One portion of which was eaten straight out of the dish (see photo), both of which were eaten with steamed kale and bacon (though some crumbled Lancashire cheese would be an excellent substitute.)

This is an excellent dish to eat off your lap, when you’re a bit tired and emotional. Like so many French dishes, when you have finished it, your lips are moisturised with butter and you feel somewhat in need of a digestif.

 Terre’d by Elly

One response to “Gateau de Pommes de terre aux oignons – Potato cake with onions

  1. Comfort food with style! I often use a splash of the potato cooking-water instead of milk in mash – putting back some of the flavour that has leached out. It tastes very potato-y.