Nigel Slater’s recipes for potatoes with mussels and dill, and filled with cauliflower cheese | Food

When my garden was more of an allotment, there was nothing I enjoyed growing more than potatoes. The planting and earthing-up, the first green leaves poking through the soil and the mauve and white flowers like tiny stars were pleasures enough; the real business started when I plunged my garden fork into the earth and dug them up.

I no longer grow them – this garden is tiny – but I will pounce on any good-looking tattie when I’m shopping. Potatoes, pasta and polenta get me through the winter and those first chilly days of spring. Waxy fleshed or floury, “new” or as big as a brick, I always come home with a few potatoes, to bake, steam or sauté till their edges are crisp and golden.

This week I cooked a batch of small, waxy-fleshed ones in deep, salted water, drained and tossed them with a sharp and creamy dressing of cream, cider vinegar and mustard, then ate them with sweet orange mussels, their juices trickling into the sliced potatoes with the dressing. One of the best carb suppers I have had this year.

It may be early spring, but it is still chilly enough for a baked potato or two. There’s not much I haven’t stuffed into the soft depths of a crisp-skinned baked tattie – smoked mackerel, pork rillettes, crisp-fried bacon and every possible cheese – but I enjoyed this week’s version of creamy cauliflower. Cooked in milk with bay and peppercorns till very soft (it was on the verge of collapse), stirred into the buttery mash with a handful of grated parmesan, then returned to the potato skin, this is a supper that both soothes and satisfies.

Jacket potatoes with cauliflower and parmesan

The cauliflower needs to be quite soft for this, so I cook it for longer than usual, until a skewer or the point of a knife slides easily through it. The stalks, cut into thick coins, are good here, too. I mash the potato with the flat paddle attachment of a food mixer, but a potato masher or ricer will also work.

Serves 3

baking potatoes 6, medium
cauliflower 1 medium, about 500g
milk 750ml
bay leaves 2
butter 50g
parmesan cheese 75g, grated, plus a little more
parsley leaves 4 heaped tbsp

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Bake the potatoes for about an hour, depending on their size.

Break the cauliflower into florets, cut the stalks into small pieces, then put them into a saucepan with the milk and bay leaves. Season with ground black pepper and a little salt then bring almost to the boil. As the milk starts to bubble, lower the heat so the cauliflower simmers gently. When the cauliflower is tender – it should take about 25 minutes but test it with the point of a knife; if it slides through easily then it is done – remove with a draining spoon, saving the milk and set aside.

Remove a “lid” from each of the potatoes – a slice large enough for you to scoop out the inside with a spoon. Put the potato flesh into the bowl of a food mixer with the butter and mash till smooth, adding enough of the warm reserved milk to make a soft but not sloppy purée (anything from 100-250ml). Mix in the parmesan cheese and the cooked cauliflower and chopped parsley. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you wish.

Heat an overhead grill. Place the empty potato shells and their tops on a baking sheet or grill pan, fill the potatoes and their lids with the potato and cauliflower cheese mixture then dust lightly with a little more parmesan. Place under the heated grill until the surface is lightly golden and the sauce is bubbling.

Potatoes, mussels, dill

‘One of the best carb suppers I have had this year’: potatoes, mussels, dill. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Use any potatoes for this, but the waxy, yellow-fleshed varieties are particularly pleasing with the mussels. Dress them while they are still warm so they soak up more of the dressing. If you don’t want to add the cream to the dressing then double up on the olive oil, vinegar and honey.

Serves 3-4

small, waxy-fleshed potatoes 750g
mussels 500g
Dijon mustard 2 heaped tsp
cider vinegar 1 tbsp
honey 2 tsp
double cream 50ml
olive oil 50ml
dill fronds 2 tbsp chopped, plus a little more to finish

Bring a deep pan of water to the boil, then salt it generously. Scrub the potatoes, there is no need to peel them (though you can if you wish), then cook in the boiling water until tender to the point of a knife – about 15-20 minutes depending on their size.

Wash the mussels, tugging out any beards and discarding any with broken shells. Tap each one on the side of the sink; it should close immediately. Discard any that don’t. Put them into a deep saucepan with a splash of water, cover tightly with a lid, place over a high heat then cook for 3-5 minutes or so, shaking the pan from time to time, until the shells open. As soon as the mussels are open, remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool.

Remove each mussel from its shell and set aside.

Make the dressing: using a fork or small whisk, beat together the mustard, cider vinegar, honey, cream and olive oil then stir in a good grinding of black pepper and the dill fronds.

Slice the potatoes thickly into coins, then toss, while they are still warm, with the dressing. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter the mussels over. Finish with a little chopped dill.

Follow Nigel on Instagram @NigelSlater

We aim to publish recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide

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