potato pancakes with creamy mushrooms and cavolo nero

this is a wonderful dish for days when you’ve been overindulging and need a little respite, but nothing too austere. in fact there’s nothing austere about this but the earthy combination of mushrooms and cavolo nero somehow managed to persuade me it was a step in a healthy direction whilst also being wonderfully comforting.

the pancakes are made from mashed potato which are fried in butter before being topped with a mix of mushrooms (i used button and portobello mushrooms; a handful of something more exotic would work really well) and cavolo nero, enriched with a little white wine and double cream. a pinch of allspice and some caynenne pepper added a bit of extra interest.

i had this for brunch a couple of times, having shaped the mashed potato mix into a log that could be kept into the fridge and sliced as i needed it. perfect for a long weekend, especially if you get creative with the toppings and move on from mushrooms, perhaps towards a more mediterranean mix of slow-cooked peppers and tomatoes, served with crumbled feta and chorizo.

potato pancakes with creamy mushrooms and cavolo nero* (serves four.)

500g floury potatoes (i used king edwards)

100g unsalted butter

80g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

8-12 cavolo nero leaves, the central stem removed and the leaf chopped roughly

4 large portobello mushrooms, sliced

200g button mushrooms, halved

a handful of mixed dried mushrooms, reconstituted with 75ml boiling water (optional)

2 cloves garlic, sliced

a pinch of ground allspice berries

a pinch of cayenne pepper

75ml white wine

60ml double cream

heat the oven to 200c. prick the potatoes all over and bake for around an hour, until they are cooked, then set aside to cool. peel the potatoes and discard the skins. put the flesh in a large bowl and roughly mash. add 60g of butter while the mash is still warm, along with the flour and half a teaspoon of salt. mix to combine, then bring together into a log (you’ll want to cut slices off this to create your pancakes so make it 8-10cm long). wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 10 minutes.  you can do all this in advance – a day or two is fine – and/or use leftover mash.

heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero. cook over a low heat until the leaves are glossy and have started to wilt. add the mushrooms (keep the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms, if you are using them) and garlic. cook until the mushrooms have softened and look cooked through.

meanwhile, slice the chilled potato into eight 1cm discs . place on a floured surface and sprinkle lightly with a little more flour, dusting off any excess.

add, to the mushroom mix, the allspice, cayenne, salt and pepper, white wine, double cream and mushroom soaking liquid. bring to a simmer and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, so the liquid reduces to about half. at this point cover the pan and take it off the heat.

while the mushrooms are simmering, melt 10g of butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. once bubbling, use a spatula carefully to lift in two potato pancakes. fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden brown, then transfer to a tray lined with greaseproof paper and set aside somewhere warm. repeat with the remaining slices, wiping the pan clean each time and adding more butter.

to serve, place two potato pancakes on each plate and spoon the mushrooms on top.

* based on an ottolenghi recipe