The very first time I had a Rosti (or so I thought) was at the tender age of 10, when the mother of one of my classmates visited our class to offer a ‘show and tell‘ about Judaism to our culturally challenged group in the small town I grew up in. As this was over 30 years ago, some of the finer points were lost – what was not was the mother of Juliet (who incidentally I had my first schoolboy crush on) fired up a gas burner, large pan, and a few minutes later offered us each a miniscule helping of what, until recently, I had always associated to be a claim of Jewish culinary tradition. The taste and texture stayed with me a long time as it would become at least another decade until I saw a variety of a Rosti on the menu.
After a bit of research (Bing – not an encyclopaedia of culinary origin) I was perplexed (to say the least) to discover that the Rosti was perhaps not solely the claim of the Jewish kitchen, but arguably somewhere else entirely – Switzerland. With regard to the etymology of the Rosti, I highly recommend the following article by Felicity Cloake (one of my favourite food writers by a long mile): How to cook the perfect rösti. There is absolutely no point in trying to compete in regurgitating the history lesson – she wins hands down.
What did interest me the most was an ongoing debate as to whether or not to parboil then grate the potatoes, or simply start with raw grated potatoes then take it from there. Neither appealed to me due to time constraints – cook the raw for longer, or parboil the potatoes, drain, then chill for a couple of hours – sadly time is seldom on my side – so I had to get creative in the ‘solution finding’ department. I hate to claim on something ‘tried and tested’ by another cook – I genuinely never found this approach when searching – apologies if this is going to sound like a well-established family favourite, but I really did plan this from beginning to end, and the following is entirely my own method.
I got thinking about how to save time when cooking, yet benefit from avoiding the potentially raw texture on the inside/overcooked on outside texture I have had on occasion. My answer – grate raw, then pour boiling hot water over (just as you would to blanch tomatoes) and leave to soak for a few minutes. In terms of texture the result? – softer on the outside, and still slightly firm on the inside.
Not only did I want to play with the texture, but I also wanted to deviate as far as I could from a more traditional recipe. I ended up being inspired by ‘cheese’ of all things, but please allow me to explain. I I spent a fantastic long weekend with my foodie fiancée in the Yorkshire Dales to celebrate her birthday, and took in a visit to the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes as one of our pit stops. Whilst the exterior may not have the greatest appeal, the visit to the cheese shop opened my eyes (and taste buds!) to the creativity of the place – we sampled 20 or so varieties of cheese and could not leave empty handed. Quite the reverse, if the top shelf of my fridge is anything to judge by!. Having been a bit overzealous in terms of purchasing many varieties, I really wanted to incorporate one of them into a recipe with a twist – and what follows looked like the perfect opportunity.
Having banged on to my partner about wanting to make a Rosti for quite some time, the opportunity had finally arisen to get on with it. My standard approach is to never just follow a tried and tested approach verbatim, but experiment from having read a few other recipes and merge together what appeals most. If it fails at first learn from it, and try again. If by the third attempt, disaster follows – give up and follow something far better ;o) I used some truly delicious extra mature Wensleydale cheese to come up with my White and Sweet Potato Cheese Rosti recipe – I really hope it does it justice.
- 2 large waxy white potatoes, peeled
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
- 25 grams (1 oz) grated extra mature Wensleydale cheese*
- 1 x tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2-3 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- freshly milled salt and black pepper to taste
- First, using a a food processor's coarse grating disc, grate both the waxy white and sweet potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with cold water and stir thoroughly to get rid of as much starch as possible, then drain in a colander.
- Return to bowl, and pour over boiling water. Leave to blanch for 5-6 mins, and drain in the colander.
- Pour the grated potato into a clean linen tea towel, wring, and squeeze as much moisture as possible. You may want to have 2-3 goes at this.
- Turn the grated potato into the same mixing bowl you used for blanching, then add the grated Wensleydale cheese, 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil, Dijon mustard, and season well. Mix thoroughly.
- Line a flat surface with grease-proof paper and grease lightly . Fill a chef's ring with the Rosti mixture, and press down using the plunger so that the mix is as compressed as possible. Repeat until you have made four Rostis.
- Heat up to high a griddle pan, and add the remaining tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Carefully slide the Rostis onto the pan, then cook for 5-6 mins until the base starts to brown.
- Carefully flip over the Rostis, and continue cooking for a further 5-6 min. Please note: if the Rosti starts to lose its shape, do not worry. They can be reassembled using the chef's ring prior to serving.
- Turn onto a plate, and serve piping hot.
- Finally, and this is entirely optional.... I quite like a firmer texture of the grated potatoes. Should you want these softer on the inside, transfer onto a baking tray and cook for a further 10-15 minutes at 200C.