Aligot is one of those very basic foods which arouses great passion and disagreement over its precise composition. Richard Olney describes such dishes as ‘...rustic cooking which necessarily embodies complicated aspects, one of its roles being essentially alchemical – the magical transformation of poor or vulgar elements into something transcendental’. Quite.
Basically aligot is mashed potatoes beaten over a low heat with first butter, then crème fraîche and finally grated Cantal, a hard cheese from the centre of France that has similarities to Cheddar – which can happily substitute for it. The dish is characterized by its ribbon-like consistency.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15–20 minutes, or until done in the middle. Drain. Return to the hot pan and mash.
Add the butter and beat this in thoroughly over a low heat with a wooden spoon. Then add the crème fraîche, continuing to beat and turn, until smoothly amalgamated.
Finally, add the grated cheese, beating until the mixture forms ribbons. Season generously with pepper, only adding salt to taste, and serve immediately.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.