Potato cake


A restaurant dish if there ever was one, and it crops up in various guises, usually placed under an expensive piece of meat. If the cake is assembled with butter it could be Pommes Darphin or more commonly Pommes Anna; if cooked in rendered foie gras fat it becomes Pommes Sarladaise; the inclusion of onions would make it a Gâteau de pommes de terre Lyonnaise; and to grate the potato then bake it in butter would transport us from France to Switzerland, and we would be making Rösti. This version is more Italian in feel and is eminently achievable at home.

The grand old French restaurants around Soho used to serve many of these potato dishes, though by the time I came on the scene their standards had slipped so much that the various distinctions had become totally blurred and the chance of finding anything cooked in real goose fat were minimal. Second-hand chip oil would be the likeliest candidate.

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  • 1 kg red potatoes or bakers, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves stripped off the woody stem
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper


Preparing the Cake

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can (the best implement for this is a mandolin), then soak the slices in cold water for a few minutes to get rid of some of the starch. If you have used the slicing blade on a food processor then the soaking time will need to be much longer and involve several changes of water as this method extracts more starch from the potatoes. Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly, then mix in a large bowl with the oil, rosemary leaves and garlic slices. Season generously and toss thoroughly.

Take a 25 cm non-stick frying pan or cake tin and carefully arrange one layer of potatoes like overlapping scales in the base. This will be the top of the cake when it is turned out so a little effort here will produce a more attractive result. The remaining slices and their flavourings can be packed into the pan in a more haphazard manner. However, they should be tightly packed by pressing quite firmly.

Cooking the Cake

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

The cake must be cooked as soon as it is assembled otherwise the potatoes may discolour. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Check to see if it is cooked after a further 20 minutes. A knife inserted in the middle will tell you if this is so: your eye should note a good-looking golden colour on top and the cake is supposed to have shrunk a little, exposing brown bits on the edges where the potatoes have been in contact with the pan. When these criteria are all met, take out of the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Turning Out and Serving

Possibly the only tricky part of this recipe. Take an ovenproof flat serving dish a little wider than the pan you are using and place it over the cake. Carefully but swiftly invert the two together and the cake will drop on to the plate. The potato cake can be served straightaway or kept and reheated for 10-15 minutes in a medium oven.


This recipe works extremely well with butter instead of oil. Melt but don’t overcook the butter and proceed with the method, possibly substituting sage for the rosemary. Should you be lucky enough to lay your hands on duck, goose or foie gras fat the same applies, except the best herb is thyme. Another variation is to substitute mashed potato for the slices.