A Royal Wedding and a misspelled cake – gattò di patate

I was musing over the forthcoming wedding of Kate and Wills the other day and imagining what a nightmare a royal banquet must be these days for the planners and organisers.  Can you imagine! — it’s not just a question of choosing a few dishes and putting a grand menu together, oh no, you’ve got to take into account how ‘gastronomically diverse’  the wedding guests are going to be.  There are bound to be vegetarians,  and not just vegetarians but vegans too, and then there are those who cannot eat pork, and then there are those who are celiac, and then there are those who have intolerances and finally those who are beset by allergies.  And then of top of that, you’ve got make the menu as ‘British’ as possible because royal weddings are as patriotic an event as you can get.  Some things never change.

Flash back to 1768 and picture, if you will then, the Italian brigade of kitchen staff vying with the newcomers, the French chefs, all banding together to plan and prepare for the wedding of Marie Caroline (sister of Marie Antoinette) to Ferdinand, King of Naples.  There is a dish that is typical of the Campania/Naples region called ‘gattò di patate’ made up of mashed potatoes, eggs, butter, cheese and ham.  And it is accepted historical kitchen lore that the dish was specifically ‘invented’ on the occasion of this royal wedding.

It is unclear whether the inventors of the dish were the French or the Italian chefs at court but it is generally agreed that that the dish was indeed created in the royal kichens of Naples and that all the ingredients, save for the very French use of butter of course, were all available locally, all very Sourced-in-Kingdom-of-Naples.

The name ‘gattò’ is a corruption of the French word ‘gateau’ and is not the only kitchen term to have found its way into the Neapolitan culinary parlance … ‘gattò mariaggio’ is what became of ‘gateau du mariage’ and the appellation ‘Monzù’ for a high-ranking chef is how ‘Monsieur’ was rendered in pidgin; croquettes became crocchè and ragout became ragù.  One of the most elaborate, fancy and famous of Neapolitan monzu-inspired dishes is the meatball-filled rice-cake ‘sartù’ which probably derives its name from the French ‘surtout’.   It’s amazing what a royal wedding can spark off, isn’t it!

Anyway, if gattò di patate was good enough for Marie Caroline and Ferdinand, it’s good enough for me!  I love it and so does all the rest of the family.  It can be eaten hot but it’s usually eaten at room temperature.  It can be a meal in itself, accompanied by a crisp and rich salad.  Fantastic for stand-up dinners, for picnics and for parties.

POTATOES – THE MAIN INGREDIENT

Boil some potatoes (as many as you are going to need, be sensible), drain them, and mash them.  There is no need to worry too much about the consistency of the mash, we are not making a purée of mashed potatoes.

Shave some butter … quite a lot of butter actually … in fact, loads of butter … into the mash.  This is for a wedding banquet remember, no one is on a diet.  One variation of this recipe calls for some milk.  I don’t think it needs it, but you decide for yourself.

The potatoes are still very hot, so it’s easy to melt the butter while you mash.  When you have finished, grate some nutmeg into the mash.  Add salt and pepper.

THE OTHER INGREDIENTS

Here on the table are the rest of the ingredients.  Two eggs, ordinary ham cut up into small squares, slices of buffalo mozzarella that has been drained for a bit to get rid of excess liquid (we don’t want our gattò get soggy), grated parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs (in the white canister behind the ham).  On the right is the oven dish.

ASSEMBLING THE GATTO’

Butter the oven dish all over and then dust with breadcrumbs.

Beat the eggs and add them to the mashed potatoes and mix them in.

Add the grated parmesan cheese and mix it in … Taste the potato mix and make sure you like the taste … add a little salt or pepper if need be (but make sure the pepper is white, not black).

Divide the potato mix into two, more or less equal, amounts.  Then use half the mix to line the oven dish, one serving spoon at a time.

Line the sides of the dish too.  Pat the potato mix down with the spoon and try and make this layer even.

Add the ham.  You could also add salame and mortadella … there are quite a few variations to this recipe as regards cured meats.

Add the mozzarella.  Just so you know, it is also very common to add either provolone or scamorza cheeses at this stage too.  I prefer it without.

Add another whole layer of the potato mix.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs all over the top layer.

Dot this layer with knobs of butter … be generous ….

Stick the oven dish in the preheated oven at 180° centigrade and cook for about 45 minutes.

And here it is just out of the oven.

And this is what it looks like when sliced … silly me, I didn’t take any other photos that would have done justice to this most royal of ‘gateaux’ — the potato cake known as ‘gattò di patate’.  Try it some time — I promise you, you won’t regret it!

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About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
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5 Responses to A Royal Wedding and a misspelled cake – gattò di patate

  1. Liz Macri says:

    Mum makes this every summer when she’s here!!
    We all love it, especially the kids….it reminds me our summers at the beach, deciding to stay on in the evenings with all the family, eating this gattò together with melenzane in carozza, melenzane ripiene and zeppole!
    Can’t wait for summer!!

  2. Libby Morris says:

    Hi, Jo,

    Libby and I are reading the Blog and thought this looked really interesting. Love all the info you know about the origins of food. Well done, Sandy

  3. hi jo – must have missed this one. how delicious. and here was me thinking gatto was a cat. love all these slow baked veg dishes. tian in provencale. xx

  4. Pingback: Small Vegetable Shop for a Mega Cooking Crisis – Piccola Bottega Merenda | Frascati Cooking That's Amore

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