Getting older is wonderful. I tell myself this because the alternative – wistfully longing for the days when everything was just a touch higher, firmer and smoother – is about as productive as trying to convince cats and dogs not to lick and sniff each other’s impolite bits.

It’s not much, but Mother Nature does seem to give one some compensation as the years roll by. I’m glad to report that the level on which I could be bothered what others think of me, is in inverse proportion to my age. Simply put, the older I get, the less I care. Which is why I no longer think hitting the mall without make-up on will cause the world to spin off its axis. And why tracksuit pants are my new BFF.

I’ve found it all marvellously liberating. Given this, I consider it a bit odd that I still secretly yearn to be French. I’ve long envied French women for their sense of style, for their effortless elegance. Much can also be said for their seemingly nonchalant attitude towards what their husbands get up to with someone other than them. So very sophisticated.

But most of all, I envy that they don’t seem to get fat. I know this to be so, for I have been to France many times. The only women I’ve ever encountered over size 36, were tourists. This is surprising, for the French aren’t shy when it comes to butter and cream.

Take Dauphinoise, that heavenly combination of potatoes, butter and cream with just a hint of garlic and a kiss of nutmeg.  I don’t think baked potato dishes come any better than this. It’s a classic.

I could eat a whole bowl of it. By myself. Sitting on the couch. In my trackie pants. And that, I suspect, is why nobody would ever mistake me for a French woman. Ah well, c’est la vie.

All you need is…

6 huge floury potatoes
250ml fresh cream
3 tbs butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
¼ tsp nutmeg
salt
black pepper

Peel the potatoes and slice them wafer-thin. Place in cold water for a few minutes, then drain and dry thoroughly.

Mix together the crushed garlic and butter. Place a teaspoon of the butter on the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Put a third of the potatoes in and sprinkle over a third of the nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and a few dots of butter.

Do another two layers. For the final layer, pour over the cream first, then sprinkle on the last of the nutmeg, a final pinch of salt and pepper and the last bit of the garlic butter.

Bake in a 180-degree Celsius oven until cooked through and golden on top – it takes about 45 minutes. (Some folks add Gruyère cheese, but I much prefer the more classical version without.)

Take this one with to your next braai. I guarantee you’ll be the star of the show. It’s also more than adequate as a veggie main course with a green salad.

serves

6

prep

15 min

cook

45 min

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good to know

The secret of wafer-thin potatoes

I like to think I know which end of a knife to point at a potato, but I simply can’t get my slices wafer-thin. My secret? I use a mandoline!

I don’t believe in having all sorts of fancy kitchen gadgets, they just gather dust. This one really is a must-have. Six potatoes in two minutes? Mandoline.

Larney ones go for over R2 000, but you really do NOT need to spend this much. Mine is over 40 years old, (it was my mum’s) is very basic and a scary 1970s orange. It works just fine.

The cheapest one I could find online was at Takealot for R199. Trust me, you need one.

enjoy with

Rich, creamy dishes beg for a Chardonnay. Try Fairview’s La Capra Chardonnay. It’s got loads of zesty lemon and apples and is under R50. If you fancy something French with your French potatoes (and why not), try a Chablis. Wine-bore moment: It’s not an exotic grape variety, it’s just a Chardonnay that comes from the Chablis region in France.

Old-world wines have considerably less cheeky fruit than what we’re used to. They’re subtler and I just love them. Checkers has a phenomenal range of imported wines, including Chablis. The prices? Awesome. (And no, they did not pay me to say this. Sadly.)

La Capra

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