Mash Cakes and Red Pepper Sauce

Mash Cakes and Red Pepper Sauce

When I was a kid, we had something at school called the “Cantine”, a self service refectory, subsidized by the State and for a mere £1 or 10 Francs at the time, you could get a three course meal. We didn’t realise then how lucky we were, just more interesting by what was on the menu. Yes, every Monday morning, during the 10 O’clock recess, a sheet of paper would be stapled on the notice board under the giant wooden porch. We gathered around, impatient with the excitement of youth, full of false expectations, a reminder that we were in here for the long haul, most of us against our will. So the menu, knowing what we were going to eat that week, was a little ray of sunshine, our way to cope with the long days ahead even if the week was broken in half, Wednesdays off but a long way to the Saturday’s lunchtime bell, the relieving sound of a long awaited short weekend…

Our Headmaster had banned chips a few months earlier, not for health reasons, we didn’t have that kind of carry on then, the regular slice of terrine and cornichons ( gherkins) served for starters was proof of that, no, our dear “Protal” ( slang for Principal), our “Direlo” ( another slang) decided that we were way too excited when brown and soggy French Fries were served for lunch. I mean, yes, I admit it, we were a bit overwhelmed at the thought of having chips, a rare treat reserved to some Sunday dinners with a roast chicken maybe? Even my Mother shied away from the frying pot as she thought it was a bit dangerous, but when she did them, it was heaven! So we had to fall back to the next best thing – and when it came- the alternative, the “we take, we give strategy” of our National Education sadistic tutors, mash potatoes… But it came with a twist… You see, in French, mash is called “purée” and when we saw that first on the neatly typed lines, we got really overwhelmed, hugging each other, slapping your nearest friend’s shoulder ( that was our “high five” then). Until the clever one in the group would actually finish the full phrase and say: “hang on guys, it is actually “purée panachée”! Mash Shandy for you and me; they couldn’t even give it to us in it’s natural form, it had to be mixed with boiled carrots! You bastards! Torturers of young souls, wardens of education, the Goon Squad was at it again… To be fair, it really tasted the same, but the pink colour and the let down feeling made that Monday even more depressing so we walked away from the giant wooden porch, head down and shoulders high, me murmuring some old blues songs from the mid 20th century my Dad raised me with… ” yeah, it’s early in the mornin’, and the Lord will set you free, yes son, it’s early in the mornin’ and your soul belongs to me…” marking and stamping each of my defeated steps away…

My Old School

I candidly remembered this story when I made mashed potatoes last week, funny really. I had made a bit too much and I wanted to make something a bit special with the leftovers. I mixed the mash with roasted cherry tomatoes, kale and garlic from the night before and decided to make some wee Fried Mash Cakes. The way I make Mashed potato is simple; cook the spuds until they are done, drain them, dry them for a minute and add plenty of butter and a bit of milk. Season with sea salt and black pepper and maybe, a bit of nutmeg… First, I worked on the sauce; super easy and I used to make it in a Galwegian Wine Bar years ago.

Red Pepper Sauce

For the sauce: you’ll need

  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 small roasted red peppers
  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A wee bunch of thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar
  • 25 cl + of water

For the sauce: how to?

Roughly chop the ingredients and fry with a good olive oil…

Roasting the “reds”

Once the mix is nice and sweaty, pour the water and let it reduce for about 20 minutes. Remove the thyme and blend until smooth…

Red pepper Sauce is done

You must keep the mash in the fridge so it is easy to use for the “cakes”. The idea is to roll them, flour them, then dipped in beaten eggs and finally bread crumbs. I used brioche and kale as a bit of fun and sweetness for it…

Kale and Brioche crumb

For the crumbs: you’ll need

  • 200 g of brioche
  • 4 small kale leaves

Blend them together and prepare the flour, egg wash and crumbs…

Ready to egg wash for frying

The way to do it, is to take half of a handful of the mash, roll it it the palm of your hand for the desired shape, coat it with flour, then egg wash and finally with our wonderful brioche and kale crumbs. Fry at the end in good olive oil and on both sides. This process won’t take long. I wanted to add a little root to the dish, so I chose celeriac…


This root reminds me of so many memories, grated in a remoulade that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate when I was a brat, but is superbly well suited for this dish as a side. I didn’t want to use mayonnaise as it is normally made with, but instead I made a dressing with Crème fraîche; 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of lemon, 1 generous tbsp of Crème fraîche with salt and pepper…

Olive oil, lemon and crème fraîche

Celeriac is great this time of year and it brings back a lot of memories. Even if we knew it as a “Macedoine”, I prefer this gentler touch. It also suits the dish very nicely…

Grated celeriac

Just mix it together, go on, don’t be shy…

Celeriac and Lemon

To finish the dish, I fried a leaf of kale. I love its nuttiness…

Fried kale

And that’s it, memory lane in full throttle again that led to a very pleasant dinner indeed…

Mash Cakes
In the heart of things…
Mash Cakes

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall




8 thoughts on “Mash Cakes and Red Pepper Sauce

  1. Damn. We can put a man on the moon but we can’t create a scratch and sniff monitor!
    Mind you, I love carrots. I love potatoes. But the two together is indeed ‘triste’. Don’t know why.

  2. Hi Franck! It’s been a while! I loved your story, it felt like you were telling mine, as I think it tells the story of most French “demi-pensionnaires” from the 80s-90s! I must admit I had forgotten about this whole “running to the board on Mondays” thing, and it is so funny to read it with your words (that could have been mine). Thank you for sharing this souvenir that is common to all of us, French pupils, it makes the era of “insouciance” coming back to life again 🙂

      1. Personally speaking, I loved it. I couldn’t imagine missing out on the lunch break in school where all the fun was happening, and when all the plotting was taking place; these two hours were the daily golden hours that the “externes” would regret later. And about the food, it was acceptable most days. Definitely not gourmet, but okay. My mash potato mix was with cauliflower (which I hated and still hate today), so your carrot nightmare would have done the job for me 😉

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