As soon as Autumn swings around I yearn for soothing, soul-warming Garam Masala Potato Gratin. This simple double potato concoction with cream and freshly-ground spices is a dish I crave often.
I welcome the combination of wholesome and floury Maris Piper potatoes and sweet potatoes. While both are delicious in their own right, something rather magical happens when you marry them together with cream and masalas.
What is Garam Masala?
Garam masala (Hindi: गरम मसाला) is a blend of warming spices, used heavily in Indian dishes, most often in North Indian recipes. Grab my Homemade Garam Masala recipe here.
The cooler climate calls and rich Mughlai and Central Asian influences on North Indian cuisine are particularly suited to the “garam” (warm) spices in garam masala.
Garam masala is a flavour protagonist for many regional Indian cuisines: Awadhi, Bihari, Punjabi, Rajasthani and Himachali to name just a few sub-cuisines of Northern India.
What is Garam Masala made from?
There is no one-size fits all answer. Almost every family will have their own preferences.
Most recipes for garam masala call for a varying blend of the following spices:
Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, Indian bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon (or cassia), nutmeg, mace, peppercorns, black and green cardamom.
Some recipes call for dried chillies, while others do not.
Homemade Garam Masala vs. shop bought
There’s no denying the aromatic wave of flavour homemade garam masala brings. Add it to a curry, samosa filling or rice dish and it surpasses mediocrity and becomes a complete flavour bomb.
Having said this, I always keep a good blend of shop-bought Garam Masala in my cupboard for when I’m short of time and the homemade stuff.
I like both Jalpur Millers Garam Masala and BART Punjab Masala when it comes to the shop bought kind.
What kind of potatoes should I use for Garam Masala Potato Gratin?
Any floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward are good choices. I like the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for this but the white ones work fine too.
The purple variety of sweet potato can give the creamy sauce an odd colour. It tastes fine, however.
How to slice potatoes for gratin
You can prepare your potatoes by hand, simply using a sharp knife and chopping board. For even slices, use a mandoline (along with guard) to cut the potatoes into thin rounds.
Try to aim for a thickness of 1mm, but don’t worry if they are a bit thicker than this. The most important thing is that the potatoes are all uniform in size so they all cook at the same time.
Short of time? Chunk the potatoes up into wedges instead. Simple!
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Do I have to peel the potatoes?
Not at all. I do however, recommend scrubbing the white potatoes and peeling the sweet potatoes with a vegetable peeler.
Can I make this Indian-style potato gratin ahead of time?
Totally. Prepare the potatoes as instructed in the recipe. To clarify, pile the partially cooked potatoes into a baking dish, along with the cream. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Top with cheese before you bake the gratin.
Can I veganise this Garam Masala Potato Gratin?
It’s possible to replace the cream in this recipe with any plant-based cream, such as oat cream or even coconut milk. Use a vegan cheese alternative to sprinkle on top.
Is this Garam Masala Potato Gratin gluten free?
Yes. This recipe is free from wheat/gluten.
How to serve Garam Masala Potato Gratin
Once baked, allow the gratin to stand for 20-25 minutes. I know it sounds like an impossible ask but this will allow the creamy sauce to thicken and meld with the starchy potatoes.
Serve this gratin with your favourite grilled or pan-fried protein. I love it with seitan, tempeh and tofu. Although I’ve been known to eat it all by itself too!
Equipment I recommend for this recipe
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Garam Masala Potato Gratin recipe
- 1 kg floury potatoes such as Maris Piper or King Edward
- 400 g sweet potatoes
- 400 ml double cream
- 350 ml hot vegetable stock
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp garam masala homemade or shop bought – recipe for homemade Garam Masala below)
- 100 g mature Cheddar
- 50 g vegetarian hard cheese Parmesan-style cheese
- 1 spring onion finely sliced
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/gas mark 4.
- Peel the potatoes and place them whole, in a large bowl of cold water.
- Slice the potatoes into 1mm thick rounds, either by hand or using a mandoline. If using a mandoline, be sure to use the hand guard. Once all of the potatoes are sliced, quickly move on to the next step. No need to put them back in the water. If you do, all that sauce-thickening starch will be washed away.
- Pile the potatoes into a large pot. Add the garlic, cream, vegetable stock and garam masala. At this stage you can also add chillies if you like it spicy. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cook the potatoes and cream mixture uncovered for 10-12 minutes, or until a fork pierces a potato slice easily. Be sure not to over cook or the potatoes will turn to mush. Whilst simmering, use a spatula to tease and separate any potatoes that might have stuck together.
- Spoon the potatoes into a large baking dish. If you like, you can arrange them so the top layer looks pretty but this comfort food, not fine dining. Rustic is superb.
- Top the gratin with grated Cheddar and vegetarian Parmesan alternative (optional). Bake uncovered in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Garnish with sliced spring onions.
- Allow the gratin to stand at room temperature for around 20 minutes before serving. This will give the sauce and potato starches time to thicken and get to know each other.
- This a deliciously creamy, potato gratin can be prepared ahead of time. Simply complete steps 2-6 and then cool, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, top with cheese and bake the gratin as directed in the recipe.
- To freeze: Once cool, wrap the fully cooked gratin tightly in cling film, then in foil. Freeze for up to 6 months. Cook from frozen in a preheated oven for 35 minutes or until piping hot.
- I find the stock and cheese salty enough to season the dish but if you like, you can add salt according to your taste.
If you like this, you’ll love my recipe for Homemade Garam Masala