- a blog about food and value

All-purpose potato cake

Add as much parmesan as you like

Add as much parmesan as you like

I’m in Italy at the minute, and I’m eating so well. We all know the food is good in Italy. But the prices! I’m in the mountains of Tuscany, where workers and wives alike can pick up a fabulous three-course lunch for less than a tenner.

Yesterday, I ate a gorgeous barley minestrone, followed by sliced steak in a tomato, caper and olive sauce, with potatoes and chard. The day before, spaghetti with clams, then veal rolled up with sage, parmesan and ham, with roasted whole small onions and peas. Both lunches included wine and coffee, and were on the ‘menu fissato’, a fixed lunch menu popular in Italy. This is a massive meal for during the day, but it keeps you going, and then dinner is a much lighter affair.

I know we can’t compare Italy with Ireland, but I can’t help comparing this lunch joy with my lunch in Dublin – I always end up grabbing it on the go, and I buy it in Avoca a lot, where it ends up costing me at least €12, for one course and a bottle of water. Of course this is my fault, there are cheaper options. But an enormous, delicious, three-courser with wine and coffee?

I am making this my challenge to find something even vaguely comparable, and I want you all to help me. Until then, here is a quick recipe which can be used as a side order, a snack or a light lunch. You can cool it and keep it in the fridge and cut it off in tasty little squares – I got it off my friend’s Nonna, who lives just up the road.

What you need:

  • Potatoes (two or three big ones, you can judge it)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Handful thyme
  • Large handful breadcrumbs
  • 100g grated parmesan (or more if you like)


Boil the potatoes until they’re nearly cooked. Then crush them with a potato masher or fork – not too much. Add the salt and pepper, egg yolk and thyme, and spread across a baking tray that has been lined with greaseproof paper. Then sprinkle the parmesan on top, followed by the breadcrumbs. Put into a hot oven for 15-20 mins. Eat hot, or leave to cool and cut into squares.


  1. Yum – I think I would be cutting that up in tasty *big* squares, thanks very much!

  2. Squares? more like trying to slide the whole affair on to a single plate 🙂

  3. Bad news is you won’t find anything that compares. The family have a restaurant in Italy too and likewise you could have a 3 course meal for €10 and a bottle of wine for €4. Again it all comes back to the cost of doing business in Ireland, it’s just 2 high. I hope the govt take on board the 10 point plan put forward by the RAI or else the industry will be completely on it’s knees:(