You will need: 2 pounds of raw peeled potatoes of the dry, floury kind, 2 ounces of raw ham or lean bacon, 1 yolk of egg and two egg whites, ½ gill of top of the milk, ½ clove of garlic, 3 ounces of mozzarella or pecorino cheese or 3 ounces of soft curd cheese, a pinch of salt, some black pepper, 2 ounces of butter, and about 4 ounces of very dry breadcrumbs.
Cook and drain the potatoes. Beat them well until they are free from lumps and beat in the hot top of the milk.
Fry the ham or bacon lightly, cut it into cubes and add them to the potatoes. Put in the crushed clove of garlic. Beat the yolk of egg into the mixture. Taste, and if necessary add a very little salt and black pepper. Then fold in the cheese, which should have previously been cut into ½-inch cubes. Beat up the 2 egg whites very stiffly and fold them into the potato mixture.
Have a buttered cake tin ready which is coated with most of the breadcrumbs fried in the butter. Pour the potato mixture into the tin, make the top level and cover it with the rest of the breadcrumbs which have also been fried in butter. Put the tin in the middle of a hot oven and bake it for about 20 minutes. When it is cooked, turn the potato cake onto a hot, flat dish and serve it by cutting it into wedges as if cutting a cake, which is exactly what it should look like.
From: Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, Plats Du Jour or Foreign Food, A Penguin Handbook, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, Ltd., 1957.
NOTE: Plats Du Jour is a very special book, which one person described as: “A gentle book of French cooking by a couple of English women who knew how to write.” It was a UK best-seller in the years following its publication and was reissued in hardcover by the excellent Persephone Press in 2006. I treasure my vintage English Penguin paperback and enjoy looking at the wonderful David Gentleman (Link) illustrations as much as I do reading the text and cooking from it. Although it mainly includes French recipes, its actual reach is geographically broader. I’ve previously covered Patience Gray’s remarkable Honey From A Weed : Here and Here. A modern master. And, as another writer observed, how can one not be attracted to a work by two authors named Patience and Primrose?
An unexpected storm whipped in last night and has had me up for hours. Lately realizing that I'd left one of the car windows open, I raced (in a manner of speaking) out to restore weather-tightness and dry the interior. Sitting here, reading this and imagining preparing and enjoying this torta with my family warms me up nicely, chases away sleepiness and pushes aside (for now) worry and negative thoughts.
For the non-UK, unintiated cook-reader, “½ gill” is equal to 1/8 of a pint or 2 ½ fluid ounces. “Top of the milk” means light cream.