Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas is a Spanish tapas dish, of fried potato, with a spicy sauce.

Having decided to have a go at patatas bravas, I needed a recipe. Step forward Felicity Cloake and her How to cook the perfect… in the Guardian. I’m starting to think it’s probably worth buying a digital subscription. It would be worth it just for her column alone, let alone all the Yotam Ottolenghi and Anna Jones recipes too; it’s a great resource.

I followed the recipe, with a couple of changes. I don’t have any sherry vinegar for instance, so used red wine vinegar instead. I also hadn’t bothered to buy any chives. Other than that, it was straight down the line.

Having grown a few chillies this year, I decided to use one. I should’ve used more than one, as it turns out that they’re not as hot as last year. The tomato sauce had no heat to it what so ever. Which meant that it tasted very similar to the rich tomato sauce from The Geometry of Pasta.

Where the tomato sauce had been distinctly lacking any zing, the aioli had enough zing to raise the dead. It also made a lot. By a lot, I mean enough to slather on double the recipe and still feel like you’ve overdone it a bit.

This all made for a bit of a disappointing dish. Lacklustre tomato sauce, overly pokey and rich aioli, I was struggling to see why people rave about it.

Patatas Bravas, first attempt

In a twist of fate, I ended up having to buy another bag of Charlotte potatoes. So decided to have another crack at the recipe a few days later. I decided to change a few things.

Out when the homegrown chilli and in came homegrown chilli flakes, I know they’re hot. Rather than roasting the tatties at 200°C, I followed Yotam’s method for the potatoes in his Batata Harra recipe; so 240°C to get them good and crispy.

I also cooked the tomato sauce for longer, really reducing it to intensify the flavour and make it thicker. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of aioli left over, so I didn’t have to make any more of that.

This was almost a different dish. The heat and spiciness of the tomato sauce, the crunch of the tatties and the cool of the aioli. I can see why people rave about it.

I’ll definitely be making this again. Just have to think of a few other veggie tapas dishes to go with it…

Pommes Lyonnaise

Pommes Lyonnaise, or Lyonnaise potatoes are a French dish of sliced potatoes and onions, sautéed in butter and sprinkled with parsley.

I’d been trying to decide on what potato recipes to cook for myself, so I could buy the correct sort of potato. Having decided to cook patatas bravas, which require a waxy potato, I needed to find another recipe to use up the rest of the bag. Step forward Pommes Lyonnaise, mainly as I had the rest of the ingredients at home.

I par-boiled the potatoes for about ten minutes, then dumped them into a colander to drain. After sorting out the kids, I got on the rest of the dish, which didn’t take that long. For some inexplicable reason, I added some dark brown muscovado to the sautéed onion, evidently to help caramelise them. I should definitely have used a little caster sugar, rather than the muscovado, as that brought far too much flavour and sweetness to the end result.

While the onions were cooking, I sliced the potatoes. I threw away all the end bits, leaving only slices that had no skin on both sides. After removing the onions from the pan, I sautéed the potato slices in some more butter. This was done in two batches, as even our big skillet wasn’t big enough to fit all the slices in one go. Finally a bit of chopped parsley was sprinkled over the top, then the whole lot dumped onto a plate.

If I was to make it again, then I’d probably use a slightly bigger onion and definitely not add any muscovado. As a plate of food on its own, I’m not sure it really worked. I think it’s definitely in the side dish category and needs to be served as an accompaniment to something.

Rumbledethumps

Rumbledethumps is a traditional Scottish dish, made from left over tatties, cabbage and onions. It’s another one of those comfort dishes that can handle all the butter and pepper you can throw at it.

Rumbledethumps is essentially a variation of the Irish colcannon, or the English bubble and squeak. I can remember having plenty of bubble and squeak as a child, with Mum cooking leftover mashed tatties and cabbage in a frying pan. I can’t ever remember anyone calling it Rumbledethumps though, or cooking it in the oven.

I’ve tried in the past to make bubble and squeak in a similar fashion to how I remember Mum making it. We never seem to have leftovers in this house though, so it’s always been from scratch and ended up being a bit disappointing.

As I had some Charlotte potatoes leftover from making the Batata Harra, I decided to used those to make the mash. In a similar fashion to the Clapshot, I simmered the tatties with a bay leaf, a bunch of thyme and some garlic cloves.

Given the choice, I wouldn’t use this variety of tatties to make mash again, as the end result is far too gloopy. You’re much better off with floury tatties like King Edward to make your mash.

Mashing tatties with butter and pepper...

I also decided to use kale, rather than cabbage, mainly as we had a bit bag of it in the fridge, as my wife likes to juice it. Rather than sauté the kale with the onions in some butter, I steamed it over the simmering tatties. This only happened, as I’d totally forgotten about the onion, so ended up quickly frying off a shallot, while everything else sat there ready to go in the oven.

Some grated Red Leicester cheese sprinkled on top, and it was ready for the oven. It just so happened that we had a small amount of this cheese left, so it meant that I could use it all up. This felt a bit more in the spirit of the dish, rather than cracking open a new packet of Cheddar.

I thoroughly enjoyed eating every single last drop of this, even though it could easily have fed two; I was stuffed to the gunwales for hours afterwards. It’s a great comfort food, the tatties and kale go so well together, there’s nothing about it not to like.

Batata Harra

It’s taken ages to finally get round to making this, maybe it’s just because Ottolenghi’s Plenty More didn’t have a photo, but more likely that I’ve just been too busy doing other stuff.

To be honest, a year ago I couldn’t have told you what batata harra was, or where it came from; Wikipedia isn’t exactly replete with information either. It turns out it’s a Lebanese dish and the name translates as spicy potatoes, it’s also pretty damn tasty.

You’re supposed to make it with red pepper, but my wife used the only red pepper we had the evening before, even though I’d ask her to not to; so I had to make do with a yellow one. I’m sure the taste wasn’t affected, but you can really see why a red one is specified, as the yellow one is the same colour as the potatoes, so you loose a lot of visual appeal.

Ottolenghi’s recipe, calls for the oven to be on 240°C, which leads to nice and crispy potatoes, but utterly destroys the crushed garlic and chopped coriander. Never having had batata harra before, I have no idea if this is the desired result or not.

I made half the quantity in the recipe, which was enough as a main course on it’s own. I misread it though and used ½ a teaspoon of homemade chilli flakes, rather than a ¼. By the time I finished, it was like someone had blow torched the inside of my mouth while I took a shower; the sweat was streaming down my head. I know it’s supposed to be spicy potatoes, but I’d definitely use a touch less next time. I couldn’t help thinking that it needed some sort of yogurt or labneh based condiment to take the edge off the heat as well.

One other thing I might change, is the use of the lemon juice. While works really nicely with the other flavours, I do wonder if using barberries would give a similar effect. Mainly as the lemon juice seemed to soak into some of the potatoes and not into others. Having lots of little lemon flavour bombs scattered through out, might mean you get some lemon flavour to the last mouthful.

Clapshot

Clapshot is a traditional Scottish dish, made with mashed neeps and tatties. One of those winter comfort dishes, where it’s almost impossible to overdo the butter and pepper.

Clapshot is, technically, really easy to make, just boil some neeps¹ and tatties², mash with loads of butter and pepper, stir through some chopped chives and away you go. It’s just as easy to get it wrong though, too much turnip can overpower the potato and if the turnip is too wet, it can make the whole lot too sloppy. Like most things, it’s all about finding the balance.

I simmered the potatoes with a bay leaf, some fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and a few halved garlic cloves, similarly, I simmered the turnip in milk, with a bay leaf and some green peppercorns. This was to try and get some extra flavour into what can be two pretty bland vegetables. One thing though, just make sure you simmer the turnip for long enough, especially if you’re going to try and force it though a ricer, as it wouldn’t quite all go through mine; I should probably have used the mouli, rather than the ricer.

Neeps and tatties ready to cook.

I think a ratio of around 3:2, potato to turnip, is probably around where you want to aim. Anymore and it can become a bit too skewed in favour of the turnip, in my opinion. Similarly, about two thirds to three quarters of a 25g bunch of chives is about right, as they can be quite potent when raw. One thing is for sure though, don’t skimp on either the butter, or the ground pepper.

Then crack open some oatcakes, but chunky ones rather than the poor excuses I used here, sit back and stuff your face.

¹ turnip, at least what the Scots call a turnip, sold as swede down South.
² potatoes, preferably floury ones like King Edward.

Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise

I had some left over double cream, and as I hadn’t made Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for a while, decided to use it up making some.

Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise, otherwise known as gratin dauphinois (not to be confused with pommes dauphine), has to be one of the richest and most decadent ways of serving the humble spud. Sliced potato which is slathered in nutmeg and garlic flavoured double cream, before being baked until meltingly soft, what’s not to like?

As I don’t really have a dish small enough to make Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for one, I decided to use one of the frying pans I use for making tortilla española. Even though it’s non-stick, I still buttered the inside, as that’s just what you do. Rather than also rubbing a garlic clove over the inside, which you’re supposed to do, I crushed as small one and added it to the double cream along with some freshly grated nutmeg.

Then it was into a relatively moderate oven, 150°C for 25 minutes. I then raised the temperature to 180°C, for what was supposed to be only a further ten minutes, but I didn’t think the top had taken on the correct look, so left it in for a further ten minutes.

I ate it along with a simple salad of rocket, olives, halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta, which was left over from the previous day. The peppery leaves and salty cheese certainly helped to cut through the richness of the cream. I’m not sure I could have eaten any more of it on my own though, it was getting a bit much by the time I got to the end. Utterly delicious though and perfect for an autumnal or wintery evening meal.

Pommes de Terre Duchesse

While browsing the list of potato dishes on the source of all that is right and correct on the internet, I stumbled upon the page for Duchess potatoes and knew instantly that I had to have a go at making them. As luck would have it, there just happened to be three egg yolks in the fridge, so rather than waiting, I headed home to make some.

My only real worry, was the piping of the mashed potato, as I’ve never piped anything before. As it turned out, it wasn’t too difficult, although the end result left rather a lot to be desired in the consistency stakes. I’m not too disappointed though, as consistency in something like piping, is only achieved through lots and lots of practice. So I might have to start piping the mash onto the top of things like Shepherd Pie to gain the necessary experience.

As the Wikipedia article was a bit vague on the length of time these should be cooked for, I decided to pop them into the oven, with the fan on and the temperature set to 220°C. Duchess potatoes fresh from the oven... I took them out after twenty minutes, as they looked nice and brown and the outside and felt dry and solid to the touch.

If I’m being honest, hey weren’t that great. They were far too dry and were crying out to be slathered in some sort of gravy or sauce. I’ll put that down to baking them for too long, maybe you’re just supposed to do it long enough that they take a bit of colour. Maybe that’s why the temperature was stated to be 240°C, get colour on them quickly, then get them out while they’re still moist and a bit squidgy. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if I ever do them again, which I might very well do…

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush...

I have a love hate relationship with aubergine, but had my eyes opened when I tried some baba ganoush made by a friend. I had to have a go at making my own.

I associate baba ganoush with the Middle East, so when I was looking for a recipe my first query was basically Yotam Ottolenghi baba ganoush. What turned up was unexpected though, as it turns out that Felicity Cloake has done one of her How to make the perfect… for baba ganoush on The Guardian website.

I decided to go straight for Felicity’s recipe, as life is too short to go through the angst of picking one of the others and then being disapointed. I’ve made it twice now, and I have to say that it’s bloody delicious.

If like me, you don’t have a gas hob and don’t want to soften the aubergine under the grill, then buy a disposable barbeque. The small ones are big enough for four aubergines and the smokiness that’s imparted isn’t too much. Although it can take quite a while to soften large aubergines, as some of these wee barbeques aren’t the most powerful.

This will most likely become a staple dish at parties and barbeques going forward, it’s definitely worth trying.

Thoughts on Rösti

A rather nasty rösti...

I’ve been on holiday recently, which is one of the reasons for a lack of posts, the other is a lack of enthusiasm for writing at the moment; more on that in another post. I thought I’d try and get back into the swing of things, with a few notes about my further adventures in cooking rösti:

  • I cooked a rösti the other night, but as we had no butter in the house, I used only olive oil. This resulted in an oily, unsatisfying taste. I also forgot to season the thing, which really didn’t help. So always season your tatties and always use some butter to ensure a better tasting end result.
  • I tried to make a really thick rösti a few months ago; I cooked it inside a ring, so it would look nice. It didn’t cook evenly all the way through though, as it was too thick. I ended up having to baste the top of it with the butter/oil mix, so that all of it cooked through. This all meant that it ended up as a large lump of greasy half cooked grated potato. It wasn’t very nice, just look at it in the photo above! So don’t make your rösti too thick.

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

I’ve had Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian for a while, but for one reason or another, I’ve not got round to cooking many of the recipes. I was home alone one Saturday night, so decided to whip up a batch of the Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips with a pot of homemade mayonnaise.

Every time I’ve used express, fast cook type polenta, I’ve been disappointed and this time was no exception. It just tastes watery and had that slightly grainy but flabby and almost rubbery texture about it. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m cooking it properly, but I’ve cooked it to the instructions a number of times now, for a number of different recipes, so either that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or I’m just shite at cooking it. I think I’ll try cooking it for longer than the stated five minutes next time and see if that makes a difference.

The recipe calls for chopping the squash into small dice and adding them to the pan, before adding the polenta, i.e. the squash dice and polenta cook together. But small is relative, how small is small…? I diced mine up to what I thought was relatively small, but I think if I was doing it again, I’d either grate the squash, or roast it and mash it up first. The reason I’d do this, is that mostly, each mouthful was just rubbery, slightly grainy polenta, without much flavour. then you’d get some rosemary and squash and it totally transformed the experience.

Also, it looks to me like the chips in the photo that accompanies the recipe, have a slight orange hue. Indicating to me, that the squash is better distributed in those chips than in mine. I could be totally wrong though, but next time, I think I’ll try grating the squash into the polenta and seeing what difference that makes. I’ll also make them slightly smaller, as they were just a little on the big side, which I don’t think helped matters.

Finally a quick word about the mayonnaise. I made mine using bog standard rapeseed oil, not the fancy cold pressed stuff. Don’t. Just don’t. The resulting mayonnaise was horrible, you could just tell from the taste that it was made with cheap oil. I ended up ditching the mayonnaise in favour of some of my homemade Haw ketchup, a much, much nicer match.