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…

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.

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.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild garlic pesto ready to be blitzed...

I missed out on the wild garlic harvest last year, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this year. This wild garlic pesto is dead easy to make and tastes great.

The recipe comes from the River Cottage Handbook No.7 Hedgerow, but is essentially just a normal pesto recipe, with the basil and garlic being replaced by wild garlic and the pinenuts by pignuts. Everything goes into the food processor and you whizz it up, adding the oil until till you get the consistency you want.

As I have no idea what a pignut looks like, or where you get one from, so I decided to use hazelnuts instead. You could of course just use pinenuts, but I didn’t have any to hand. What ever you do, don’t use walnuts, their flavour is too much, especially if you roast, or toast them, as the recipe calls for.

The resulting pesto is pretty strong when raw and leaves you with a proper garlic hum. I found that it wasn’t nearly as strong after it had been frozen and the defrosted in the pan while the pasta was draining. Just like any homemade pesto, it’s far, far tastier than any bought from a supermarket and as you can freeze it, there’s no excuse to not make an absolute bucket load.

Leftovers

Refried bean hash browns...

An attempt at some sort of refried bean hash browns.

Using up leftovers always reminds me of why I follow recipes. Take the photo above as an example, it doesn’t look very appetizing does it? I had some leftovers to use up and as I like potatoes, I decided to have an attempt at some sort of hash browns, with the addition of some leftover beans. I’ve not really attempted hash browns before, as I’m still trying to cook a decent rösti. There appears to be so many different ways to make hash browns, that it feels like it’s just a make it up as you go along type of thing, which isn’t really isn’t my kind of cooking at all.

Having decided to give them a go, I parboiled some tatties and left them to dry out a bit. I then cubed them and added them to a frying pan that had some melted butter and olive oil in it. After a liberal sprinkling of sweet smoked paprika and the addition of the beans, it was just a case of moving everything around the pan to stop it sticking and burning. I paired these with some avocado and sour cream on the side and they were nice enough, in that they filled a hole.

If I do them again, I’ll be using a non-stick frying pan, as then I wont have to stand over it for the entire cooking process to ensure it doesn’t catch. I’ll also parboiled the tatties for a bit longer, as it took awhile for them to cook all the way through. In fact, I might just be best to cook them all the way through the night before and leave them in the fridge, but then that would require some sort of forward planning. I might have to start experimenting a bit more with this kind of thing though, as the variations appear endless.

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.

Rösti

IMG_20130103_202403_1

It was another of those Monday evenings when I was home alone, my wife was at the gym and I’d managed to get the kids off to bed with minimal fuss. I knew that dinner was going to include potatoes, but I just didn’t know how I was going to cook them. I’d attempted a rösti once in dim distant past, so decided that it was about time I had another crack at one.

A quick search on the internet turned up Felicity Cloake’s Guardian column on How to cook the perfect rösti, which seemed like a good place to start. As I didn’t have time to let them cool, I decided to go against her advice and didn’t cook my potatoes first. As you can see from the photos, I ruined a tea towel as I was ringing out all the moisture after grating them, just make sure you use a strong one.

I probably used a bit too much olive oil and I definitely used too much butter when I flipped the rösti after cooking the first side. I tried to mop up the excess with a sheet or two of kitchen paper, but it did feel a touch on the oily/buttery side when it came to be eaten. And nice eating it was too, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, I was quite pleased for a first attempt.

I’ve had a rösti for dinner another couple of times since this first attempt. The second one wasn’t as good, I’m not sure it was any different, but it just didn’t feel as good. The third one, which I had just the other night, was by far the best I’ve made. I used three potatoes, so it was quite thick, but there was no problem with it holding together as it cooked.

All three have used raw potato, I’ve not parboiled and to be honest, I don’t see the point, as that would really require me to decide the night before that I was going to have one. The first two both used butter and/or olive oil, the third solely used ghee and was the driest and least greasy of the three. This may have been due to there being more potato to soak it all up though. I didn’t season the first two, at least I can’t remember seasoning them. With the third one, I ground some pepper and salt onto the raw potato after I’d grated it though.

I like having a rösti for tea, it’s definitely something you can experiment with each time.