Tag Archives: potato

Papas Arrugadas

I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus since Christmas, as things have been pretty hectic. Sure, it was a shock to they system to go back to work, but life also has a habit of throwing a few random shocks and surprises too, and the last thing I felt like was getting adventurous in the kitchen.

Anyway, time to change all that! While this is the time of the year that I normally like to feature some Scottish recipes in honour of the celebration of the national poet Robbie Burns, I’m going to break with tradition and have a bash at something I ate rather a lot of on holiday last year on Gran Canaria. This is called papas arrugadas which roughly translates as “small wrinkly potatoes”, of which more later.

Below is a little selection of my pictures giving you a bit of a flavour of what the island is like – mountainous, sunny and warm, even in the early days of winter. The capital, Las Palmas, has a fantastic stretch of beach with strange, black sand and fantastic sunsets, while the days brought trips to inland villages with ancient churches, botanical gardens and, by pure coincidence, a rum distillery in Arucas (selling superb rum and rum/honey liqueur). Yes, this is an island that seems to have pretty much everything. Inland, the terrain gets very hilly very quickly, and you pretty quickly realise that the description of Gran Canaria as a mid-continent is no exaggeration. While the Canary Islands are geographically party of Africa, culturally they are very Spanish, but they also reflect their position as a trade centre with various influences passing through over the years. Oh, and did I mention all that glorious sun in the middle of winter? It made the chilly streets of Britain seem so far away.

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So back to the food…what are these papas arrugadas things? Well, they are about one of the simplest things you could every want to make as a snack with drinks. Take some small potatoes and boil them in very salty water – as a rule of thumb, it should be so salty that the potatoes float! That said, I chickened out and added just one tablespoon of salt to the cooking water for my bowl of spuds – I like savoury, but I’m not a salt fiend. Once cooked, you drain them, pop them back in the pan on a very low heat, and as the remaining water evaporates, you are left with a salty crust on the surface of the potatoes, giving them a frosty and wrinkled appearance. They are then served with a sauce, traditionally mojo rojo, made with peppers and olive oil. That’s it. Really, it’s that simple!

In the interests of full disclosure, it’s probably worth pointing out that you really need to enjoy salt if you’re going to make this – it packs quite a punch, so I think it’s best served with other dishes that are much fresher, like tomatoes, salads or mild cheese. Incidentally, there is also a fantastic local cheese on Gran Canaria calles queso de flor which is made with goat’s milk and milk from the cardoon flower, a thistle-like plant related to the artichoke. This cheese has an unusual smokey flavour which makes a nice partner to the papas. Yes, we’re all about healthy eating at the moment!

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Traditionally this dish was apparently made with sea water, so it was quite easy to get a very salty finish on these spuds. This also makes sense when you understand the geography of the Canary Islands. These are not places where fresh water is in over-abundance. Instead, they rely on rain or passing clouds (in the case of the latter, water collects on trees inland and drips slowly down into the ground). Gran Canaria is not exactly a desert, but it did strike me as the sort of place that you’d prefer not to waste water if you had the choice. I did see my fair share of passing showers during my visit, but they never lasted for more than a few minutes, and being out in the middle of the ocean, the weather changed incredibly quickly.

Now, I have to fess up that I didn’t actually make the sauce to go with these papas, preferring instead to stock up with some in a local deli during my holiday. There were actually loads of foody treats that I was able to pick up, and in addition to the mojo and the cheese (and the quince paste, and the fig paste, and the sugared pine nuts, and the pastels de gloria, and the palm sugar treacle…)  there is a tasty spread called bienmesabe made from egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, lemon zest and cinnamon. This is originally an Arabic dessert, but if offered all over Gran Canaria as a dessert. Delicious on ice cream or spread thickly on bread at breakfast. Yup, yet more tips for healthy living today!

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If you’re keen to make your own mojo rojo then aim for a spicy, but fairly thick and smooth sauce. I would suggest a few cloves of garlic, a couple of hot chilis, a spoon of paprika, a couple of spoons of vinegar, plus olive oil and salt to taste. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might also want to throw in some other spices like fennel or cumin. Make sure everything is blended to a smooth paste so that it coats to the potatoes when you dip them in. As long as you use plenty of oil, you could make this sort of sauce and store it in the fridge for quite some time, so perfect as a quick snack to impress guests when you’re knocking back some Spanish wine on a warm evening. Now all I need is…a warm evening to enjoy my back garden! The first snowdrops are starting to peek out of the soil, so hopefully we’ll be enjoying warmer days soon.

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And there you have it – a quick little recipe that can be pulled together in less than 20 minutes to impress hungry dinner guests!

To make papas arrugadas (makes one bowl):

• 225g / 8oz very small potatoes
• boiling water
• salt

1. Put the potatoes into a saucepan. Cover with boiling water and add either (1) add enough salt until then potatoes float, or (2) add one tablespoon of salt.

2. Boil the potatoes until soft – around 15 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily.

3. Drain the potatoes, then return to the pan. Place on a low heat, shaking frequently, until all the water has evaporated and the potatoes have a salty crust.

4. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot with dipping sauce.

Worth making? Of course! Who doesn’t love potatoes with sauce?

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Sweet Potato Wedges

Autumn is now with us. The mornings might be bright, but there is that unmistakable crispness in the air that signals things are about to get a lot “fresher” in the coming weeks, and the evenings are getting dark very quickly. Sure, it might still feel warm if you’re in a sunny spot, but when you’re in the shade, or a breeze blows past, you feel just how nippy things are getting.

With the chaos of moving house almost at an end, I’ve finally been back in the kitchen. All of a sudden, my cooking has moved away from the salads of summer, and quick, light suppers, and into much more substantial fare. Lentil dishes with lots of spices, curries, baked squash, soups, fritters…it’s the time of year to batten down the hatches and do all you can to fend off the cold weather that is approaching. It’s not a conscious change on my part, but there are certain dishes the you just have a craving for as the seasons roll by. I have, however, resisted the urge to buy Christmas pudding, even if my local shop has decided that this is exactly what we want to eat in October.

In much of my cooking at this time of year, I use a lot of spices, and I take a heavy-handed approach. I somehow feel that lots of cumin, pepper, ginger, garlic and sambal will help to fight off the sniffles during the colder months. It might work, it might not, but it certainly makes things a lot more tasty. It’s also worth getting a little more creating in how you season things – one of my current favourites is ground allspice, which is very common in sweet treats like biscuits and gingerbread, but it adds an interesting dimension to savoury dishes too.

It was with all this in mind that I got round to trying something that was on my “to make” list for quite some time. I love sweet potatoes baked and topped with feta, so I expected great things when they were spiced and baked as wedges.

Pleasingly, these are very, very simple to make – nothing much more than peeled sweet potato, cut to size, then tossed in oil with some spices, and then baked. They also have the benefit of looking very impressive – a jolly autumnal bust of orange when freshly cut, turning a deeper colour after baking. They can also be prepared hours ahead of time and left in the spice mixture to marinade (if it is possible to marinade potatoes?), and make a great snack or side dish. However it is the spices that take these from so-so to wow-wow. The spices you use are completely up to you – I went with some personal favourites (allspice, paprika, curry powder, black pepper and cumin). A tasty little dish as the long nights draw in.

As you can see below, these wedges hold their shape rather nicely too after being baked in a hot oven.

To make sweet potato wedges:

• 2 large sweet potatoes
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• spices – select 5, and use 1/2 teaspoon of each(*)

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (420°F).

2. Peel the potatoes. Cut lengthways into eight wedges, then slice each wedge diagonally (so each potato provides 16 pieces).

3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil and spices. Mix well, then add the potato wedges.

4. Transfer the coated wedges to a tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake for 30-40 minutes until you can insert a knife easily, and the wedges are just stating to brown at the edges.

5. Serve immediately with the dip of your choice.(**)

(*) For the spices, I used allspice, paprika, curry powder, black pepper and cumin. And then I cheated and added some dried thyme too.

(**) I served these with a sprinkle of salt, and a dip made from tahini, yoghurt, sambal and lime juice.

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Mizuna Potato Salad

I was walking out the front door yesterday, and bumped into the lady who lives downstairs. She told me she had a glut of mizuna in the garden, and if I wanted some, I was welcome to it.

This is the same lady who had kindly offered me a selection of windfall pears last autumn. I had no idea what to do with those pears, but ended up with a lovely pear jelly. So I was not going to let the fact that I had no idea what mizuna was stand between me and an offer of free goodies. There is always something you can make with it, right? A few hours later, I found myself in her garden, scissors in hand, hacking away at the vegetable patch and avoiding some truly enormous insects that were hiding in there.

So…mizuna…what is it? A quick search on Google revealed it is Japanese and the name means “water greens”. It belongs to the brassica family, which was apparent from the fleshy stalks and sunny yellow flowers that topped the stalks. The flavour is hinted at by the alternative name of Japanese Mustard – it is a little like rocket, but the leaves I had were peppery with, indeed, a strong mustard taste, as well as a hearty “leafy” flavour. As you can see below, they also look rather attractive – young leaves are long, slim and elegant, and mature to large, serrated leaves with a purple tinge.

I started to look for some recipes to use up my haul, and quickly discovered that most recipes that call for mizuna seem to require the young stems, when the leaves are soft, feathery and tender. At this stage, they look like rocket leaves, and go well in salads and as a peppery garnish. However, the stems that I came to possess looked quite different. How come? Well, this is  bunch of mizuna that has enjoyed a mild British winter, then a brief burst of sunshine in March, before being soaked for about two months, and then getting a little more warmth in the last week. As such, it is less “soft, feathery and tender” and more like a triffid sitting out in the back garden, growing at an alarming rate.

So basically, I didn’t have the baby leaves, I had the grown-up plant, and this means the leaves are a little more “robust” in terms of flavour, making them better suited to cooked dishes. With this in mind, I came up with two recipes. One is the subject of today’s post, and you’ll just have to trust me on the other, and the fact that it was delicious.

This recipe is a simple German-style potato salad, with a little shredded mizuna added to the still-warm mixture and then letting it cool. While the mustard-like flavour of the mizuna leaves is strong, possibly even too strong on its own, it mellows with soft new potatoes and olive oil. I did not add any mustard to the sauce, so as you bite into the potatoes, the mizuna leaves add a little bite and piquancy. All in all, a very tasty way to use up these leaves.

Now, in case you are wondering what else I made with my robust and fiery-tasting leaves, they went into a mizuna and tofu stir-fry with a black-bean and chilli sauce. Peppery, spicy, hot and delicious!

To make mizuna potato salad:

• 750g new potatoes
• 40g (two handfuls) mizuna leaves
• 2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion
• 2 tablespoons vinegar
• 6 tablespoons oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoons ground pepper
• pinch of sugar

Put the potatoes into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and leave to cool slightly.

In the meantime, peel and finely chop the shallots. Wash and shred the mizuna leaves.

Now prepare the dressing – put the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and sugar into a jam jar, and shake vigorously until you have a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Cut the still-warm potatoes into chunks and put into a salad bowl. Add the shallots, mizuna and dressing, and toss gently. Serve while still warm, or allow to cool.

Worth making? This is a simple but tasty recipe and is a great way to use up greens that might otherwise to too strong to eat in a salad.

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Tumbet

There has been a distinct Spanish flavour to a lot of my posts recently…and today, we’re keeping that going.

I’ve been making a dish called tumbet rather a lot recently. It’s traditionally from Mallorca, and it’s really just about the simplest thing you can make. Chances are, you’ve got just about everything in the kitchen right now. Look at this lot – nothing too fancy here, eh?

But what is this dish? Well, it’s clearly a lot of potato, peppers and aubergine. It’s all sliced up, fried in a little olive oil, then topped off with a thick tomato sauce that’s rammed with lots of garlic. There seem to be quite a lot of variations out there (which is only to b expected with such a traditional dish), but I’ve made a tweak and added a few slices of Spanish Manchego cheese before pouring over the tomato sauce to add a bit more substance so that this makes a tasty and filling main dish.

Now, a lot of blogs feature recipes that are “simple” or “easy” or “a breeze”. I’m not going to lie – this is one that’s easy, but its not quick. I think this tastes best when you can leave the vegetables to fry gently on a very low heat, rather than cremating them over a hot flame. If you’re able to multi-task and do something else at the same time (which coudl involve, perhaps, glasses of wine in the sunshine) then it is indeed simply. It’s just that some thing cannot be rushed.

This a really nice dish that works either as a cold tapas-style nibble with drinks (serve it up with bowls of olives, almonds and patatas bravas with garlic mayo with a few glasses of chilled white wine), or have it as a main dish with a large green salad. Either way – delicious, and you get the feeling of just a little summer sunshine as you eat it.

To make tumbet (as a side dish for four, main for two):

For the sauce:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• pepper, to taste

• salt, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

Heat the oil over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry very gently for about a minute (it shouldn’t brown). Add the salt, pepper, oregano and chopped tomatoes. Cover the sauce, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce is too dry, just add a little more water.

For the layers:

• 300g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 aubergine, sliced
• 2 peppers (I used one red, one yellow), cut into sticks
• 75g Manchego cheese, sliced
• olive oil, for frying

Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil until they are starting to turn golden brown. Put in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Brush the aubergine slides with a little olive oil, and fry gently until soft and browned on both sides. Place on top of the potatoes.

Finally, fry the peppers until soft. Put on top of the aubergine, then arrange the slices of cheese on top.

Pour over the sauce and spread evenly on top of the vegetables.

Worth making? This is a tasty dish with lots of flavours and textures, and in my view, makes a nice change from lasagna, moussaka or the dreaded mushroom risotto(*) if you have to serve something to a veggie guest.

(*) Acutally, I love mushrooms risotto – it’s just that it tends to be the only thing on the menu is so many place in London these days!

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Scottish food: Tattie Scones, or Something New for Breakfast

Oh, those oatcakes were so healthy. Now for a change of pace. This winter was cold and I became a really big fan of a cooked breakfast. A hot plate of potatoes, beans and mushrooms seemed just the thing to set me up for the day. Ideally I would have it every morning, but it remains a bit of a weekend treat as I am just not really organised enough to sort my stuff out during the week.

Today’s post combined the pleasures of a cooked breakfast with a traditional Scottish recipe, tattie scones (or potato scones, if you prefer). Don’t confuse these with normal scones. These are not big and fluffy, but more like a thick, heavy potato pancake. The recipe is a little be reminiscent of Norwegian lefse, but the heroic amount of butter in here means that the dough is a heck of a lot easier to work with – just don’t think about what it is doing to your arteries. These “scones” might not be in need of cream and jam, but they make an excellent accompaniment to breakfast, either covered in lots of cheese and popped under the grill, or served with mushrooms and baked beans.

Surprisingly photogenic, aren’t they?

As I have recently found while blogging about traditional Scottish food, the recipe is very simple. Just potatoes, butter, flour and a little salt to round out the flavour. One tweak that I make is to add a little baking powder. This may not be terribly original, but it does add a little bit of lightness to the tattie scones which I think is quite welcome. Add it or don’t. You’re not missing out, but equally adding it doesn’t take you a million miles from the authentic taste experience.

What I do have to confess is that they can be a bit of a mess to form into shape. If you’re feeling bold, turn the dough onto a well-floured worktop and try rolling it. It will work, but the dough it so moist and sticky from the mashed potatoes that it will often stick to everything. Far easier to butter the frying pan, then shape them directly there (while the pan is still cold, of course!). There are two ways to make them – one large circle, then cut into wedges, or make them as individual smaller rounds, more like pancakes. I go with the wedges, as ’twas ever so in my house, and I quite like the way they look on the plate. Plus, looks pretty impressive as you stand by the cooker, flipping a large pancake, with your brunch guests oohing and aahing.

And finally, if you make them and don’t eat them all in one go, they will happily keep for a couple of days in the fridge, ready to be reheated in the toaster or in a dry frying pan. But I ate them like this – and there were none left!

To make tattie scones (makes one round, or six individual scones, serves 2):

• 250g potatoes(*)
• 50g plain flour
• 25g butter
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil until soft, then drain. Return to the pan, add the butter and mash. Add the salt, baking powder and flour, and stir with a spoon until combined.

Lightly grease a frying pan with butter, then add the dough. Use your hands to flatten it, and put over a medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip over(**). Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Both sides should have lots of brown flecks, but will not be evenly coloured. Serve warm or cold.

(*) This is the weight after cooking. Be sure to use floury potatoes if you can. Waxy potatoes make the tattie scones heavier and the dough is impossibly sticky.

(**) You can either flip in the air, but if you’re not feeling brave, slip the pancake onto a well-floured plate. Then put the frying pan on top, flip over, remove the plate, and the tattie scone will be upside down!

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Potato Gratin

Happy New Year!

Another year is over, and we are all thinking about what 2011 will bring. There are those things we know will happen – work, the changing seasons, the promise of holidays – as well as all those unexpected events that will keep life interesting. This blog belongs in the latter category – I started it as a little hobby to keep myself out of trouble and as a way of recording my recipes and challenging myself to make new things, and I am thrilled that so many people are stopping by to check out what I have been doing. Thanks to each and every one of you!

At this time of year, we have usually all consumed our own body weight in cookies, mince pies and chocolates, so it is only natural for the mind to turn to more savoury dishes. While I fully expect that by 8 January my mind will be turning even further to the healthy side of life (light salads, healthy soups), I plan to ease in to this with a satisfying savoury favourite with…eh…rather a lot of cream. It’s my take on potato gratin, or gratin dauphinois if we’re feeling fancy. So not so very healthy, but one step at a time, after all…

I made this recently at Christmas drinks. All that mulled wine and endless plates of biscuit were well and good, but you reach the point where you want something savory, if for no other reason than to stop your guests from lapsing into a hyperglycaemic coma. It was such a hit that the dish was stripped before I could even get to taste it, and people were hovering around the kitchen asking if there was more…

There are a few tricks to guarantee a good result. Firstly, the potatoes: you can use any variety, but if you’ve got the choice, waxy ones are best. Next, do you use raw or parboiled? I have tried this using both, and unless you are an obsessive-compulsive sort, uncooked potatoes are just fine.

What does make a bit of a difference is washing the potatoes. Once you’ve sliced them as thinly as possible, tip everything into a large bowl, cover with cold water, then use your hands to slosh the potatoes around. Tip into a colander or sieve, then repeat. You’ll be truly amazed by just how much starch you remove this way. This means that once you pour over the cream, the potatoes will cook in the liquid, rather than forming a gloopy sauce. We want silky and creamy, not gloopy!

Next, how to season? I like a hit of garlic, but it can easily be too much. The trick here is to whack a clove with the back of a knife, slice in half, and rub the halves around the inside of the baking dish. This gets a subtle whisper of garlic flavour in the final dish. I also season each layer of potato with some salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper and fresh nutmeg.

And of course the cream. Instinct might say “pour it on”, but there is a trick here too. Rather than just cream, I use a 50/50 mixture of double cream and water. This provides enough liquid for the potatoes to cook in so they become soft, but it reduces down in the oven the just coat the potatoes, and avoids a gratin that can sometimes be too greasy.

And…cheese? A lot of people use it, but I give it a miss. Just dot the top with butter for a glorious golden finish.

So go forth, enjoy this warm, comforting culinary classic, and next week this little cook is moving over to the New Year health drive.

To make potato gratin:

• 50g butter
• potatoes (as many as fit into your dish), peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• ground salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• freshly grated nutmeg
• 150-200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Cut the garlic clove in half, and rub all over the inside of the serving dish (mine was 20 x 30cm). Spread the base of the dish with half the butter.

Place the sliced potatoes into a large bowl. Cover with cold water, and stir well. The water should turn white from the potato starch. Drain the potatoes, and rinse a second time. Drain again and shake off any excess water.

Layer 1/4 of the potatoes in the dish. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add another layer of potatoes, then more seasoning, then more potatoes, then more seasoning, and then a final layer of potatoes.

In a jug, combine the cream and the same volume of water and stir well. Pour over the potatoes (the cream mixture should come 2/3 of the way up the potatoes). Cut the rest of the butter into small pieces and scatter over the potatoes.

Bake the gratin for one hour until the top is golden, and a knife can be easily inserted. Serve warm.

Worth making? The is a classic side dish, but makes an equally good main dish with a fresh green salad on a chilly winter evening. Definitely one to try! Can also be made ahead of time and re-heated.

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Vegetable Broth

In the words of Frank Loesser, “baby, it’s cold outside”. Yes, a little light snow and the south of England has come to a shuddering halt. We’re now being bombarded with headlines about “Frozen Britain” (yawn), but as yet, there is no news about how this affects that other news staple, the Royal Wedding.

What is beyond doubt it that it is very chilly, and that calls for proper winter soups. This one is a veggie version of Scotch Broth, so – obviously – lots of vegetables, plus potato and barley to add a bit of substance. I like my soups to be thick and hearty, something filling when you get in from the cold, or to prepare you to venture outside. I just don’t get clear soups, or basic bouillon. Filling, and mopped up with lots of brown, crusty bread. Mmmm!

I also like soups that have a bit of character – smooth “posh” soups are all well and good, but if you’re looking for something to serve as a meal, lots of chunky carrot, turnip, celeriac and barley will do the trick. This is also a super-easy recipe. Just chop up the vegetables, fry in a little oil, add stock and let it simmer for a few hours until the barley is soft. Job done. I’ve posted before about my love for barley, and I am going to go on about it again. I think it really brings something to a soup, a bit of chewiness and texture combined with the tender vegetables.

It’s also a good one as it is cheap as chips to make (read the ingredients – it’s all basic stuff, and quelle horreur very healthy) and can be quite easily made from the sort of thing that skulks around in the bottom of the fridge or, with these winter days, arrives in your weekly organic veg box. I know, that makes me sound so Stoke Newington la-di-da!

If you are making this soup, I’ve put a recipe below, but to be honest, the trick is just to get roughly similar amounts of autumn or winter vegetables, add some potato and barley, then sit back and let the lot simmer until the vegetables are tender. It can also be quite happily made with whatever you have to hand – leeks, celery etc. I like to aim for some vegetables that will turn soft and break down (making the soup thick and satisfying), while others hold their shape. I finished this one off with a couple of spoons of soy sauce, and added a scant handful of fresh thyme leaves to the soup 10 minutes before serving.

As an aside, normally I don’t use celeriac in soup (I use celery), but I decided to give it a try. And, rather marvellously, it cooks wonderfully, becoming very soft, then breaking down and adding to the thickness of the soup. I like to make little culinary discoveries like this!


To make Vegetable Broth (serves 4):

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 large carrot carrots, peeled and diced
• 1 small swede, peeled and diced
• 1 small turnip, peeled and diced
• 3 small onions, peeled and diced 
• 2 scant handfuls barley
• 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

• 3 litres vegetable stock

• salt and pepper, to taste
• small handful fresh thyme

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the carrots, swede, celeriac, onions, barley and potato, and cook for 2 minutes on a medium heat, stirring from time to time.

Add the stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the barley is tender (about 30 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Towards the end of the cooking time, add the thyme (if using). Once ready, add more water if the soup is too thick, and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

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Lefse – Norwegian Potato Flatbreads

Darn. I missed posting something Norwegian in honour of 17 May, Norway’s national day. I was there a few years ago, and I can honestly say I have never seen so many people in national outfit waving their flag with such enthusiasm. They are Norwegians, they are proud of it, and they want you to know it!

But then…the 55th Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Oslo tomorrow. So, to make amends, here is my attempt at traditional Norwegian lefse. These are soft potato flatbreads cooked on a dry griddle. They were traditionally dried for storage, then revitalised by sprinkling with a little water and allowing to sit until soft. Useful when it is -30°C outside and you don’t really want to put on the snow gear to pop to the local shop.

Now, not actually being Norwegian, I didn’t have a family recipe to hand that I could use. I did a bit of searching, and settled on one of the simplest – just potatoes, flour and salt. I reasoned that this was probably closest to the original recipe. I duly started to make them, but found that the potatoes were so sticky that the dough was unworkable. Even with a lot of flour on the rolling pin, the dough stuck to everything.

I put the mix back in the bowl, added a lot more flour, and success was mine. The dough was still sticky, bit I was able to work with it. I suspect this issue might be more to do with the type of potatoes I used, rather than the flour. If you attempt these, then I think you need less flour if you use “floury” potatoes which are quite dry, and more flour if the potato flesh is waxy and contains more moisture. I used normal white potatoes, but you can probably use anything you have to hand, adjusting the flour accordingly.

Today, you can of course buy lefse, but where is the fun in that? However you get them, there are a variety of ways to eat these, either savoury or sweet. I like to eat these Norwegian-style, spread with butter, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, and rolled up to enjoy with coffee. I’ll serve a few this way for a Eurovision party on Saturday, and use some as the basis of an open sandwich with Jarlsberg cheese and pickles. Yes, I have the responsibility of bringing something Norwegian!

For 8 lefse:

• 400g cold boiled potatoes
• 200-250g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon salt

Mash the potatoes until smooth (or use a potato ricer). Add the salt and flour and mix to a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into large flat shapes (as thin as you can) on a well-floured surface, approximately 15-20cm diameter. The dough is quite sticky, so you will need to use a lot to stop them adhering to the work surface.

Heat a dry frying pan or griddle to a medium-high heat. Cook each bread on both sides until there are air pockets and coloured patches. The cooked breads will lose their translucent appearance.

Once cooked, remove and allow to cool. Before eating, store the breads under damp teacloths to make them soft. Doing this, even crisp, brittle breads will soften!

For the cinnamon filling:

• 50g butter
• 50g light brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine everything and mix until creamy. Spread on the cool lefse, roll up and eat.

Worth making? Yes. This recipe is quite messy, but it is simple and fun. You might need to experiment with the amount of flour, but just start with 100g, then add more as you feed necessary to get a dough that you feel you can work with. The finished lefse with cinnamon spread are great – chewy, flavoursome and spicy. They also keep pretty well – you can let them dry out, then revive them using a damp teacloth and a little patience.

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury, Sweet Things