Tag Archives: potatoes

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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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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Scottish Food: Macaroon Bars

The elegant arcades of Paris are dotted with pâtisseries selling dainty macarons in vibrant colours and all manner of exotic flavours. All very sophisticated and famous the world over.

Well, today I present one of Scotland’s national sweets: the macaroon bar. It’s about a million miles from the French macaron. They both contain sugar and the names are a little bit similar, but that’s about as far as it goes.

The Scottish macaroon bar is something of tooth-aching sweetness. It has a snowy-white intensely sugary interior that has been dipped in chocolate and then rolled in toasted coconut. This is probably as bad as sweets can get (and a dentist’s worst nightmare) but it has a firm place on the heart of a nation that, well, loves just about anything that is very, very, very sweet.

You might also wonder where the name comes from – is this in any way linked to the French macaron? The answer is…I don’t know. But here in Britain, coconut macaroons are quite common, so I think it is the addition of the coconut that gives rise to the name. Just a hunch.

Now, you might be looking at these things and thinking “wow, that looks an awful lot like a peppermint cream/pattie then you are sort of right. The filling is like fondant, but it hides a surprise. Whereas true fondant centres involve boiling sugary syrups to the right temperature, then working the syrup on cool marble surfaces with spatulas and kneading them to encourage the formation of the right type of sugar crystals, macaroon bars take a shortcut. And that shortcut (and I promise I am not making this up) is to use cooled mashed potato.

That’s right. Potato!

It seems surprising, but you mix one part potato to four to five parts icing (confectioner’s) sugar, and hey presto – a smooth filling that is easy to work and just as sweet as the more complex version. What this does mean, of course, is that if you are making this with kids on a rainy afternoon, it’s very easy to do and much safer than leaving a toddler to work a tray of scalding sugar syrup. Of course, it won’t do their teeth any good, but this is of course not something that you would be making on a daily basis.

The profess of making them takes a little time, but it’s actually quite easy. You start with the potato, which looks like it won’t ever take the best part of a kilogram of sugar. But with the first addition, it turns from dry-looking mashed potato to a very sticky syrup. Looks odd, but keep going and it becomes firm and turns snowy-white. Then you chill it in the freezer, so that once you come to dip the pieces in chocolate, it sets quite quickly. But something I learned by macaroon bar number two was that you either need to work with a friend (one dipping, one rolling) or use one hand for dipping, and keep the other free for the rolling. Otherwise you end up with fingers covered in chocolate, coated in coconut, and one very, very big mess in the kitchen.

The bar shape is classic, but once I’d cut the fontant into strips, I ended up with a few scraps. Clearly worried that I didn’t have enough highly sugary sweets already, and as I still had ample chocolate left, I rolled the fondant into balls, flattened them slightly, and dipped them in chocolate and rolled them in untoasted coconut. I think that they look rather pretty. Who knows, they could even take off as the must-have petits fours for smart dinner parties!

To make macaroon bars (makes 18-20):

• 1 large potato (100g after boiling)
 • 400-500g icing sugar
• 2-3 drops vanilla extract
 • 300g dark chocolate
 • 100g dessicated coconut

Boil the potato until soft. Drain, measure out 100g, then mash until there are no lumps, and leave until cold.

Put the cold mashed potato, vanilla extract and 100g of icing sugar in a bowl. Mix well – the potato might seem very dry, but it will change into a very thick, sticky paste. Keep adding the icing sugar, 100g at a time, mixing well after each addition, until you have a stiff white fondant.

Line a tray with greaseproof paper, put the fondant in the tray, and press flat. Cover with cling film and leave in the freezer for an hour.

In the meantime, toast the coconut in the oven – spread thinly on a large baking sheet and cook in the oven at 150°C (300°F) for around 5 minutes until the coconut is just golden. Watch it carefully – it can burn very easily. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Remove the fondant from the freezer. Cut into bars (mine were finger length and just wider than finger width).

Melt the chocolate in a bowl above a pan of barely simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, dip each piece of the sugar paste into the chocolate, then roll in the coconut. Transfer to a sheet of greasproof paper and allow to set.

Worth making? This is quite a fun and easy recipe to try. It’s super-sweet, so not something you would make often, but worth having a go at!

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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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Scottish food: Clapshot (Potato & Swede Mash)

To contrast with the very, very sweet tablet I posted a few days ago, clapshot is the polar opposite. Very simple and very savoury. Looking at the list of ingredients, I concede that it does not sound so very exciting, but I can assure you that it all works together beautifully.

Clapshot originates in the north of Scotland, with Orkney usually suggested as its birthplace. This would probably have been the main part of the meal back when life was a lot less comfortable than it is today, but for modern tastes, this makes a fine side dish too.

Now, as if just to prove the point of how different the Scots are, when we talk about “turnip” we mean the orange root vegetable others refer to as swede. If you use white turnips…well, I have never made this with white turnips, but I would imagine that it does not become as soft as swede, so it will be altogether more lumpy, so the dish won’t look as good. By all means try it, but you have been forewarned! In contrast, swede becomes wonderfully juicy and tender when boiled, and changes from a dull peachy hue to a vibrant orange colour, which looks rather fetching against yellow potatoes and flecked with green chives and black pepper. The taste is interesting, and incredibly more-ish: the sweetness and aroma of the swede comes out and mixes with the sharpness of the pepper and chives, tempered by the creaminess of the butter. All this from potato and turnip!

Simple? Yes. But something to tickle the tastebuds? Most certainly.

To make clapshot (as a side for four or main course for two):

• Approximately 500g swede, peeled and roughly cubed
Approximately 500g potatoes, peeled and roughly cubed
• 50g butter
• salt, to taste
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2-3 tablespoons milk
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the turnip and potato, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Drain, and return immediately to the pot.

Add the butter, chives,  salt, pepper and milk, and use a masher to roughly combine the turnip and potato. Make the mixture as rough or smooth as you like (I like to leave it a little lumpy). Serve straight away while still hot.

If you want to prepare ahead of time, omit the chives when mashing the clapshot. Reheat in an ovenproof dish covered with tin foil, and mix the chives into the clapshot when it comes out of the oven.

If you are feeling creative or want to mix it up a little, you could add a pinch of nutmeg, or use the butter to fry a little chopped onion to add to the mash.

Worth making? Given how simple this sounds, and how quick it is to make, clapshot is very tasty, and a nice way to vary the selection of winter vegetables.

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Rösti

Like potatoes but want to try something new? Think Switzerland, think rösti. This is a tasty, fried treat, so the sort of thing that you would want to eat at the end of a long day hiking in the mountains and dancing around Alpine meadows.

This is a traditional Swiss dish, which was originally eaten for breakfast (lots of calories, see above re hiking and spending all day in the fresh Alpine air) and you can see why this would be the perfect thing to set you up for the day. Nowadays, each region has its own version, but in my view, the buttery Zürich version is best of all. This is often eaten with a not-too-sweet applesauce, but I like it with a dollop of mayonnaise. I also like to have it with a fresh green salad with a sharp dressing, to balance the richness of the rösti.

This recipe is simplicity itself – just take some coarsely grated cooked potatoes, mix with a few sliced onions(*), fry in butter until golden, then flip over to cook the other side. These are a little like hash browns, but rather than solid blocks of potato, you grate them so there are lots of individual crispy strands at the edges. You could use vegetable oil if you are looking for a healthier dish, but I love the taste of butter when you make these. The one thing to be careful about is the potato you use – look for waxy potatoes, as they are easier to grate, whereas floury potatoes will collapse and turn to mush. Just as tasty when fried in butter, but the finished rösti isn’t nearly so appealing.

(*) I use onion in mine as I love their flavour, but you don’t have to. If someone in your house doesn’t like them, then omit them, rather than be faced, as I was, with a request to “pick the bits of onion out of the potatoes” once I had mixed them with the onion.

To make 2 large rösti (serves 4):

• 1kg boiled potatoes, peeled (ideally a waxy variety)
• 1 white onion, peeled
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 50g butter

Grate the potatoes using a coarse grater. Cut the onions in half, then slice very thinly. In a bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and combine gently using your hands.

Melt half the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the potatoes and cook until golden, then flip over and cook on the other side. Once done, cook the rest of the potatoes (or do two at the same time).

Worth making? This is a super easy recipe, and tastes delicious. A good one for every cook’s repertoire!

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Dillpotatis (Swedish Dill Potatoes)

Amidst all the world cup hysteria, a lot of people have overlooked Saturday’s royal wedding in Sweden. Crown Princess Victoria married her gym instructor – a modern fairytale. In honour of that, a Swedish-inspired dish today…

In the world of potato salads, there are those who like them to be creamy, those that like them sharp and acidic, and those that like them to be fresh and herby. I fall into the last category, as I like potato salad to be quite light, and something that lends itself to a summer picnic.

Why potatoes, why now? Because Jersey Royals are currently in British shops. These are early potatoes, which come only from the island of Jersey. They crop early, and have a rich, earthy taste – one of the flavours that signals summer is (almost) here. For those not in the UK, I am sorry to say that we benefit from virtually the entire crop, so you will have to keen an eye out for them next time you are visiting. For cooking, you can just scrape off the skin (I don’t bother), boil briefly, and they are delicious with a little butter and some chopped parsley. While they are a little more expensive than normal new potatoes, in my opinion, they are very much worth it.

However, this year I thought I would try something a little different with the little haul I picked up at the market, so I have made my take on the classic Swedish dillpotatis (literally “dill potatoes”). The Royal nature of these spuds also fits in with the Swedish wedding, so it’s clearly some sort of sign. For a potato salad, it is quite light, with just a little oil to allow the flavours of a few spices to come out and keep the dish moist. There is quite a lot of dill in here compared to others I have seen, but I think the freshness and aniseed flavours help keep the dish very “summery”. This is something that I came up with through trial and error based on what I ate in Sweden, and I think I have done quite well in producing something that showcases all of the ingredients. The tumeric works well with the spring onions, and its earthiness rounds out the flavour of the potatoes. It also makes the dish a vibrant neon yellow colour, which looks great and is all-natural.

For the potatoes:

• 500g potatoes (Jersey Royals or baby potatoes)
• 4 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 25g dill, chopped (one generous handful of leaves, after you have removed the tough stalks)

If you feel the need, scrape the skins off the potatoes (don’t peel). It should come off quite easily if you use a table knife. Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain and allow to cool.

In a saucepan, heat the spring onions in one tablespoon of oil until soft. Add the salt, pepper and turmeric and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the spring onion mixture, the dill and 2 tablespoons of oil to the potatoes. Toss so that the potatoes are evenly coated. Chill before serving to allow the flavours and colour to develop.

Worth making? This makes a nice alternative to potatoes covered in mayonnaise. I particularly like the colour – the potatoes are golden, and the oil takes on a shocking neon colour which looks great on a white plate. You can also adapt it easily depending on what is in the cupboard – paprika, cumin, black onion seeds…

Final thought – congrats to the happy couple. They look great together and are clearly in love. A happy future together!

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Patatas Bravas

Need something quick, easy and tasty to go with drinks? Then go for patatas bravas.

I was at a Eurovision party yesterday (lots of bad taste in music, but good-tasting food), and we had dishes from around the continent. On behalf of Spain, I whipped up a batch of these little beauties. Needless to say, they were a hit and one of this first things to go.

There are a number of ways to make them, but in my view this is the simplest – take white potatoes, peel them, chop into bit-sized chunks, toss in a little salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil, and then bake in the oven until brown. No par-boiling, no deep-frying. Simple! Patatas bravas are usually served either topped with a spicy tomato sauce, or with a side of aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) for dipping.

So next time you have friends round for a drink, you can be a little more sophisticated. You’re not just having snacks, it’s tapas time!

For patatas bravas (serves 4):

• 3-4 large white potatoes
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, finely ground
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Peel the potatoes, and cut into chunks (about 2cm pieces). Put the potato chunks into a bowl, add the oil and seasoning, and toss until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Spread the potatoes on a baking tray, and bake for 40-50 minutes until the potatoes are golden. If you find the potatoes stick to the tray, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes – the steam from the potatoes will loosen them.

Serve with aïoli (combine mayonnaise, paprika and a small minced clove of garlic).

Worth making? Yes – this is quick, easy and always popular and delicious. Really worth trying.

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