Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fancy a quickie ? Patatas and cheap

The Spanish love their potatoes but I think they lack imagination when it comes to creating new and exiting dishes with them. The only one potato dish that I can truly recommend is Patatas Bravas [Brave Potatoes] named so because of their hot and spicy sauce. Patatas bravas are thick chopped potatoes that have been parboiled before being deep-fried, and are served with one or more piquant sauces, salsa brava and all i oli . These little potatoes are probably the most traditional tapas food in Spain and they can be found almost everywhere. Patatas Bravas is also a very quick dish to whip-up, feeds plenty and  is cheap.....I like that !!!

The humble potato plant
The potato was first domesticated and cultivated as a crop by the ancestors of the Incas in Peru . All Spaniards are firmly convinced that Spain was the first country in Europe to import the potato from the New World, but most are hazy on the details of who or when, and mutter something vague about Columbus in 1492. English or Irish versions involving Sir Walter Raleigh and the Golden Hind are dismissed as the bogus claims of a pirate.  

Below are a few other ways the Spanish like their spuds.

Patatas fritas ( chips) can also refer to crisps, but these can be further distinguished by calling them patatas fritas de bolsa .
Patatas al horno refers only to baked potatoes, however another Spanish way to cook potatoes in the oven is 'patatas a lo pobre', rather like lyonaisse potatoes in Ireland , chopped up and roasted in oil with lots of onions.
Patatas hervidas / cocidas [boiled potatoes] or patatas al vapor [steamed potatoes] are often served with judias verdes [green beans], guisantes [peas], acelgas [Swiss chard] or col [cabbage] as a first course. They also frequently accompany fish, but rarely appear as part of a main course dish with meat or poultry. However, they feature prominently in many bean dishes and stews.
Patatas guisadas are potatoes boiled with scraps of meat on the bone, as is estofada de patatas . The meat is often almost inedible , but nevertheless gives the spuds a lot of flavour. Again, this is usually a first course.
Puré de patatas [mashed potato] usually seems to be made from a packet in household kitchens, though of course not in good restaurants.
Potato salad consists of cold boiled potatoes slathered in mayonnaise or al i oli sauce often appear as tapas or bar snacks.
Ensaladilla rusa [Russian salad] another common tapa, is cold potatoes sprinkled with paprika or cayenne pepper and a drop of olive oil, with tinned tuna, hard boiled eggs and olives,
Boñatos [sweet potatoes] are popular in autumn, and can be bought hot from street stalls that also sell roasted castañas [chestnuts]

Authentic Patatas Bravas

Serves 4

500ml (2 cups) olive oil
4 large potatoes
Salt to taste

Salsa Brava
85ml (1/3 cup) tomate frito (a tomato sauce made from pureed tomatoes, onion and garlic with a little sugar and vinegar).
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce to taste

Parboil the potatoes with their skins still intact either on the stove or in the microwave in a covered bowl filled with water. The potatoes are finished boiling when you put a knife in them, and they are still slightly firm. Set the potatoes aside, so they can cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the salsa brava, adding white vinegar and cayenne pepper until the sauce tastes tangy and spicy. Set the sauce aside.

Drain, peel and cut the potatoes into 3 cm (1 inch) cubes. Deep-fry or sauté in oil at medium heat until golden brown. Remove the potatoes from the oil and pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess oil.
Put the potatoes on a serving plate, sprinkle them with salt and drizzle them with the bravas sauce. Some prefer to serve the sauce on the side, but traditionally the sauce is drizzled over top. For an extra tasty version, add a large spoonful of garlic mayonnaise just before serving.