Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Patatas Bravas and Spanish memories

I wish I had heard of patatas bravas when I visited Spain.  I booked a trip there on a whim many years ago and was thoroughly miserable because I would have preferred to be at a Pulp gig in Edinburgh with E.  It didn't help that I didn't know a word of Spanish and couldn't work out what food was vegetarian.  I loved the fruit and veg markets on La Rambla but I just didn't understand tapas.

I saw some amazing sites in Spain and yet I just wasn't in the frame of mind for it.  Madrid left me cold, though it offered museums as well as churros and chocolate.  I loved the artwork of the Prado Museum and was moved by the full sized Guernica.  Toledo gave me a taste of the beautiful Moorish architecture.  Barcelona had a charming old town, the colourful La Ramblas and the Picasso Museum but most of all it had Gaudi. I just loved seeing his buildings but was even more astounded by the skillful blending of architecture and nature in Park Guell (above).  To this day, it is still among the most amazing gardens I have ever seen.

Finally I found I had to get out of the cities.  I went to Segovia on a whim and was calmed by the gorgeous small town.  I stayed in a pension where I found my landlady (who was far bigger than me) trying to take possession of my jeans away.  The huge Roman acquaduct inspired awe, whereas I loved the small scale of the Alcazar (which I heard inspired Walt Disney) and the Iglesia de la Vera Cruz (above), a church built by returning Crusaders.  I also discovered a vegetarian paella.  But I never tried tapas.  I just wasn't in the mood.

I'd like to think that if I went back to Spain I might enjoy spending time in tapas bars, eating patatas bravas.  Though I would probably find them rather spicy, if my experiences with them in restaurants since that trip is anything to go by.  The dish has been on my to-do list for some time now but it is only recently that I finally attempted it.  I'd like to think my photography might have improved by now but the photos of this final dish were quite unattractive.

My main problem, however, was trying to get a sense of the dish.  I had thought it was potatoes cooked in the oven in a tomato sauce but I couldn't find a recipe to fit my vision.  Finally I decided to try a recipe where I roasted the potatoes and tossed them in a tomato sauce.  This actually suited us because then I could give Sylvia some of the roast potatoes without the sauce.

The real star of the dish were some lovely pontiac potatoes from Preston farmer's market.  I used whisky and water instead of white wine and didn't have any parsley.  My potatoes too ages to roast in my slow oven but they were wonderfully golden and crispy when done.  The sauce was quite spicy but pleasantly so.  We ate them with some spinach pancakes that E fried for me while I made the sauce.  The Patatas Bravas were even better the next day when the sauce had soaked in to the potatoes.

I could have done with a robust dish like this for dinner tonight.  I made a mediocre stew which didn't bring the cheer I needed.  We all have colds at the moment, work is crazy-busy, Sylvia's routine has gone a little off kilter, and Blogger just swallowed some of my work tonight.  I suspect that like my Spanish trip, life is good but I am just not in the frame of mind tonight to appreciate it.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Paula's Carob Bikkies
Two years ago: Rhubarb and apple sponge pudding
Three years ago: AWED Butterscotch pudding
Four years ago: Miss Marple’s Tea Room – cosy charm
Five years ago: PPN#20: Cultures, traditions and macaroni cheese

Patatas bravas
adapted from taste.com.au
serves 4

1.5kg sebago potatoes, peeled (I used pontiac), chopped in inch squares about
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, chopped (I used a brown onion)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli paste
1 and 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 tsp smoked salt (or sea salt and add extra smoked paprika)
2 tbsp whisky
1/4 cup water
400g can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (didn't use)

Preheat oven.  The recipe directed to roast at 200 C but I found I had to heat my oven to 240 (it is slow).  Place potatoes and an inch or tow of water in a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes (they should only be starting to cook at this stage, not soft through).  Drain

Set out two roasting tins.  Toss half the potatoes with 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of oil and a pinch of french lavender salt (or regular salt) in each large roasting pan.  (Ideally I would heat the oil in the pan first but I didn't have time.) Roast potatoes for 40 minutes or until crisp and tender.  (Mine took 80 minutes.)

Meanwhile heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan (I think I used the same once I cooked the potatoes in) and fry onions for about 5 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic, chilli paste and paprika and stir well for about 1 minute.  Add salt, whisky, water, tomatoes and oregano.  Bring to the boil and simmer approximately 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.  Season and puree (I used a hand held blender so mine wasn't totally smooth).  Return to heat to check it is heated through.  (I cooked mine an additional 20 minutes as I wanted to be sure it was thick enough).  Stir in parsley and toss sauce through roasted potatoes. 

On the Stereo:
The Sound of Music (soundtrack)

24 comments:

  1. Goodness- that looks so very tasty! We went out for tapas on my birthday a couple of months ago and I loved that they had so many vegetarian options.
    Here's hoping that the week gets better! It is hard when people are feeling sick and overworked.

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    1. Thanks Nupur - sick and overworked isn't a good combination but yes tapas is fun - I like the idea of all the taster dishes - but am still never sure of how much veg options will be on offer

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  2. oh this brings back so many memories! i loved segovia!!!

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    1. Thanks Lisa - Segovia is an amazing town - wish I had spent more time there

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  3. Patatas bravas recipes have captured my interest before but I haven't tried one yet. I'm adding this one to my bookmarks, it sounds fantastic!

    Loved hearing about your trip to Spain even though it wasn't a highlight for you. I've wanted to go to Barcelona ever since reading a novel that was set there as it described the city so vividly. Hope everyone is feeling much better now!

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    1. Thanks Mel - Barcelona was a great city - despite one of my "friends" at the hostel being mugged, it was so full of colour and culture and historic architecture - hope you get there one day. And hope you find a patatas bravas recipe to suit you

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  4. I totally just found smoked salt at my parents' place. STOLEN! Love the second photo. I'll get to Spain one day!

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    1. Thanks Hannah - smoked salt is amazing - I would love to go back to Spain and really enjoy it

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  5. Looks delicious. Love the bit of spice in there. The country looks beautiful too

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    1. Thanks Katie - it was just the right amount of spice for us

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  6. I adore patatas bravas and The Sound of Music - what a lovely day.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - patatas bravas was a great way to end a nice day - sound of music just seems on a lot of the time - any time sylvia chooses the music :-)

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  7. This is such a lovely classic dish and I love the fact that you mention that they're even better the next day! I love next day food! :D

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - next day food is great - I think the potatoes are much better once the spicy sauce really soaks in

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  8. Sometimes life does present a slightly unappealing face. I hope it turns around for you soon - it seems like too long that you have had colds in your household. More dinners like this one should be prescribed I think.

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    1. Thanks Kari - since the post my favourite eggflip has broken and the car has broken down again but at least my cold is better and the sun is shining (and we even had wind for the washing on the line!)

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  9. I definitely prefer to get out of cities when I travel, if I can. I've had patatas bravas in a few different places in Spain - they vary a lot in how spicy the sauce is, as well as in whether the potatoes are roasted, boiled, or fried. Yours look good! :-)

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    1. Thanks Rachel - my travels have involved too many cities and not enough countryside but am trying to change this. Thanks for giving some feedback on patatas bravas - seems there is no definitive recipe

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  10. Johanna I think you need to go back to Spain. Find a little spanish town, with a little tapas bar and eat all the vegetarian tapas you can find. And if you don't, well at least you have your patatas bravas to keep you going. Yum!

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    1. Thanks Brydie - I definitely need to go back to spain - my trip there was probably my least planned that I have ever made - I arrived in Madrid and felt totally unsure of what to do, what to eat, what to say, what to see - mostly I like to read up a bit first or at least know more about a country than what you learn from Rolf Harris' song about Maximillian Mouse :-)

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  11. I keep meaning to try patatas bravas, but am not a big potato eater so don't tend to have them in the house! Yours look and sound great though.

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    1. Thanks Caroline - we love potatoes here and often have them leftover after E makes mashed potatoes - but I don't often buy fancy ones like the ones here which really were great

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  12. Sorry to hear about the colds and bad frame of mind! Hope that by now you are all better. The patatas bravas would likely make anyone feel a tad better--at the least, the spice would clear your sinuses a bit! ;)

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    1. Thanks Ricki - luckily the colds are better which helps the frame of mind - and I never thought of this dish as being medicinal but with the spices to clear the passages and the potatoes for comfort this is just right

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