Where would we be without potatoes? We love them – mashed, roasted, jacketed, dauphinoise, chipped, boiled, steamed, crisped – the list is endless. My personal favourites are Bombay Potatoes and Patatas Bravas, which is why I’ve chosen those recipes for this blog post. Patatas Bravas – crispy potatoes, covered with spicy tomato sauce is one of the best things to serve with cold beer. Potatoes are amazing when they’re slowly simmered – the recipe for Slow Cooked Bombay Potatoes uses a slow cooker and can be left for a couple of hours to carry on soaking up the lovely sauce while you get on with other things.
Some people think Sir Walter Raleigh first brought the potato back to show Queen Elizabeth I, from Spain (stopping off at his home in Ireland first, to plant a couple). The story goes that Raleigh presented the potato to the Queen and although dubious, she put her cooks to work immediately so that she could taste this new, exotic vegetable. The cooks didn’t know what to do with it, so threw the potatoes away and beautifully steamed the highly poisonous stems and leaves. This made the whole of court ill. Potatoes therefore weren’t a massive hit and it took a good while for them to gain any kind of respect.
The truth is probably that the potato was brought over to England and/or Ireland by the visiting trading Spanish, but I don’t like to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Potatoes originated in Mexico and were cultivated by the Aztecs. There were many different colours of potato and some reports of a variety that grew under the water. When the Spanish invaded the Aztec empire, they liked some varieties of potato and not others. They obviously only cultivated the varieties they liked and the rest became extinct, it looks as though we’ll never get to taste the underwater potatoes…
Maybe because of the stems and leaves being so poisonous, people weren’t quick to accept the potato into their lives and for many years they were only considered good enough to feed to animals. Wheat bread was the national staple, but where wheat was difficult to grow and oats were the staple (Scotland, Ireland), people were more eager to eat potatoes than rough oat bread. The rest of Britain soon followed and I for one, am very happy that they did!
Here are two of my favourite potato recipes – Patatas Bravas and slow cooked Bombay Potatoes
Patatas Bravas – Serves 4-6
200C 180C fan Gas 7
This is a famous tapas dish – crisp crunchy potatoes topped with as hot as you like smoky tomato sauce. I prefer to roast my potatoes instead of the traditional frying but you can fry them if you prefer. Serve with cold beer or as part of a tapas meal.
500g fluffy potatoes (e.g. Maris Piper)
1 onion finely chopped
1 cloves of garlic crushed or grated
1 red chilli finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
1 can tomatoes OR 400ml passatta
1tsp sugar (optional)
1tsp salt (to taste)
1tsp smoked paprika (buy it here on our ebay site
Few shakes Worcestershire sauce (or salsa inglesa, as it’s called in Spain and Mexico – English Salsa!)
Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Parboil until nearly cooked. Strain and leave the heat underneath to dry them off for a minute. Put the lid on the pan and shake gently to roughen the outside of the potatoes. Roast in a hot oven olive oil until golden and crisp.
Fry the onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic. Carry on cooking until the onion is soft and golden brown (don’t let it burn). Add the chilli (bit by bit if you don’t like it too hot) and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes or pasatta along with the sugar (if using) and salt to taste (I used a big 1/2tsp). Add the paprika and Worcestershire Sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Simmer for 10-20 minutes until the flavours have come together.
Remove the roast potatoes and put into a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle them with salt and top with the tomato sauce. Serve with garlic mayo too, if you like.
Slow Cooked Bombay Potatoes Serves 4-6
This classic Indian accompaniment goes well with anything – even your Sunday lunch roast! If you haven’t got a slow cooker, cook the potatoes in a pan with a well fitting lid on the lowest heat possible (I stand my saucepan on a dry frying pan over the heat to make the heat even more gentle) and just check from time to time that nothing is sticking.
3-5 medium small waxy potatoes/new potatoes
1 onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic grated, crushed or chopped
2cm ginger grated
1/2 can tomatoes OR 200ml pasatta
1/2 tsp turmeric (or buy it here Sally & Stef Spices)
2tsp ground coriander (or buy it freshly ground here Sally & Stef Spices)
1tsp ground cumin (or buy it freshly ground here Sally & Stef Spices)
1tsp garam masala (or buy our house blend here Sally & Stef Spices)
1/2 – 1tsp chilli powder (or buy it here Sally & Stef Spices)
1tsp mustard seeds (or buy it here Sally & Stef Spices)
1tsp cumin seeds (or buy it here Sally & Stef Spices)
Peel the potatoes and cut them into thick chunks. Use waxy red potatoes or large new ones.
Either peel and grate or using a stick blender blend the roughly chopped garlic and ginger with a little water to make a watery paste.
Heat a glug of flavourless oil or ghee in a large pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the seeds start to sizzle and pop, add the onion. Stir well, turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Cook gently (stirring often to prevent burning – add a splash of water if you think it might burn) for 10 minutes until the onions have started to soften. Take the lid off, turn the heat to medium and carry on cooking until the onions are soft and golden (about a further 10-15 minutes). Add the prepared ginger and garlic to the onions, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes until you can smell the garlic.
Add the ground spices and stir well.
Add the tomatoes and 1 heaped tsp salt (or to taste) and stir well. Over a medium heat carry on cooking for around 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to look glossy.
Add the raw potato cubes and stir thoroughly. Taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary – potatoes take more salt than you think!
Transfer to a slow cooker if using and cook for 2 hours on medium or until the potatoes are soft. If cooking on the hob, cover with a lid and use the lowest heat possible. If you have a heat diffuser use that. If you don’t have a heat diffuser, stand the saucepan inside a dry frying pan which will take the direct heat away.
Taste and add salt if necessary. I bet there won’t be any leftovers!