Whilst writing #Mylifein10cookbooks, I revisited some old favourites. This recipe for Patatas a lo Pobre is my take on one from my battered, old and much-loved Moro cookbook; it was perfect served with a whole chicken we spit-roasted on the BBQ with a rub made with paprika, chilli, oil, salt and black pepper. The recipe uses quite a lot of olive oil so the potatoes and vegetables are cooked confit-style and bay-infused making them sweet and packed with flavour.
- 8 – 10 tablespoons of light olive oil
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
- 2 teaspoons of paprika dulce
- 3 peppers – a mix of red, green and yellow works beautifully but use what you have available. Halve, de-seed and roughly chop
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 800g firm, waxy potatoes like Charlotte – quartered lengthwise
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Optional: 10 sunblush tomatoes (not fresh – too much liquid)
- Preheat the oven to 140°C.
- First of all, get ready to prep everything in the oil. I have a metal traybake pan from M&S that I can use on the hob as well as the oven. If you don’t have one like that, start it off in a frying pan and then transfer the contents to your traybake dish.
- Add half the oil to your pan and when it’s hot, add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions slowly for about 20 minutes until they are soft and sticky. Now add the garlic, bay leaves and peppers and stir around for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the remaining oil and then add the potatoes, the paprika and a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Mix everything together thoroughly and then put it into the baking tray if you were using a frying pan.
- Put in the oven on the middle shelf and allow it to chat to itself for an hour or so. The potatoes should still be whole yet cooked and everything else nicely sweet and soft.
- Just before serving, I stir through the sun-blush tomatoes. Not a traditional touch but I think it lifts the dish.
- Serve with any roast meat and a crisp green salad on the side.
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Day 10/10 of my cookbook challenge, the books and cooks who have influenced my kitchen over the past 40 years: The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
It was a tough call to pick just ten of the most influential books in my library but this volume was an easy choice. I’d been cooking meat for years but not always well – Hugh’s book made it foolproof. As I come from and live in a farming community, I’d always been a supporter of high welfare animal husbandry – Hugh’s book and the accompanying C4 tv series made it everyone’s business. I’ve always tried to buy my meat from a quality family-run butchers where you can have confidence in the provenance of what you’re buying – Dunham’s of Boston, Hubbards in Bury St Edmunds, Salter and King in Aldeburgh and The Ginger Pig (I have their excellent book too) in London are amongst my favourites.
When it comes to improving your cookery with the right specialist techniques, it’s definitely worth investing in books by the experts. My copies of Leiths Bibles, Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, Thane Prince’s Jam’s & Chutneys, Michel Roux’s Sauces, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book and my Larousse Gastronomique are all as well-thumbed as my recipe collections because these are the books that make our outcomes better, encourage us to experiment with confidence and become original and accomplished cooks in our own right.
Day 9/10 of my cookbook challenge, the books and cooks who have influenced my kitchen over the past 40 years: Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.
After many failed attempts at making so much as a passable Victoria sponge, I used to be quite convinced that (a) I was rubbish at baking and (b) that baking was strictly the preserve of old ladies and members of the WI; truly they alone had been granted baking super-powers. Then two things happened in the year 2000; I had the first brand new oven I’d ever owned installed in my new kitchen (game-changer, you can’t get good results from a dodgy oven) and then I spotted this on the shelf of my local bookstore where I had a gift voucher to spend. I already had the wonderful How to Eat by her and the cover and the title of this book just called out to me. I loved the cheekiness of the title, the simplicity of the graphic that was to become her brand icon and I think I was probably in need of a little comfort food at the time.
Before long, I was cranking out all manner of baked deliciousness and I have genuinely lost count of the number of times I have made her lemon and poppyseed cake and the banana loaf featured at the beginning of that book. My family would shamelessly and deliberately allow bananas to go brown and spotty because they knew I would be compelled to make a cake rather than see them go to waste. Now, of course, I have other baking titles in my library like Leith’s Baking Bible, a couple of Hummingbird Bakery titles Home Sweet Home and Cake Days as well as Mary Berry’s Baking Bible but it was Nigella who taught me to love baking and Nigella who made me believe being able to bake was not only achievable but also desirable and cool.