For most people there are milestones of ‘food freedom’ dotted throughout their lives. You move from having all your food provided by (and all your eating practices dictated by) your parents, to experiencing the first time you find yourself with money on the way home from school, and no one to stop you from spending it on liquorice allsorts and Spice Girls bubblegum. There are the first few weeks (…years) when you live out of home and realise that, if you want chocolate for dinner, you can have chocolate for dinner. You finally understand that, as an adult, you don’t have to eat everything on your plate. If you don’t like tomato, you can finally pick slices of the horrible, slimy fruit out of your sandwich – after all, you paid for the bloody thing.*
Well, the other day I had one of these moments. Two nights earlier we had been out for dinner and I had ordered baked fish with patatas bravas, and by far it was the potatoes with tomato sauce and mayonnaise that I enjoyed the most (to be fair, fish is delicious, but neither I nor my dinner companions enjoyed the fact that I had to pick little bones out with every mouthful). Two days later I deliberately undermined the rules of tapas and made us a huge plate of patatas bravas for lunch. Essentially I took the best bit of my previous meal, tripled it, and served it for lunch. Because I am the cook of the house, and I can eat whatever I want.
(Recipe adapted from Felicity Cloake)
500g (18oz) of baking potatoes
250ml (1 cup) olive oil
1 small brown or white onion
1 small red chilli
A large tin of chopped tomatoes (roughly 400g/14oz)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
Preheat the oven 180°C (350°F). Peel your potatoes and cut them into little cubes, roughly 2 cm across. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the bottom of a baking sheet without the potatoes and put in the oven to heat up for 5 minutes. Take out the tray with oil, add the potatoes and a big pinch of salt, and toss so the potatoes are evenly covered with the hot oil. Put back in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes, or until they are golden and crispy.
While the potatoes are baking finely dice the onion and chilli, and add them to a medium-sized pot with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and glassy. Drain the tin of tomatoes slightly, and then add to the pot with about half of their original liquid. Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and smoked paprika, and stir. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, cooking for about 20 minutes until it has turned a darker colour and some of the liquid has reduced. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the sherry vinegar and take off the heat.
While the tomatoes are cooking, make the garlic aioli. Put the egg in a blender with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the crushed garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Blend until combined. Now leave the blender on and very, very slowly, add the remaining oil in a very light drizzle while the mixture blends. You will end up with a creamy garlic mayonnaise.
Serve hot by placing the tomato sauce on a plate, topping with the potatoes and drizzling on the aioli.
*Nick pointed out the irony of complaining about tomatoes in a post where one of the main ingredients is tomatoes. As the boss of my own blog, I don’t care.