Tea tonight is Patatas a lo Pobre, or Poor Man’s Potatoes. This is real comfort food. Over the years we’ve been making it we’ve tried various traditional recipes, the tastiest by far is in a cookbook by Sam and Eddie Hart of London’s Fino restaurant. We eat a lot of dishes from their ‘Modern Spanish Cooking’. We eat Patatas a lo Pobre in the summer when we have surplus peppers and tomatoes, and we eat it in the winter when we want something satisfying and cosy. The onions caramelize and the potatoes soak up the olive oil and are golden and silky. There is nothing poor about this dish. This quantity makes enough for us for one hearty vegetarian meal, plus some leftover for a light lunch the next day. What follows is basically the Fino recipe, but with our addition of tomatoes. Yes, it does seem like a lot of frying, but the Spanish traditionally fry a lot of vegetables before adding them to the main dish. It adds to the bold flavours.
3 peeled and chopped onions
2 large red peppers, cored and deseeded, cut into 1cm strips
2 slim Spanish green peppers, cored and deseeded, cut into 1cm strips
1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced into ovals
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthways
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh thyme, plus extra leaves to garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
4 extra large tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°/Gas 4. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, fry for two minutes. Add the peppers, bay leaves and thyme, and fry for six minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, mix well and fry until lightly browned around the edges.
Transfer the frying pan to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
To serve, season with salt, pepper and scatter with parsley and thyme.
If you are very hungry, or short of time, the cooking time can be cut down if the sliced potatoes are fried lightly in a separate pan, before adding to the other vegetables. It doesn’t freeze well, but is best eaten fresh and piping hot which believe me is not a hardship.
5 to remember
las patatas – the potatoes
los tomates – the tomatoes
el tomillo – the thyme
el sartén – the frying pan
el horno – the oven