Patatas bravas and harissa roasted vegetables

I have a forever-expanding folder brimming with recipes I’ve cut out from magazines and newspapers. I excitedly anticipate the weekend food supplement in our newspaper, and the monthly magazines from supermarkets, and I’ll happily sit with a pair of scissors and extract whatever I want.

The result is my very own personalised cookbook, organised into categories including vegetables, curry, and chicken. (Don’t ask me where I would put a recipe for a chicken and vegetable curry – I must revise the efficiency of my system.)

When I need some cooking inspiration, I whip out my folder and skim through it. Earlier this week, I found two recipes which seemed to complement each other quite well: patatas bravas (something I’ve been wanting to attempt, since eating tapas), and roasted vegetables with harissa.

Previously, I’d never tried harissa, and knew it only for its hefty price tag of £2 for a small pot. However, I would now highly recommend it: it gives food a smoky taste, like paprika, with a good chilli kick. It’s made from roasted red peppers and chilli peppers, and a little goes a long way.

I’ll start with the vegetables, which can be roasted as you make the patatas bravas. This recipe is from The Times magazine, which does a weekly ‘The Only Four Recipes You’ll Ever Need’ page; this one featured ‘A Jar of Harissa’.

You’ll need (to serve 4):

  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • a jar of harissa
  • a small handful of mint

I was serving five (three of whom have quite large appetites), so I adjusted the recipe by adding two courgettes.

Start by slicing up the peppers and courgettes, and spread into two roasting tins. Cut the grassy tops off the fennel, discard the outer layer and chop into small pieces, then add them to the trays.

Mix three tablespoons of olive oil with three tablespoons of harissa, and drizzle over the vegetables. Stir to coat, and grind over some salt and pepper.

Roast for forty minutes until charred. The recipe then went on to add cooked quinoa and scattering over mint, but I didn’t think the mint would particularly complement the tomatoey potatoes, so left it out. That being said, if I made the veg with quinoa, I’d give the mint a go – it would complement nicely the fennel.

Next, the patatas bravas, a Spanish tapa consisting of fried potatoes in a spicy sauce. I used a recipe also cut out from The Times magazine, which in turn had been extracted from The Tomato Basket, a cookbook. Again, I altered the recipe for my family.

You’ll need (to serve six):

  • 1kg waxy potatoes
  • one onion
  • three garlic cloves
  • chilli flakes
  • sherry vinegar (I didn’t have this, so used red wine vinegar)
  • two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • hot smoked paprika
  • basil

Boil the potatoes until tender. (The recipe wanted me to peel them beforehand, but as I had a bag of baby potatoes, I decided to spare myself this additional labour.) Drain the potatoes off.

Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Heat some olive oil in a deep bottomed pan, then fry for two minutes until fragrant.

Add in two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, cook for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, and paprika. (In the cupboard, my mum had a little box of something Spanish called pimenton. It smelled like paprika, so on a creative whim, I added a generous amount of this instead. Upon later Googling what this mysterious pimenton was, I was disappointed to find that it’s actually just the Spanish for paprika, and it wasn’t of the hot smoked variety. So, I am less of a culinary innovator than I thought.)

Bring to the boil, and cook uncovered, stirring often, for ten to fifteen minutes until thickened.

In another frying pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil, and add the potatoes to fry until browned. If you’re using the same quantity of potatoes as I did, you’ll want to do this in two batches. Make sure to season with salt.

Once the potatoes are brown, add them to the sauce, and mix them together.

Serve with the roasted vegetables and some basil.

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The tomato sauce was really delicious; I’m not sure what difference using sherry vinegar would have made, but the red wine vinegar gave it such a rich flavour. Leaving the skin on the potatoes proved to be an inspired bit of laziness, as they added crispiness. I really enjoyed this combination, and hope that you will too!

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