Roasting potatoes

potatoes
Image by Christos Giakkas from Pixabay

As we approach Christmas I am reviewing my processes and recipes for Christmas dinner.

A key staple of our lunch is roast potatoes. Firstly you need to use the right kind of potatoes. It’s not as simple as buying any kind, the cheapest or whatever. I go with King Edward or Maris Piper.

After peeling and cutting into chunks the potatoes are blanched in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the chunks. Now the size if dependent on how you like your roast potatoes and how long you have to cook them. Obviously smaller chunks means a shorter cooking time, whilst larger chunks though take longer are preferred by some people. We usually go with smaller chunks,

While the potatoes are being blanched, place the roasting tray into the oven, with a good splash of olive oil and one of sunflower oil. The key here is to heat the pan and the oil. I put the pan into the hot oven (with the oil added) for at least five minutes, though I usually do ten minutes. I usually heat the oven when peeling the potatoes and then add the pan with oil while the potatoes are boiling.

After blanching the potatoes, drain and the key here is to let the heat dry the potatoes. If they go into the pan “wet” they won’t crisp up as well. The next stage is to slightly “bash” the potatoes by shaking the colander or sieve, this will aid the crisping process too. Then remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the potatoes, turning them and maybe a little more “bashing”.

You should also ensure that the potatoes are not too crowded, in other words they need air to be crisp. Better to do two less crowded pans than one crowded one. I think this is critical for crisp potatoes.

Cooked for thirty to forty minutes (larger potatoes take longer). It is a good idea to turn the potatoes half way through to ensure a more even crispness. The end result should be tasty, crisp potatoes with a fluffy centre.

Ten minutes before end of cooking you can add some butter and rosemary for flavour.

Truffled Potato Cream Soup

I was staying in Berlin for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany.

I had various meals and snacks while I was there. One dish I really enjoyed was the Truffled Potato Cream Soup from Vapiano.

I did feel a little guilty going to an Italian restaurant while staying in Germany, but when you realise that Vapiano is a German restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne. The chain’s restaurants offer Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle, it certainly has some German food credentials.

The service was simple, in that you ordered from a screen, took a buzzer and then collected your food from the kitchen. So when my buzzer buzzed, I headed to pick up the soup.

The truffled potato cream soup, was seasoned with oregano and nutmeg garnished with fresh spring onions and croutons.  This was a pimped up simple soup for the Christmas market. The soup came with a couple slices of bread.

It was a really nice soup, which I really enjoyed eating. I was tempted to have another bowl.

Spiced Cauliflower Salad

Spiced Cauliflower Salad

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in a magazine.

In a foil lined roasting pan, add some olive oil (and a splash of sunflower oil) and place in a hot oven for ten minutes to heat through.

Cut some potato into 2cm cubes. I used Maris Piper potatoes.

Add the potatoes to the hot roasting pan and roast for ten minutes.

Break the cauliflower into florets and halve the bigger florets, so the pieces of cauliflower are of an equal size. You can also add the cauliflower leaves as well.

Add these to the roasting pan and mix with the potatoes.

Cook for another fifteen minutes.

Sprinkle on some garam masala and stir and toss the potatoes and cauliflower.

Cook for another ten to fifteen minutes, or until the potatoes are crisp and brown.

Remove from the oven.

On a serving plate arrange some leaves of Romaine lettuce. Top with the potato and cauliflower. Add some pomegranate seeds and thinly sliced red onion.

Serve.

Time for Tapas

Staying in London I did fancy some tapas one evening, we decided to head to La Rueda Tapas Bar in Ealing.

La Rueda Tapas Bar is a one-of-a-kind culinary establishment with a menu inspired by the idea of simple and honest cooking. Starting in 2000, we developed a unique dining experience for all of our guests using fresh and sustainable ingredients—taking you on a culinary journey like no other. From classic recipes to new-age kitchen adventures, each dish reflects our passion for high-quality food presented in a simple yet pleasing manner. 

We were given a nice warm welcome and allowed to choose where we wanted to sit. We could have sat outside, but it’s quite a busy street, so we sat inside. We looked over the menu and chose what to have. In the end we went with five different dishes.

Knowing me, I probably would have chosen the calamari, but this time I decided I wouldn’t choose that dish. I was also tempted by the paella, but in the end we went with the tapas selection.

We started off with some olives marinated in garlic and herbs. These were really nice, just the thing to nibble, whilst waiting for the dishes to arrive.

The first of these was the Patatas Bravas. Tripled fried potatoes served with a spicy Brava sauce and a helping of aioli. The potatoes were nice and crisp, the Brava sauce was quite spicy, but this was offset with the nice aioli that had a good flavour of garlic. I think I would have liked the spiciness to be taken down a notch, but otherwise it was a nice dish.

The next dish to arrive was the Gambas al pil pil. This was prawns with chilli, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This was an excellent little dish, the prawns were nice and tasty. They hadn’t been peeled, but they were easy to peel.

The dish after this was Pulpo Gallego. Galician style octopus, saffron potato mash, pimenton. 

This was one impressive dish, and one kind of dish I have wanted to try for a while. The dish was a mound of saffron flavoured mashed potato topped with two grilled octopus tentacles. The octopus was very nice, tender and tasty. I think the mash could have been smoother (more butter), but was tasty.

Our final dish was Chorizo al vino, the classic Spanish sausage cooked in red wine sauce.

The chorizo was lovely and tender and I liked the sauce.

Overall the food was beautiful cooked and it was delicious. I do hope to visit La Rueda again.

Tapas at the Brunello Lounge

My first visit to a “Lounge” was back in 2013 when I went to the Portvio Lounge in Gloucester. I didn’t know at the time that it was part of a chain, but since then I have visited a few others.

The Brunello Lounge in Weston-super-Mare opened in 2017 and I have visited it quite often, usually for breakfast or for coffee.

Recently we decided to pop in for a drink and a lunchtime snack. It was rather busy, but we decided to queue. They had some tables free but we were warned that there was a thirty minute wait for food, which we accepted.

We placed our order at the bar and waited. We did think it might be a “wagamama” thirty minutes, in other words it would be closer to fifteen minutes. However in the end it took fifty minutes for our food to arrive, by which time we had drunk our drinks, which had infant arrived quite promptly.

We had ordered some fries and a selection of tapas. We got three dishes, patatas bravas, crispy squid and buttermilk fried chicken.

The best of the three dishes was the patatas bravas. This was cubes of deep fried potato served with a spicy tomato sauce. The potatoes were nice and crispy, well cooked and I enjoyed the tomato sauce. In my opinion the crispy squid was overcooked, it was certainly crispy, but it was very very crispy and dark as well. The buttermilk chicken was nuggets of crispy chicken served with a chipotle mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was nice, the chicken was a little dry.

Overall I think these could have been three great dishes, but the final result was not as good as they should have been. One was really good, the others needed a little more refinement. I did wonder if the volume of orders was causing problems in the kitchen. In the past the food we’ve had at the Brunello Lounge has been excellent.

Having said all that I might go again and try the tapas again.

Back to Côte Brasserie

I have been to Côte in Ealing a couple of times, on a recent visit I really quite enjoyed the cassoulet I had. I was needing dinner and decided that I would visit Côte for food. It was quite busy, which I found out later was down to the pre-theatre crowd. However a table was found for me and I sat down and looked over the menu. I was tempted by the cassoulet, which I’ve had before, or trying out the Breton fish stew.

As it was a weekday there was a prix fixe (fixed price) menu, so I went with that having two courses, a starter and a main. 

If I am eating out I generally prefer a starter over a desert. There was a limit choice of four starters, though tempted by the wild mushroom soup, I went with the Pork Terrine with spiced apple chutney and pain de campagne.

It was a nice terrine and the accompanying chutney was a good contrast. I think a stronger flavour would have worked for the terrine, but it had a nice texture. My pain de campagne was well toasted, slightly burnt on the edges. I would have preferred a more lightly toasted bread with my terrine.

There were five choices for the mains. I did think about ordering the Toulouse Sausages with puy lentils and sautéed kale with a Dijonnaise dressing for my main. However I went with the Poulet Grille. This is a chargrilled chicken breast with a creamy wild mushroom and thyme sauce served with gratin potato. 

The presentation of the dish was rather messy I thought. The gratin potato was nice and creamy, but there was no golden crust. I think I was expecting more of a defined structure of potato. The wild mushroom sauce was nice, but lacked flavour, partly down to the excess cream from the gratin potato which diluted the sauce. The chicken was slightly overcooked, but I enjoyed the flavour.

I did enjoy the food and it was tasty. Service was warm, friendly and efficient.

Huevos Rotos with Iberico Ham

Headed out at lunch for a walk. I did visit Finzel’s Reach Market first, but nothing there took me fancy. So I headed over Bristol Bridge to St Nick’s market and went to La Lola. I had enjoyed the paella there earlier in the week.

Though tempted by the calamari, or the paella, this time I went with something different, the Huevos Rotos with Iberico Ham. This is egg, ham and chips, Spanish style! You could have had chorizo instead of ham, but I went with the ham. Took a seat and it wasn’t long before the food arrived.

Huevos Rotos with Iberico Ham

This was chipped potatoes, two fried eggs, aioli, slices of Iberico ham and some breadsticks.

The eggs were freshly cooked, the chipped potatoes were nice. The aioli added a nice touch. I did think the ham was not as well flavoured as I was expecting, so I think next time I get this I’ll go with the chorizo. I didn’t really see the point though of the breadsticks.

I enjoyed my lunch and left with a smile on my face.

Making some Game Chips

Game Chips

Having had my mandolin for a while now, one thing I did want to try was to make some game chips. These are slices of potato cut on the serrated blade on the mandolin and then twisted 90º before slicing again.

These are then deep fried in hot oil until cooked and brown. Drain and serve.

Slow Roasted Pork Salad

Back in the summer for an evening meal, we had slow roasted pork belly with potatoes and salad.

The pork belly was from M&S and comes already seasoned. It has no rind, so you don’t get crackling, but slow roasting usually (for me results) in rubbery crackling anyhow. It is a tasty joint and a favourite in our house.

I did small roast potatoes, using Maris Piper potatoes which are par boiled and then roasted in hot oil in the oven. I generally add a little butter towards the end of cooking to add colour and a final crispness.

The salad included a personal favourite of thinly sliced raw cauliflower in a spicy mayonnaise. We first had this eating out at a  cafe in Wapping Wharf in Bristol. We stole the idea and now have it on a regular basis.

Overall a delicious meal and very tasty.