Posted by: puebloman | July 25, 2011

Cheap Spanish food 1: Patatas a lo pobre

There are certain foods that it would be a feckless extravagance not to eat, they are so cheap and such good value. UK Cornish mackerel, and mussels come to mind. These foods, among the best this world has to offer, are so cheap that they are largely ignored. If they were ten times dearer , the stinking rich would niche them, clique them and otherwise celebrate them while the wheedling poor would claim them as a human right.

So before its too late let me sing the praises of one of Spain’s great humble potato dishes “Patatas a lo Pobre” – poor man’s potatoes. This has to be one of the world’s great peasant dishes. It’s a dish of onions and potatoes so no one is excused from eating it because of its price. It is delicious hot, cold and as a base for a wide range of Andalucian specialities.

Imagine your partner is out for the day, leaving you alone with a blank sheet of writing paper, a list of domestic tasks and the porn channel. What is the first thought that comes to mind?

“What’s for lunch?”

Exactly.  As a casual lunch it beats sardines on toast, beans on toast and toast. It also beats poncy elaborate dishes ( Yes I can cook) that are pointless if you have no witnesses or fellow eaters. “Lo pobre” requires 20 minutes of Tender Loving Care after which you can leave it to its own devices. For example you can pile it hot onto a hot plate, scatter pieces of bite sized serrano ham over it and top it off with two fried eggs. On the other hand you can just leave it in the pan and graze all day on it, stabbing your fork into it every time you pass by as it slowly goes cold.

  1. Take a deep frying pan or wok and pour in a wineglass full of well flavored olive oil. Extra virgin is a waste, but it ought to have sabor.
  2. Crush half a bulb of garlic cloves under a flat knife and put into the oil, skin and all.
  3. While they are gently sizzling, finely slice a large Spanish onion.
  4. When the garlic just starts to colour, remove it and put in the onion.
  5. While the onion is sizzling in the garlicky oil, peel and thickly slice a kilo or so of potatoes. Those huge white Spanish ones are best, that look like new potatoes but aren’t waxy.
  6. Add the spuds and turn them gently with the onions in the oil. Neither the onions nor the potatoes must brown, though a slight caramelisation is acceptable. The mixture should be slightly damp, not dry. Avoid burning the ingredients.
  7. When the potatoes are soft but al dente, turn the heat up and pour in a big glass of wine. The dry thin sherry called “Cobos” is best and gives the scent of Andalucia. White wine will do, resinated wine is good. I often use “Pasero” a very sweet sherry like local drink made from Moscatel raisins.
  8. Bubble off the alcohol, turning the mixture gently.
  9. Mash the cooked garlic cloves with a little salt. Remove the skins and add to the mixture
  10. Pour in half a pint (300 cc) of hot stock. Any old stock will do. I use old Knorr chicken cubes.
  11. Bubble the mixture at high heat, turning the mixture. Check seasoning. let it reduce until the spuds are just soft and coated with a shiny sauce.
This is the classic version. It can hardly be improved. Its just as good without the wine. Here are some variations:
  • In Velez-Malaga, where we live, this dish is served as “Broken eggs”. It is a Velez classic. The potato mixture is place in a small stainless steel frying pan – one pan per person and the mixture heated up up to frying temperature. Two eggs are broken into each pan. Once they have almost set, the mixture is gently stirred so that the eggs set round the potatos. The dish is topped with shredded Serrano ham, and each persons portion is served to the in their own individual pan.
  • Roughly chopped long green peppers are often fried in with the potatoes.
  • Add lightly crushed and whole black peppercorns at the frying stage
Non “classically” you can
  • Add Provencal herb mixture at the frying stage
  • Add a couple of rashers of chopped streaky bacon
  • Thinly slice two long sweet green or red peppers and add to the frying mixture

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