25 Nov 2012

Patatas bravas; Spain

Next on the itinerary of my European tour will be Spain. I’ve not been to Spain, so I’m undecided whether I should go to Barcelona, or Madrid; or perhaps a mini-tour of the country (any ideas welcome). But I now have plenty of time to decide, as it will be a while before I save up the money to step inside any tapas bar (but the new car is a dream to drive!).

Spanish food is (excuse the pun) foreign to me. I’ve never been to a Spanish restaurant, here in Hobart or elsewhere, and I’ve never cooked a Spanish meal, though I do remember a phase of borrowing Spanish cooking books from the library a few years ago.

But — I love spicy chorizo (and the sound when the word is pronounced correctly by my Spanish friend F – the zed becomes a soft fuzzy ‘th’ that is magical); I love the heat of dried chillies and the depth of smoky pimento; I love cooking with sherry (even if mine is spinster-aunt sherry not famous and expensive Pedro Ximinez; I should ask F to pronounce that one for me).

I've watched Rick Stein cook and eat his way through Spain and my mouth watered at the paella and seafood and lentils and oranges. My kind of food: simple ingredients, wonderful fresh produce, bold flavours.

And that’s what was tonight's recipe was all about. Patatas bravas is bite-sized potato chunks cooked with lemon, chilli, sherry and tomatoes. The simplicity of the cooking method belies the intensity and complexity of the wonderful flavours that fill your nostrils and explode in your mouth (an online search revealed, fittingly, that ‘brava’ means ‘fierce’). It makes me hungry to try more Spanish dishes. What else is waiting for me?

Buen apetito!

PS Do you do Spanish food?

Patatas bravas
I photocopied this from a library book but didn't note which one it was. Soooo easy, soooo good.
  • Cut 600-700 grams of scrubbed (but not peeled) potatoes into bite size chunks. Put a good slug of olive oil and a pat of butter into your favourite frypan, add potatoes and cook over a medium-high heat for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, do some prep: chop one onion, chop a couple of cloves of garlic (according to your tastes and the size of the cloves), zest a lemon, chop up a handful of parsley.
  • Back to the potatoes once the 20 minutes is up. It will look pretty darn tempting at this stage, but keep on! Add the onion and stir for about five minutes or until it starts to turn translucent. Then add the garlic, the lemon zest, 2 generous tablespoons sherry (and inhale the wonderful smell), plus 1/4 tspn each of smoky paprika and dried chili flakes (you may wish to amp this up if you like more heat). Give it a good stir to get the heat to the spices, then add half a 400 gram tin of whole tomatoes (freeze the other half for the next time you make patatas bravas!). This won't look like a lot of tomato - it's just enough to coat but not overwhelm the potatoes. Now add the parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Turn down heat, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are cooked. Prod occasionally to make sure the minimal sauce is not sticking to the pan (though I must admit I got some blackened bits and they were quite delicious).
  • The recipe suggests serving this with other tapas; but I liked it by itself, or it would go nicely with a little green salad to contrast against the heat.


  1. One of Dan and my very dear friends is Galician. Galicia is up the top of Spain near the border with Portugal. She cooks patatas bravas, among many other things, beautifully and cooks for us regularly (yay) because she lives a couple of roads away. Now, one of our go-to mid-week meals is the trusty Spanish omelette, as taught by her. Eggs and potato - everyone's a winner there. x

    1. Hi edwina. How wonderful that you get to enjoy her cooking but also that you've learnt something from her - it's now in your repertoire.
      i'll definitely be making this one again and again.

  2. I have been enjoying your European tour! Such a fun idea. I have never cooked Spanish, apart from putting chorizo on pizza. But on the subject of chocolate, from your London post, Cocobean here in Launceston sources fairtrade cocoa from Peru, and makes their own chocolate. So unbelievably wonderful. Their choc-dipped dried orange slices - to die for.

  3. Hi Jo, and thank you!
    chorizo is my only spanish foray, as well; i love it sauteed with onion and galric and served with steamed kale - kale stands up well to the strength of those flavours.
    hmmmm... next time i come up to launceston, i shall search out those choc orange slices. thanks for the tip off.

  4. The spanish make two things with potatoes that take the prize: tortilla and patatas bravas. Both are delectable! Love this dish and it makes me hungry!

  5. hey paula,
    i've not tried tortillas (i live a sheltered life, i know). but if the only spanish thing i ever ate was p bravas, i'd still be very very happy!


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