Today I made patatas bravas… fierce potatoes… and they were delicious.
I was first drawn to patatas bravas about a year ago. I love potatoes, so really any form of them is good in my books, but the magnificent name of this dish just really elevates it into the realms of epic food I’d say. That someone, at some point through history thought to name them fierce potatoes delights me more than a plate of potatoes probably should, and completely sums up this fiery dish.
Patatas bravas is a traditional Spanish dish, and a common one to find served as tapas. Customarily they’re made with peeled white potatoes that are cut into chunks and parboiled before being fried to crispy golden loveliness and smothered with a spicy tomato and mayonnaise sauce. In terms of a healthiness and nutrition I’ll admit that between the frying and the mayonnaise it could raise a few health-conscious eyebrows. However, when I started to think about it, it’s a dish that takes only a few minor adjustments to become a bit of a health super-star.
First up potatoes, despite the bad rap they’ve been getting recently, are magnificently healthy. They’re loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins B6, C, and a whole heap of minerals. This all adds up to a mighty veggie that promotes heart and bone health, lowers blood pressure, has anti-inflammatory properties, helps to protect you from cancer and maintain a healthy weight, and gives you great skin!
Next add even more vitamin C from the tomatoes, the immunity boosting powers of chili, and the anti-bacterial nature of paprika (among a whole rage of other benefits), and the healthy credentials of the dish are adding up.
Ah but what about the mayonnaise, you ask. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I am in no way a follower of a fat-free diet, on the contrary. Increasingly we’re finding how important fat is in our diet. We need it. Did you know that our brains are %60 fat? Healthy fat is crucial for brain health, and of course it follows that it’s crucial for our mental health too. Not only that, but certain nutrients, such as the lycopene from tomatoes, are fat soluble meaning that our bodies can only absorb them if they’re consumed along with some fat. Having said all of that, I don’t think that this means that deep frying is the best option, nor do I think that consuming huge amounts of oil is great for us, but a little bit consumed in a moderate and considered way is a vital part of a well balanced diet.
With all of that in mind I came up with my version of this Spanish classic. First of all I left the skins on the potatoes. It seems to be that the majority of the nutrients in most veggies are in, or just below the skin. For this reason I very rarely peel veggies, and almost never potatoes (and Happily I really like the skins). Secondly, rather than parboiling and then frying them I decided to use a small amount of oil to roast the potatoes for a long time to crisp them up without them being too fatty. When I was looking into the traditional method for this dish I found that in some parts of Spain the mayonnaise is omitted, and in some parts the tomato sauce is omitted and the potatoes are just served with aioli which is close to mayonnaise but includes garlic and is usually made with olive oil. I decided to top the potatoes with tomato sauce and make a version of aioli to have along with it. This way you can still get the aioli flavour but just with a small spoonful rather than smothered with it, or you can just leave it off if you’d prefer. For my aioli I used coconut oil simply because it’s what I had. If I’d had olive oil on hand I would probably have used it instead to get that slight olive oil flavour.
So here’s patatas bravas, a bit of Spanish heat on a cold winter day, with a load of immune boosting, nourishing goodness to go along with it. Fierce potatoes indeed!
- 1kg potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
- 1Tbsp coconut oil, or other oil with a high smoke point
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp hot chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 60ml or 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
- Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Combine the potatoes, oil and salt in a large shallow baking tray. Toss well so that the potatoes are evenly covered with the oil and salt. Place them in the oven and leave to roast, checking them and flipping them over occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours or until they’re crispy and golden.
- Meanwhile, to make the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and leave the onions to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onions have softened.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, maple syrup, and season well. Stir well and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the sauce is hot and the chili flavour has developed. Add more chili powder for more spicy if you’d like.
- To make the aioli, combine the egg yolks, mustard lemon juice and salt in a food processor and blitz it well for about 2 minutes. Add the oil in a very slow steady stream and continue to process it until it’s smooth and creamy and the oil is well combined.
- Serve the potatoes covered in the tomato sauce with a dollop of the aioli, or with the aioli on the side.
- If you'd like the recipe to be flavoursome without the heat use mild chili powder instead of hot. Conversely, if you'd like it to be spicier you can add a bit more chili powder, or add a bit of cayenne pepper or chipotle!