In a few weeks, my MESC brother and bästis in Brussels is leaving Europe for Dubai, to start a life hopefully not too void of cheese. This post is dedicated to him and one of his Spanish dishes: a perfect tortilla. Before trying this potato tortilla I never liked Spanish omelette (as we call it in Sweden), but this is so perfectly creamy and simple that you can’t help but help yourself, several times. In this hot weather, it’s also perfect picnic material, not to mention a good destination for various things you find in the fridge. Key for a successful tortilla is a good pan, so that you can flip it easily and it cooks without sticking too much. You can put anything in it, but my favourite is either simply potato or potato and chorizo. The recipe below is for potato and chorizo.
- 6 eggs
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
- 1/4 chorizo ring, chopped very coarsely
- Olive oil (Jamie Oliver-amounts)
- 2 medium onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start by chopping the onions, and frying them in large amounts of olive oil. Stir often so that you can maintain a high heat. When the onions are frying, chop the chorizo, and add it to the pan once the onion has browned properly. Add some more oil, and fry for a few more minutes. Remove the onion and chorizo from the pan and put to a side. Start frying the potatoes, again in large amounts of olive oil. The potatoes should be cooked when you starting putting together the tortilla, so this part can take up to 25 minutes (alternatively, have two pans going to save time – there’s no reason why the onions and chorizo cool down on the side other than that our messy nine-person house has three broken hoovers but only one decent frying-pan). The potatoes are done when they break easily under the pressure of a wooden spoon or something else blunt.
Whisk together the eggs with some salt and pepper, and add the chorizo and onions, as well as the fried potatoes. Pour this into the pan, again preluded by a splash of olive oil, and cook on a medium heat. Both the heat from the pan and the potatoes will make the eggs cook, so this part is pretty quick. Stir the mixture after about one minute, so that the cooked bits from the bottom are dispersed around the tortilla.
After a few minutes, once the bottom and the sides start setting, it’s time to turn the tortilla. This can be a bit tricky. Take a large plate, put on top of the frying pan, and hold it very firmly against the pan as you turn it upside down so that the chorizo lands on the plate. Slide it from the plate back into the pan onto the uncooked side, and cook it for another few minutes. Here’s it’s crucial to be careful that it’s not cooking for too long – you want it to be creamy inside, and not too brown on the outside. The flipping process should look something like this (although smiling like an idiot is not obligatory):
The tortilla is ready to eat straight away, but it doesn’t suffer from cooling down a bit. If you are taking it to the park it’s important to let it cool before you pack it up, as it can get a bit soggy otherwise. It’s delicious with a good tomato and basil salad.
Working full-time leaves far too little time left over to cook. In my utopia we’d all be working three hours a day, followed by two hours food shopping at a cheaper version of Borough market, before cooking all afternoon and eating all evening. But before that’s been turned into a workable economic model, we have to make do with simpler things, like Swedish rösti with caviar. Quite a light supper, it’s a perfect snack before going out (don’t worry, that kebab in the wee hours of the morning will keep you from starving).
Making rösti is very easy, and you can take it quite far from its humble origins if you top it with fresh Swedish ingredients like gräddfil (sour cream), dill, spring onion and caviar. What with IKEA’s food empire being spread all over the world, you can buy Swedish caviar very cheaply. This isn’t fancy caviar in any sense (it comes from the herring), but it’s still salty and delicious.
- 1 tub of sour cream (creme fraiche also cuts it, but best of all would be gräddfil)
- Fresh dill, finely chopped
- Fresh spring onion or chives, chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 large potatoes, grated
- 1 egg
- A selection of caviar glasses – theses are about €1.50 in IKEA. They only have red, black and vegan caviar, so if you want nicer stuff find a Swedish shop where they will have Stenbitsrom or Kalixlöjrom.
Start by chopping and frying half of the onion on a low heat. Peel and grate the potatoes, and mix in the onion. Also add half of the dill, the egg and salt to taste. Form the mix into flat rounds, about half a centimeter thick, and carefully place in a non-stick pan, on a medium heat with plenty of oil and butter (a mix makes for the best flavour – it’s not meant to be a health meal). Flatten the cakes with a spatula once they are in the pan, as that makes them stick together better. Let them fry about 4 minutes on each side, until they are golden. Carefully lift them out of the pan onto kitchen roll, and keep frying these until you’ve used up all of the mix.
An easy way of eating them is to just place all the condiments on the table and let everyone make their own caviar creation. However, if you want it a bit nicer, place two rösti on each plate, add some of the chopped onion, a generous dollop of creme fraiche, the caviar of your choice, and top with chives, dill and spring onion. Serve with cold, light beer, and vodka if you are going out.
I live with a dramatic Sicilian, and predictably, everything he touches turns into kitchen gold. I’ve stopped taking pride in my home cooking, as everything I make pales in comparison to the humble little dishes Peppe throws together. My favourite soup of his so far is very simple: it has courgettes, potato, onion and garlic. The secret is that it is thickened and made savoury with parmigiano, and has tons of aroma thanks to Peppe’s mother’s own olive oil.
I’m somewhat of an olive oil skeptic, as I feel it’s being used and abused all the time where it doesn’t quite belong. You need look no longer than Jamie Oliver for examples of that, and to illustrate my point I’ll just point you to this hilarious, simple montage from his shows. However, if strong olive oil belongs anywhere surely it is in Sicilian cooking. Of course, sourcing home-made Italian olive oil might be near impossible, but as long as you invest in a very good quality bottle, you should be on the right way. And spending a bit on the parmigiano and olive oil is worth it: coming home to this after a long night at the office and a damp walk home in uncomfortable shoes feels like the most wholesome experience ever.
- 3 large potatoes
- 3 courgettes
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 garlic clove
- half a cube of vegetable stock
- Good quality olive oil
- Grated parmigiano
- A blender to blitz the soup in the end
Start by slicing the onions, and then fry them with a generous splash of olive oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add the whole, peeled garlic clove after a few minutes, and fry on medium heat whilst you peel and chop the potatoes, and chop the courgettes (keep the peel on). Add the courgettes and potatoes together with the stock cube, and add just enough water to make sure everything is covered. Boil for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened considerably, then take off the heat and spoon out a little bit more than a coffee mug’s worth of water (you can save and freeze this as stock to use on some other occasion). Take to the side and blitz with a blender for about a minute, or until you have a smooth, rather thick soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. When done, serve in bowls with a generous sprinkle of parmigiano and a few additional drops of olive oil, as well as some crusty bread.
Since I’ve been struck with the season’s first cold, I’ve perked myself up with soup. When I was living with eight other students in Birmingham, I used to get the biggest pan in our house, loads of leek and some leftover potatoes and try make enough of this soup to last me a week. But since there were eight of us, and because this soup is so moorish, all was usually gone by the end of the day. Preparing a weekly radio show with my friend Ella, we used to get too impatient to heat up the leftovers and just eat it cold and thick in mugs (admittedly, that could have to do with the amount of wine being involved with weekly radio planning, but I’d rather blame the deliciousness of the soup).
- 2-4 leeks, depending on size. If possible, get whole ones that aren’t trimmed because the green part of the leeks is perfectly tasty and its more economical using all of them.
- 2 large potatoes (The leek gives most of the flavour for this soup, and even if the nutmeg helps bringing out the best of the potato flavours, think of it as a thickening agent rather than main component. If in doubt, always add more leek than potato)
- 2 cubes of veal stock (this can be exchanged for vegetarian to make the soup a veggie dish, or chicken if you’re struggling to find veal. But veal is ace.)
- 1 tub of creme fraiche (to taste, one half is also enough)
- Cumin seeds
- Worcestershire sauce (or Henderson’s Relish, which is what I always used in Brum)
- Chili flakes
- Cheese-grilled bread (optional)
Trim your leeks by cutting off any shabby-lookig bits on the tops, slicing them lengthwise and rinsing in cold water. Then slice them thinly all the way up to the dark green bits. Fry in a large, wide bottomed pan in a generous chunk of butter on medium heat whilst you peel and roughly chop your potatoes. Put your kettle on and boil about 1 litre of water. Add the potatoes into the softened leeks, stir an let fry for a minute or so. Then add your boiling water and the crushed stock cubes. Let simmer under a lid for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes has softened entirely and can be crushed easily with a potato masher. An english-style potato masher is best tool for this, as it gives you a rougher texture than a blender.
Once you’ve crushed away for a minute or so, add the creme fraiche and start seasoning (whilst still on a low heat). Add a few chili flakes, a few generous splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a few sprinklings of ground nutmeg and some cumin seeds. Also add some salt if the stock hasn’t done that job for you. Take the soup off to cool a bit whilst you put your bread under the grill (if you sprinkle the cheese with paprika it starts grilling quicker and looks nicer). Enjoy.
Pardon the following entry, I’m not endorsed by anyone in writing this but I feel so very strongly about this family-run business on Church Street and think more people should go. Think of it as a restaurant review, but for a shop. I would start by saying that Stoke Newington Green is the best greengrocer I’ve ever been to, but giving it some consideration I think it’s the best food shop I have ever come across. Perhaps the best shop full stop. (If it was a restaurant, it would receive 9 meatballs out of 10). Normally specialist shops like boutique bakeries or traditional butchers are beautiful but incredibly expensive, and exist primarly due to the proximity of wealthy yummy mummies (which, admittedly, is true for Stoke Newington). But Stoke Newington Green does three things which put it above those kinds of shops (or your local vegetable market for that matter).
1) It is cheap. Really, really cheap.
2) It is open from 7-11 every day, so most normal working people can pop by after work or on the morning jog.
3) They accept cards.
This would not be that amazing had it not for been for the fact that they stock local, seasonal produce as well as exotic spices and vegetables I’ve never heard of. Their fresh herb section involve English herbs I didn’t know existed. They have five different kinds of garlic, including incredibly aromatic fresh variants. They stock at least six different colours of courgettes and aubergines. All is beautifully stacked up inside the bamboo-walled shop and clear, handwritten signs display price (both kg and lb and sometimes per item), origin and other important details.
I just arrived home from the shop with two carrots, two onions, a celery, six mini-courgettes, one fresh garlic and two large bunches of spinach. It all came to 3,49. I wish these kinds of green grocers existed all over London. I’d eat much more vegetables, and I’d learn all about the new produce I find in the shop every day. It would be like 5-a-day heaven.
Stoke Newington Green, 39 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0LU.
Update: Newington Green Fruit and Vegetables (109 Newington green road, Islington, N1 4QY) is their sister-shop – I have now been and seen and smelled amazing things. This shop is slightly bigger and busier and just as amazing with all the things mentioned above.
Melanzane a la Parmigiana or aubergine parmigiana for us non-italians is one of my favourite dishes. While it is made solely of vegetables and may seem fresh and healthy it is every bit as decadent as its sister meat lasagna. Typically you deep fry the sliced aubergine before layering it in a casserole dish with tomato sauce, grana padano, and mozarella. Some even add a tad of bechamel sauce to thicken up the layers. While I love almost everything which is deep fat fried (I lived in Belgium for almost ten years…) during the week I have no desire or patience to deep fry aubergines! So I looked online for different parmigiana recipes and came up with a combination of all of them which results in a healthier and easier to make parmigiana.
You will need:
- 3-4 big purple aubergines, sliced.
- 1 can of chopped marzano tomatoes (or the best quality chopped tomatoes/passata you can find – it really makes a difference and they are not that much more expensive).
- 1 small onion, chopped finely.
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
- Fresh basil
- 2 mozzarella balls.
- 200 grams of grana padano (similar to parmigiano but milder and cheaper), or a mix of grana padano and parmiggiano.
1. Start by slicing and washing the aubergines and sprinkle them heavily with salt. Put in a container and let it rest for a while to get rid of the bitterness. While they are resting start preparing the sauce.
2. Fry the onion and the garlic in olive oil until translucid. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Finish the sauce by adding the basil and wizzing it in a mixer or smoothie machine. Now it’s time to start layering!
3. Start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of aubergine, another layer of sauce, a layer of grana padano and a layer of mozzarella. Repeat in the same order until you have used up the ingredients. Make sure to add extra cheese on the last layer so it crisps up on top.
4. Cook at 180 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a bit before you cut into it.
Enjoy a healthy parmigiana which is as good as the time-consuming, deep fried version!
This recipe came out of necessity..I had just bought loads of beetroot and
being a poor student felt bad about discarding the leaves…So I went online and found out you can just use them as you would use spinach. I had some salad potatoes that were starting to sprout and one egg left in my fridge so I decided to experiment with these three ingredients. It turned out amazing!
You will need (for one person):
- 5-6 small salad potatoes
- 2 handfuls of beet leaves
- 1 egg
- 1 shallot or half a red onion (finely chopped).
- 1 clove of garlic (finely chopped).
- Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Coriander or Parsley
1. Start by cooking the potatoes with the chopped garlic. I cooked mine in a cast iron pan but you can roast them in the oven too, whatever is easiest.
2. When the potatoes are almost cooked heat a frying pan with some olive oil and fry the shallots.
3. When they start browning add the beets’ leaves and cook until they become soft (add a little bit of water if needed).
4. Take the potatoes and the beets’ leaves from the heat and put them in a salad bowl with some olive oil, some salt and pepper and some fresh herbs (I used coriander, but parsley would work great too). You can also add some balsamic vinegar or some lemon juice if you like.
5. Poach the egg. The easiest way to do this is to boil some water, add a tablespoon of vinegar to it (helps the whites stay together) and slide it from a bowl into simmering water. Take it out after three minutes, taking care not to break the yolk.
6. Serve the salad into a bowl or plate, add the egg on top. Break the egg and enjoy!