, , , , ,

This was one of those extremely satisfying occasions where everything  that ended up on the table that night was a complete accident and informed solely by what we had in the fridge or veg basket.

No grand plans for tapas and no quick trip to the shops to pick up missing ingredients.  A bone-fide ready-steady-cook experience.

I’d been given large a sack of potatoes  that I had to start making a dent into (Tortilla Espanola), I still had a punnet of mushrooms left from last week’s organic box (garlicky mushrooms with chives from the window sill) and I had two red peppers to contend with.  I don’t like peppers much in cooking (I find the taste dominates everything) so they often end up sad and alone in the fruit bowl.  After one arrived in two consecutive veg boxes I knew I had a problem on my hands.  Two red peppers is basically an epidemic to deal with in my mind. The solution was chargrilled and marinated red peppers (which will now be the fate of every pepper that finds its way into the house.  Delicious.) And lastly a green salad of  winter lettuce from the veg box. It’s not a particularly authentic spread, but it tasted good and is an easy way of dealing with different fresh ingredients you don’t fancy combining into one dish.

It’s nights like this that I love this no-meat-during-the-week thing. Not a sausage in sight. For January carb-avoiders, a simple herby omelette would do the trick.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tortilla Espanola: (this makes a very big one.  Enough for plenty of snacky leftovers)

I’ve experimented with this a few times but only got it really right once I looked up a recipe online, posted by a Spaniard. You need to cook the onions and potatoes exclusively in oil without sizzling them (the potatoes/onion will be just covered in oil. The spuds and onions soften but don’t brown. If you use lots of potatoes, that’s a lot of olive oil! I kept mine for next time. The other thing is not to over-cook it once the  egg goes in as you want nice soft eggy bits when you slice into it. If you re-heat it, these eggy bits will cook and then it can go a bit rubbery.  So just bear this in mind. Any extra tips from the Spanish will be welcome >ahem, Beatrice<

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled, halved lengthways and sliced into pieces 2-3mm thick
  • 1 large onion chopped or sliced depending on big you like your oniony bits.
  • 2 -3 cups of oil
  • 6 eggs

Combine the sliced/chopped potato and onion in a large bowl and season generously with salt. Put a large, heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat and pour in about 2 cups of oil.  Pop one piece of potato in the pan and start warming the oil.  When little bubbles start to appear around the sample potato piece, add all the potato and onion.  The oil should be just covering the potato.  Don’t let it get too hot but the olive oil can bubble.  The potato is done when it breaks up if prodded with a spatula or wooden spoon. Drain potatoes and onion in a colander and reserve the oil for another time if you think you’ll use it.  Add the potatoes and onion to a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk up the eggs with a fork, add to the potato..

Pour the mix into a heavy bottomed frying pan.  Using a spatula, lift the sides up after a minute or two to ensure they’re not sticking.  Keep checking to see it’s not burning but browning nicely. Once it feels like it’s starting to cook through, but is still runny on top, put a plate on the frying pan, tip upside down and thin put the uncooked side back in the pan.  Cook the other side but this generally takes less time.

Marinated Red Peppers. I only had two peppers and would have liked to have more to do this.  It doesn’t have to be red.  A mix of yellow and red would look nice.  Also, the good thing about this is that you can keep adding things to the marinade until it tastes right so this is just a guide. This is was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe.

  • Red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dried chilli (or fresh)
  • Garlic
  • Coriander seeds, crushed (but not ground)
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Black peppercorns, crushed (but not ground)

If the weather is warm and you have the BBQ going, blacken the skin of the red peppers on the BBQ.  If not, quarter, de-seed and flatten the segments and pop under the grill. When the skin is blackened, flake off, slice into thickish pieces and pop in a bowl.  Then add some of the ingredients above, as you like.  For two red peppers, I used 1 crushed dried chilli, 1 thinly sliced garlic clove and a teaspoon each of coriander and pepper corns, a pinch of Maldon, a couple of glugs of olive oil and a splash of vinegar.

Garlicky Mushrooms with chives. Adjust the quantities accordingly.  This is simply what we had to hand.

  • 1 punnet of mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic sliced
  • Butter and oil (or just oil if you prefer.  Marge would work if you want the taste of butter without the fat)
  • Chives, snipped, a sprinkling.

Warm some butter and olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat.  The oil will stop the butter from burning.  Add the mushrooms.  The mushrooms will soak up the fat so if the pan starts to dry out, add some more olive oil as you go.  Once the mushrooms after starting to soften, add the thinly sliced garlic.  If you add that the garlic too early in the process it will brown/burn and ruin the flavour.  Then when they’re just ready to  serve, add the chives and toss through.