May 27, 2009

patatas a lo pobre

One day, some years ago, a group of friends arrived in Barcelona for four days. For many of them, it was their first visit. They had the very best intentions - the Picasso Museum, plenty of Gaudi and Miro - but instead, they spent their days eating. Well, their nights staying up late, drinking and talking; their mornings sleeping; their afternoons wandering the city looking for more food; their evenings in tapas bars; their late evenings in restaurants. Since then, most of them have been back to Barcelona and seen everything they intended to on that trip, and more. I doubt any of them would change the way they first discovered the city.

I know I wouldn't. I'd rarely eaten Spanish food before, and there's something so wonderful about discovering a cuisine in the country of its origin. My memories of that and subsequent trips to Spain are very bound up in its food: eating empanadas in a sunny square in Granada before searching the streets for Lorca's house (we found it full of children and men dressed as sailors); hot chorizo sandwiches with sweet sherry, late at night in the Jewish Quarter of Seville; albondigas in a tiny bar in the Alpujarras, watching Eurovision. But I discovered patatas a lo pobre on that trip to Barcelona, my first time in Spain, with those very dear friends.

Patatas a lo pobre roughly translates as 'poor man's potatoes', and it's very simple: potatoes cooked slowly in oil, with green capsicum (peppers), onions and bay leaves. It's one of those alchemical dishes in which the simplest of ingredients become complex and surprising in the finished product. It's Andalusian, although it's cooked all over Spain (along with that other incredibly good potato dish, patatas bravas), and it's wonderful with fish or roast meats.

{Also, I would love someone to tell me the correct name for this dish - is it patatas a la pobre, or patatas a lo pobre? I can find both versions online, although the former tends to be on the menus of British restaurants. It's 'a la' in the Moro cookbook, too, which is where this recipe comes from. Alas, it's been too long since I ate these in Spain to remember how they were spelled there.}

Patatas a lo Pobre
adapted from The Moro Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark (US, UK)

8 tbsp olive oil
1 red (Spanish) onion, thinly sliced
1 large green capsicum (pepper), roughly diced
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
3 or 4 large, waxy-skinned potatoes

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion slowly, turning down the heat if necessary, for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and sweet in smell and taste. Now add the garlic, capsicum (green pepper) and bay leaves and cook for 15 more minutes to release their flavour.

Meanwhile, cut the potatoes in half lengthways and each half in two or three wedges, depending on the size of the potato. Salt them lightly and leave for about 5 minutes. When the capsicum (pepper) has softened, add the remaining oil and when the oil is hot again, add the potatoes. Let everything simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander or sieve, keeping the onion oil aside for further use if desired. Serve immediately.


Tres Jolie Studios said...

This looks so delicious! I am always looking for interesting sides.


This is Rachel from PERPETUAL HUNGER! Just letting you know that your food is GORGEOUS. How do you get the lighting?

Yesica N. Cook said...

Have put these right in my recipe queue - along with your yoghurt cake & rhubarb, though everything you make looks fabulous! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Spain and love your blog. It´s nice there are people like you who value Spanish food and not only the most famous dishes like paella. By the way it is patatas a lo pobre.

Philomena said...

Thank you, tres jolie!

Rachel, I use natural light to photograph all my food, so these longer days are making my life easier! I adjust the light in photoshop as well. I'm glad you like the results :)

Thanks Yesica - I hope you enjoy them!

And thanks, anonymous from Spain! I thought it must be "a lo" - I wonder why "a la" has become so common in Britain. Spanish food is amazing, and yes, there's so much more to it than paella.

Mirjam said...

this looks and sounds very delicious :)
how much garlic should I add - isn't in the ingredient-list?

Anonymous said...

Yes yes yes absolutely loved this. Funny, I live in Spain, I cook a lot and I do mean a lot but oddly enough I had never made patatas a lo pobre. I saw your post tonight and thought, hmmmm this would go really nicely with the roast pork we are having for dinner. I made it and my family raved about it.I am now my husbands hero. Even my little ones loved it and they are usually funny about seeing onions on their plate!!
S0 a big thank you from Estepona in Sunny Málaga (spain)
Bianca xx

bigBANG studio said...

Oh, this looks just marvelous. We have some wonderful little potatoes in season in SoCal right now that hold their shape quite nicely when cooked, so I might give this one a try this weekend. Thank you as always for your *stunning* photos, Philomena!


Anonymous said...

Hi, i´m fron Seville (spain). The correct name is
"patatas a lo pobre" o "patatas a lo moro"


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