Saturday, 12 February 2011

Merluza en horno com patatas a lo podre

A truly Andalucian still life, fish and two veg
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),I have added red peppers too, 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 through and through, 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.I chose to partner it with enormously thick hake steaks on the bone ( Pescada posta ), which I roasted in the oven and then married them at the end to the patatas.For a light  lunch or dinner,the potatoes can be cooked as a tapas item if you don´t want to involve fish or meat.

Roast Hake with poor man´s potatoes
serves 4
preheat oven to 220 C / 450F/ gas 7

4 extra-thick hake steaks, I got my fishmonger to cut them about 5cm / 2in thick.
sea salt, black pepper, best extra virgin olive oil 

For the patatas
about 15 tablespoons best extra virgin olive oil
3 large onions, sliced thinly
5-6 cloves of garlicliced thickly
3 peppers,(2 red one green), roughly chopped
3- 4 fresh bay leaves
1kg / 21/4lb waxy fleshed potatoes
a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes (optional)
sea salt and black pepper
In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, then add the finely sliced onion and some salt to help release the juices. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. add the sliced garlic, roughly chopped peppers and the bay leaves, which you can break a bit to release their flavour, and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Cut the potatoes lengthwise, then cut each slice into two or three chunks and lightly salt them. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and when it has heated up, chuck in the potatoes and the tomatoes, if you are using them.Leave everything to simmer for 40- 50 minutes, by which time the potatoes will have cooked through completely when you pierce them with a skewer.Drain the oil through a sieve into a jug. enough will have adhered to coat the vegetables without them swimming in it, and all the flavours will have married  harmoniously.Save this flavoursome oil for a later date.
About 15- 20 minutes before the potatoes are ready, brush the hake steaks on both sides with olive oil.Put them in an ovenproof dish and season.Put the fish in the oven, and test it after 15 minutes with the point of a skewer through its thickest part. The flesh should not resist the skewer at all and be flaky, translucent and juicy without having softened to pulp. 
The potatoes will keep warm in the oven if there is any discrepancy in timing.
 
 


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