Patatas bravas

I’ve never really loved patatas bravas. Spuds in tomato sauce will never set my world on fire like crisp calamares fritos, or delicious morsels of morcilla, yet they’re as inevitable an order in tapas bars as egg fried rice in a Chinese. Given I seemed to be the only person in the world blind to the charms of these spicy spuds (Spain even has a social networking site named after them) it seemed possible that it was my experience of patatas bravas, rather than the dish itself, which was at fault. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on the subject, patatas bravas is a real hot potato amongst Spanish chefs because, although it’s a simple dish, there are a million possibilities to explore within the basic formula of potatoes in a tomato sauce – “the potato will absorb whatever you give it,” one Barcelona bar owner explained. To make my perfect patatas bravas, I’ve decided to roast my potatoes instead of frying them, which gives a less greasy, but equally crisp result (and is also considerably easier in most home kitchens).

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCEpatatas bravas 3
500g waxy potatoes
300ml olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 egg
1 clove garlic, crushedpatatas bravas
Chives, to serve

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 2cm chunks. Put a roasting tray with 2 tbsp olive oil into the oven and leave to heat for 5 minutes, then take out, toss the potatoes in the hot oil, and bake for about 45 minutes until crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, make the sauces. Put 2 tbsp oil into a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat, and cook the onion for about seven minutes until golden and soft. Put in the chilli, and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and smoked paprika and stir well. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until thick and dark. Take off the heat, add 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To make the allioli, put the egg in the small bowl of a food processor along with the garlic and 1tbsp sherry vinegar. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and whizz until incorporated, then drizzle in the rest of the olive oil with the motor running, until you have creamy mayonnaise-style sauce. Season to taste. (You can also use a hand blender, but it’s harder to drizzle and beat at the same time.) Take the potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle with a little salt. Spread the tomato sauce on to the plates, put the potatoes on top, then add a dollop of allioli and a sprinkle of chives, and serve patatas bravas immediately.

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