I wanted to be transported to some random dive bar in Madrid, drinking too much and smashing plates of patatas bravas. This is the quarantine equivalent, using potato gems and too much cheese. It uses fridge, freezer and pantry items and you can make it on autopilot so it is perfect when motivation is lacking. I'll stop trying to justify this, just make it. It's so bad, it's good.
1 tsp olive oil
250g cured meats*, finely chopped (I used a mix of pancetta, sopressa salami, ham and the end of a chorizo sausage, deskinned
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red capsicum (or 1 large roasted marinated piquillo pepper), deseeded and finely chopped
½ tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly ground
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
½ cup red wine
1½ cups grated firm cheese (whatever you have on hand is fine; I used smoked cheddar, mozzarella and pecorino)
500g potato gems
1. Preheat oven to 175C fan-forced (195C conventional)
2. Place a large frypan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and once shimmering, add the chopped cured meats, onion, garlic and capsicum. Turn heat to low and stir constantly to prevent catching, until the meat has caramelised around the edges (about 5 minutes). Add the cumin, paprika, and thyme and cook until just fragrant then add the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, tinned tomatoes and wine. Give it a good stir, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. You want to cook it until the liquid has mostly reduced.
3. Leave it in the pan as long as it is ovenproof, or transfer to a baking dish. Scatter over the cheese in a single layer. Top with the potato gems and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the potato gems are cooked through and golden on top. If you are not getting the crisp golden top, switch your oven to the grill function (or if separated, pop under the grill) and cook for 1-2 minutes for that super-golden crisp top. Serve immediately.
*Lately I've found having a few stashes of simple cured meats in the fridge as important as a deck of eggs and some spinach. You can cobble together all manner of meals from it and its longer shelf life is more important than ever, given that for many, our capacity to pop to the shops has become limited.
Stephanie Alexander's patatas bravas recipe