A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Potatoes: Smashed

Recently, I watched this documentary on Francis Mallmann, an Argentinian Chef, who cooks with fires and likes to burn things! Are you thinking "story of my life"?
I was mesmerized little by little by the peaceful landscape.
Mallmann usually works from his cabin on a small island in a lake, on the border of Patagonia and Chile. Everything is basic and very primal in a way, yet I'd love to join in one of his dinners with a backdrop of the Patagonian mountains. He calls his assistants a band of "Gypsy Chefs" and they all cook in the open countryside, building up fires.
It's not all meat though, he cooks fish, enclosed in clay from the lake, which he then covers in ash.
He creates traditional Patagonian fire pits, which he then covers with branches and slow-cooks vegetables wrapped up in a cloth and covered with earth. A hidden treasure chest of warm food!

He also  cooks potatoes, a staple of Patagonia and they are smashed! He actually won a culinary Prix d' Excellence by just cooking potatoes, eight-ways! As soon as I saw this I wanted to try it. And I googled it off course. Everybody has done it: Martha, Jamie, the Pioneer Woman...how come I've never heard of "smashed potatoes" before?
This is a wonderful recipe for barbeque too, provided you have a flat surface to cook on. It's such an easy recipe, yet the fact that potatoes are cooked twice, results in fluffy flesh and crispy skin, you'll be hooked, promise!

Smashed Potatoes
- 250gr Jersey Royal Baby New Potatoes (or any other local variety of small potatoes with thin skin)
- 25gr butter
- salt & pepper
Wash away all the dirt off the potatoes.
Cover the potatoes with enough boiling water and boil them until they are soft all the way through, this should roughly take 15 minutes.
Tip the potatoes into a sieve and drain away the water.
Place the potatoes one by one on a chopping board and with the help of a broad knife smash them lightly, by pressing down. Be very careful and work slowly.
If you don't have a broad knife, use a flat, broad spatula. Use your free hand to weigh down the spatula (or knife) on top of the potato. Don't smash it completely, you want the flesh to still be attached, not completely mashed.
Put a hot non-stick pan or griddle on the fire and when it's really hot transfer the potatoes one by one onto the hot surface. Let the skin cook and get crispy.
After 3-4 minutes flip them over with the help of a spatula, carefully, they tend to break off.
Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the skin is dark brown and crunchy.
Just before you take them off the heat drop some bits of butter all around the potatoes.
Salt and pepper and you are in business.
A serving suggestion:
- 3 tbsp. of Salsa Verde (recipe here)  
- 1 small sweet red onion, chopped finely
- 2 small tomatoes, chopped finely
- 2 tbsp. of olive oil
- juice of one lemon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spoon over the hot potatoes, it's crunchy, fresh and creates a great contrast with the hot, soft potatoes.
This kind of a chimichuri dressing works  perfectly over grilled chicken too.

Number Sixteen's Secret London Garden

Would you say that baby showers are going out of fashion, lately?
I seem to be attending more and more "non-baby-shower" baby showers. They are fun either way because you get to see your friends and nobody needs to try mushy baby food or lick nappies. Phew.

Last non-baby-shower baby shower, took place in the form of afternoon tea in the lovely conservatory of Number Sixteen Hotel.
It looks out to this gorgeous little private urban garden.
It's a cute space that can accommodate your summer evenings, while the good weather lasts. It stays open until 11 for drinks, as long as you are not too loud! "Urban" is the operative word, so behave yourself.

Number Sixteen is a lovely townhouse hotel: room after room of sitting areas with quirky little details. The pink and green room is "Spring in a glimpse" and if you look up a massive bird nest doubles as chandelier.
The next room is dark, it's the drinking den for rainy days and endless philosophising.

If you find yourself in South Ken, do check out this little summer spot and maybe give us a call, we do like endless philosophising too!

Cheese Toastie with Salsa Verde

You must look up the soundtrack from the movie "Chef" on Spotify. I've been playing it on repeat ever since I watched the movie!
It's full of Cuban music and vibrant Jazz tones, the kind that makes you wiggle your bottom in the car and dance in front of the mirror at home, pretending to be at some beach-party in Miami. 

The other thing about this movie is that it will get you in a cooking fury; nothing fancy, just cheese toasties. Velvety, warm, gooey, melting cheese...and crunchy bread. Luxurious simplicity!  

Other than cheese and bread, there are two more things you need for a good toastie: a good Griddle and Salsa Verde.
I saw this simple Salsa Verde recipe last week, while fasting for Greek Easter and I just couldn't wait for Easter Sunday to come, so that I could try it! I found the recipe on Emiko Davis's blog that specialises on Tuscan cuisine. The title was "Salsa Verde to Put on Everything".  It's not an exaggeration, ever since I made it, I have used it on toasties, on Argentinian smashed potatoes instead of chimichuri, I even attempted to have a dollop in my mushroom soup but that's where I drew the line.

For the Salsa Verde:
2 anchovy fillets preserved in oil
2 garlic cloves
A bunch of flat-leaf Italian parsley
10 basil leaves
2 heaped tablespoons salted capers, rinsed
juice of 1 lemon
60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Start with making the Salsa Verde.
There are two ways of doing this: you can throw everything in a blender or use a pestle and mortar.
If the anchovies are not filleted, you need to run a knife all the way down the spine and open up the fish to take the bone out.
If you are using a blender, simply put all of the ingredients in and pulse a couple of times until everything is combined. Don't over-blend it, you need some texture.
If you are using pestle and mortar chop the anchovies in smaller pieces first.
Use the pestle to bruise the anchovy fillets in the mortar, with the olive oil, lemon and garlic.
Chop the parsley and basil leaves finely before adding them in the mortar. Use a stirring motion (rather than bashing) with the pestle and try to combine the ingredients while pushing everything on the walls of the mortar. 
Finally add the capers and again try to grind everything on the walls of the mortar rather than bash it together. It's nice to have small pieces of capers and crunchy parsley here and there, instead of a smooth paste.

For the Toastie:

2 pieces of sturdy, structured bread (you can use multi-seed bread or sourdough, I don't particularly like white breads for this)
Room-temperature butter
Mature Cheddar (a slice or about a handful, grated)
Wensleydale Cheese (two thin slices or a handful, grated)
1 tsp Mayonnaise
Assemble the Toastie:
Heat up the griddle.  
Butter one side of each piece of bread. Place both pieces, butter-side down, on the hot griddle for about 1 minute.
Spread some Salsa Verde on the top side of both slices of bread.
Add both kinds of cheese onto one piece of bread.
Use the other piece to cover the cheese and spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise on the top of the bread, where you used butter before. 
Flip the toastie so that the side with mayonnaise hits the griddle. This is a trick to make the toastie super-crunchy. Press down slightly and cook until the side on the griddle is golden brown.
Spread some mayonnaise on the other side and flip the toasty for the last time.  
Transfer onto a chopping board and cut down the middle. Demolish immediately!
© Life Love London

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