When I first started writing this blog I set myself the lofty goal of posting twice a week. I had recently had my first baby and in a rather naive admission this quickly got scaled back to a more realistic one-per-week regime. It didn’t take long for my growing business to claim more of my time so it was not long after that I settled into a one-a-month blog post routine. This seemed very achievable for quite some time until I went and committed blog-regularity-suicide and had another baby.
On the one hand I’ve got the energy and motivation to be perpetually busy. It’s another thing I blame on my Mum whose hands very rarely rest. Her definition of relaxation is doing handwork in front of the television. My definition of relaxation is an altogether lazier interpretation of a day spent in bed drinking coffee and reading books. Fellow parents out there will know this is a luxury no longer afforded to those who are silly enough to procreate.
However, my second baby is now 6 months old and I haven’t even had time to feel shocked at the lack of spare moments I have on any given day. Hence the severe absence of blog posts. Something had to give and my love of writing (the cooking still goes on) didn’t even get a look in. Still, it is what it is. I like to write, I like to cook, I like to take pictures. About the only promise I can keep at the moment is to occasionally share the things I love to cook and eat. Is that non-committal enough for you?
So…onto the food. To keep an already long story short, this is a very simple potato dish which we cook with great regularity in our house. It’s one of those ‘fridge pie’ meals when you’re a day shy of shopping day and there’s bugger all in the pantry. It’s hearty and nourishing and very, very satisfying. We often eaten this as a vegetarian meal, simply toss some rocket through just prior to serving and sprinkle with some toasted pinenuts. If you need your meat fix it’s fantastic as a substantial side to crumbed fish or your favourite steak.
My partner eats potatoes most nights of the week and I must say that I’ve come to really enjoy what I used to consider quite a boring vegetable (we’ve been together 11-ish years so it’s been a somewhat drawn-out process). I also feel like I’ve finally mastered the art of roasting the perfect spud with a crispy, golden exterior and soft insides and there are a couple of things you need to do to achieve this. Most importantly you need to ensure you parboil them first and then leave them to thoroughly steam dry. Don’t be tempted to skip this step as you’ll never reach potato-Nirvana if you rush this process.
This is a very malleable recipe…you can add a handful of cherry tomatoes at the same time as you add the feta/olives, large handful of torn basil leaves, chunks of haloumi instead of feta…experiment to your heart’s content once you’ve mastered the basic recipe below.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2 as a substantial side)
600g agria potatoes (or other floury, roasting variety) – approx weight once peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek – white part only, thinly sliced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
20 kalamata olives
100g feta – broken into rough chunks
Handful of flat-leaf parsley – roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a medium-sized oven roasting dish inside the oven to warm.
2. Peel the potatoes and chop into large chunks, approximately 3cm in size. Try to make sure the chunks are all roughly the same size. Fill a large saucepan with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes then drain in a colander, tip back into the saucepan and leave to steam dry for a further 5 minutes.
3. Put the lid on the saucepan and give the potatoes a vigorous shake to rough up the sides of the potatoes. This helps the potatoes crisp up to perfection.
4. Remove the hot roasting dish from the oven and pour in the olive oil, moving the dish around to coat the base and sides. Tip the potatoes into the roasting dish and toss to coat in the hot oil. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt and roast for 20 minutes.
5. While the potatoes are roasting, melt the butter in a frypan over a medium-low heat, add the sliced leeks and stir well to coat in the butter. Add the lemon rind and season with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Cook very gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the leeks are tender but not browned, then remove from the heat.
6. Take the potatoes out of the oven, add the leeks and turn gently to incorporate with the spuds. Disperse the olives evenly over the top and lastly dot with the chunks of feta. Finish off with a good grind of black pepper and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. When the dish is ready the feta will have started to char around the edges and the olives will be slightly shriveled.