Lemon Herb Rice

This one-pot rice pilaf is bursting with Mediterranean flavours! Baked and then garnished with herbs and lemon just before serving – you’ll want to eat this tasty rice straight from the pot!

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I love that in food there are memories. Tasting a certain food can transport you back and allow you to reminisce about somewhere you travelled to or a time you really enjoyed and have fond memories of.

That’s exactly what this recipe does for me.

I first had a taste of rice very similar to this a number of years ago on holiday on one of my first visits to the glorious Mediterranean island of Cyprus. My family and I would visit this one restaurant a couple of times during our trip, the restaurant specialised in souvlaki which consists of various meats and vegetables grilled on a barbecue. Each diner received a massive plate that included a jacket potato, souvlaki meat of your choice such as beef, chicken or pork, a corn on the cob and a small portion of rice. The rice wasn’t just boring plain boiled rice it was incredibly buttery and rich in sensational flavours.

Greek is one of the many cuisines I really enjoy. A few of my personal Greek food favourites include spanakopita, tzatziki and tiropitakia – we used to buy these from bakeries on the way to the beach and would sit eating these amazing cheesy pastries whilst feeling the gentle sea breeze and sun on us. Just thinking of that I’d desperately like to be transported back there right now!

Wave goodbye to the winter blues by making this rice, it’s sure to bring a touch sunshine to your day!

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

30g/2 tablespoons butter

Drizzle of olive oil

1 medium white onion, diced

2-3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1-2 dried or fresh bay leaves, torn – tearing the leaves releases the flavour

450g (2 cups) long grain rice

900ml (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

Zest from half a large lemon and a squeeze of the juice

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Few sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary, finely chopped

Small handful of fresh parsley (approx. 2-3 tablespoons), finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Fan / 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. In a large ovenproof saucepan over a medium heat melt one tablespoon of the butter and the oil.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves and a touch of salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until soft and translucent – you don’t want this to colour too much.
  3. Now add the rice and stir until all the grains of rice are moistened by the butter. Then add the stock, cover the saucepan with a lid and allow it to come up to the boil.
  4. Once boiling take off the heat and place in the oven to braise for 15-20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is completely cooked through.
  5. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest and a generous squeeze of the juice and season with extra salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Leave the rice with the lid on and allow the flavours to develop for about 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Garnish the rice with extra chopped parsley if desired.
  7. Rice is best served straight away or at room temperature. Don’t reheat rice more than once. If you’re reheating it check temperature has reached at least 75°C before consuming.

Recipe Notes:

  • If your saucepan lid is not ovenproof then you can cook this rice in a dish covered with tin/aluminium foil.
  • If you’re planning to make this rice dairy-free you can substitute the butter for a dairy-free alternative or just use oil.
  • I’ve tested this recipe out a few times and I’ve found adding the zest from half a large lemon adds more than enough lemon flavour without being overpowering. If you want you can add the zest of the whole lemon if you’re a lemon lover!
  • This rice doesn’t have to the braised in the oven you can cook it by boiling it the stove top instead if you’d prefer to do that. I baked it as this is how I was taught how to cook the best rice at culinary school. Just check how long your rice needs to cook, each brand can cook differently. There’s nothing nice about overcooked rice and you won’t want this rice to be the texture of rice pudding!
  • Rice can be eaten on its own but it’s also great served with chicken or fish such as salmon or prawns/shrimp.
  • This recipe will typically serve 4-6 people generously but it can serve up to 8 smaller portions.

Enjoy!

jess

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Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Make the most of autumn’s harvest with this hearty and warming Thai butternut squash soup.

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Now it’s officially autumn that means soup season is upon us. I’ve definitely been noticing the recent cooler weather and when it’s cold out all I crave is comforting food like soups and stews. Recently I’ve been feeling a tad rundown and decided on making soup so I would feel back to my best.

Around this time of year you’ll be seeing lots of delicious savoury and sweet pumpkin recipes. I adore butternut squash soup and every year when autumn rolls around and pumpkin is in season I like to make a batch of homemade soup. However, whilst I love butternut squash soup as it is, this time I wanted to try something a little more aromatic and spicy.

My love of Thai cuisine is the main inspiration behind this recipe. Many classic Thai recipes are packed full of different flavours and spices. I frequently cook my family Thai green curry and other traditional dishes from Thailand.

For the soup, I thought about chopping up chilli, garlic and ginger, however I was feeling lazy so instead I decided to cheat this time and use a couple of tablespoons of Thai red curry paste we had leftover in the fridge after my sister made a Thai red curry over the weekend.

To make this soup, it’s really quite simple. Take your butternut squash, peel and chop it up in 1cm sized cubes. Add the chopped squash to a large saucepan along with the red curry paste and sauté for a few minutes. Next add the coconut cream and stock, bring up to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for about 25 minutes or until the squash is soft. Finally, blend the soup until smooth. I like my soup a little on the thicker side, but if you prefer your soup thinner in consistency just add a touch more stock.

With Bonfire Night next month, this soup would be brilliant to pack up or come home to if you’re feeling cold after watching fireworks. You’ve got to give this soup recipe a try this autumn, it’s amazingly tasty and comforting with the fragrance from the red curry paste and creamy coconut flavour and texture from the coconut cream.

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1kg butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm cubes

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

250ml coconut cream

500ml vegetable stock

Method:

  1. Add the chopped butternut squash to a large saucepan along with the red curry paste. Gently sauté over a medium heat and cook for about 2-3 minutes until all the squash is thoroughly coated in the curry paste.
  2. Add the coconut cream and vegetable stock, cover the pan and leave to simmer for about 25 minutes or until the squash is soft.
  3. Blend the soup in a food processor or with a handheld blender until smooth. Add a couple of generous pinches of salt, stir and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes:

  • Add more or less curry paste depending on how spicy you want your soup.
  • Adjust consistency of the soup to your liking by adding more stock if it is too thick.
  • Soup will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up a 2-3 days, it’s best eaten on the day of making.
  • This soup is delicious served with bread, rolls or croutons. We made our own croutons and baked them in the oven until they were crispy and golden.

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My mum’s White Bread Rolls are perfect for dunking into soup!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Roasted Vegetable Couscous

A simple and easy recipe for couscous with roasted vegetables. This is great eaten on its own or you can make it into a meal and serve as a side dish. Colourful, healthy and ready in less than 30 minutes! 

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Eating healthy and sticking to a budget each week can sometimes seem tricky. I always believe delicious and nutritious food doesn’t have to be expensive, hard to make or take an eternity to prepare.

Couscous is one of my favourite ingredients to use in savoury cooking because it’s so convenient. I always have it in my kitchen cupboard along with rice and pasta. If you’re not familiar with couscous, it’s a grain that’s common in North African cuisine and is usually served with tagine and stews.

Preparing couscous is really simple and unlike most recipes I don’t even worry measuring out the water/stock I add. I usually just place the couscous in a bowl, crumble over a vegetable stock cube and then just pour enough boiling water to cover the top. I’ve always used this method of making the best fluffy couscous and it hasn’t let me down yet. What I love most about making savoury recipes is the fact you can freestyle unlike baking which is a science and where the measurements have to be exact.

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Roasted vegetables are my family’s favourite and recently we’ve all made a concerted effort to eat less meat (and cake!) each week. Lately our meals have been based around using fresher ingredients and we’ve been exploring healthier vegetarian options.

I usually get fed up of vegetables like broccoli, carrot or peas that we eat so often with roast dinners. I eat roasted veggies probably two or maybe three times a week. They’re pretty much a staple part of my diet nowadays! I just love the vibrant colour and beautiful flavour when they’re all golden and roasted.

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We love serving this roasted vegetable couscous with either chicken or halloumi. Both of which would be super tasty served with my homemade tzatziki! Also, I think the couscous would be fabulous to bring to a late summer BBQ, potluck or even as part of a mezze platter.

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(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 mixed colour bell peppers, deseeded and cut into medium chunks

8-10 small mushrooms (such as button or chestnut), cleaned and quartered

1 red onion, chopped into small chunks

1 courgette, halved lengthways and sliced into 1/2 inch quarters

Salt and black pepper, to taste

200g (1 cup) dried couscous

1 vegetable stock cube (optional)

Boiling water (see method for instructions)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C / 180 Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. Evenly spread the vegetables out onto a large baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they’re all coated well in the oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until soft and starting to colour slightly.
  2. Once the vegetables are near enough cooked, start preparing the couscous. Place the couscous in a large bowl that will be big enough to mix up all the vegetables in too. Crumble the stock cube over the top of the couscous, season with salt and pepper and pour over just enough boiling water to cover the top of the couscous. Cover the bowl with some clingfilm/plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes (I always leave mine for the full 10 minutes).
  3. Now using a fork, fluff the couscous and then mix through the roasted vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature. Couscous can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • You don’t have to use olive oil when roasting the vegetables, you can use any light flavoured oil you have in such as canola/vegetable oil.
  • If you’d like you can season the vegetables with your favourite herbs and spices before roasting. Sometimes I add some garlic powder or a pinch or two of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika. Dried oregano and thyme would also taste great with the vegetables.
  • The vegetable stock cube is optional. I find it adds extra flavour to the dish but feel free to leave it out if you want.
  • Swap around the vegetables. If you’d prefer to add more of a certain vegetable that will work just as well.
  • Just an idea, you could crumble a little bit of Greek feta cheese into the couscous prior to serving. I’m going to try that next time I make this!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Oven Roasted Corn

Buttery baked sweet corn roasted in the oven until tender. Easy and delicious – this will make a great BBQ side dish. 

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I love food that transports me back to holidays. I first tried this corn in Cyprus last summer and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. I remember seeing street vendors selling corn and one evening I couldn’t wait any longer and I decided to try some out for myself because it seemed so popular with the locals.

The experience of watching the corn be prepared was not like any way I’d seen it done before. I watched as the man removed the cooked corn from a large pot of water then he started to charr it on a grill. The next step is what left me completely puzzled, the man started to use a hairdryer! Presumably this is used to help speed up the cooking process and make the corn crisp?

So after all that malarkey I finally got a chance to try it and it was love at first bite. I adored the sweet and salty flavour and the caramelised butter. We enjoyed it so much that every time we headed to the supermarket to get groceries I would pick up some sweet corn and recreate the corn I had from the street vendor. Even my sister who used to dislike corn now can’t get enough of it, that’s why I knew this recipe was a winner and one I wanted to share in time for the summer.

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To prepare it take each corn and place in a piece of aluminium foil, season generously with salt and pepper and then top with a tablespoon of butter. Wrap it all up and then bake for 20 minutes in the foil, then uncover and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until it’s starting to colour slightly.

My corn recipe is a much easier and simpler version of the original. It doesn’t require much effort to make and the oven does all of the work, which means you can spend more time outside enjoying the weather rather than being stuck inside a hot kitchen. If you want you can cook it on the barbecue, it will be equally as delicious.

This corn makes a great side dish for the upcoming BBQ season. It goes brilliantly with burgers, chicken and ribs. I love this simple and inexpensive recipe and so will you – you’ll be making it all summer long! 🙂

Ingredients:

4 sweetcorn or 8 cobettes

4 tablespoons butter

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C / 180 Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.
  2. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil and evenly spread out the corn. Top with butter and season well with salt and black pepper. Cover and seal the corn in the foil, then roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the corn and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the corn is lightly coloured and the butter is starting to caramelise.
  3. Before serving brush corn with excess melted butter. Serve immediately. The corn is delicious served both hot or cold.

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Enjoy!

jess

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This blog post is in conjunction with a project FourWalls have set-up to celebrate National BBQ Week.

Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)

My take on Greek tzaztiki dip – it’s fantastic served with pitta or crusty bread and all kinds of dishes like gyros, souvlaki or part of a mezze. To make the best tzatziki you need to use thick and creamy Greek yoghurt and add lots of garlic!

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I’m finally sharing one of my favourite Greek recipes with you! I’ve been eating and making this dip for many years now and I decided this recipe deserved a place on the blog. If you were wondering, Tzatziki is a Greek cucumber and yoghurt dip and it’s traditionally served with grilled meats like beef, chicken or pork in Greece and Cyprus. I personally love it drizzled over fried halloumi cheese. Try it sometime, it’s delicious! 🙂

When we visited the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus last summer we enjoyed some of the best tzatziki we’d ever had before. Most days lunch at our villa consisted of platefuls of Greek salad and Lebanese pitta bread to dip into bowls of tzatziki and hummus. Ever since tasting the tzatziki in Cyprus I knew when I got home I needed to recreate my own recipe so I could continue reminiscing about my holiday and the tasty Cypriot food.

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I recently shared this roasted garlic hummus and sharing this family favourite tzatziki recipe was next on my list. It’s simply delicious and full of many light and beautiful flavours like tangy Greek yoghurt, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and dill. If you like Greek food or have had tzatziki at a Greek restaurant before, then I know you’ll enjoy this recipe a lot!

To make the tzatziki you will start by preparing the cucumber. I used a whole large cucumber for this recipe. You can choose whether you’d like to peel or leave the skin on the cucumber and whether you prefer it grated or finely diced. Next cut the cucumber lengthways and using a spoon scoop the watery centre out. You need to make sure you squeeze as much water out of the cucumber as you can as any excess water will alter the consistency of the tzatziki.

Also, I strongly recommend using full-fat Greek yoghurt. Don’t substitute with Greek-style or natural yoghurt because they won’t live up to quality of the proper Greek stuff! I always believe it’s better to spend a little extra on something like this once in a while rather than substituting with something that’s not quite up to the mark.

Tzatziki gets better with age so you will find after a day or so in the fridge it will taste even better than the day you made it. I don’t know about you but recipes that can be made in advance tick all the boxes for me!

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber

500g (2 cups) full-fat Greek yoghurt

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped dill (can be substituted with mint)

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (approx. half a lemon) or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Slice the cucumber lengthways and using a small spoon scoop out the watery centre and discard the seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber or dice it. Place the cucumber in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze as much of the water out as you can. I always leave the peel on because it contains lots of flavour and texture, but this is just my personal preference.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, dill, lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning. The dip can be served straight away but it is best left to chill in the fridge for at least 2-4 hours in order for the flavours to develop and marry together.
  3. When ready to serve, place the tzatziki in a serving bowl or dish. It will keep fresh covered or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Give the tzatziki a good mix prior to serving.

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There are so many different ways of serving this tzaztiki, my favourite is with pitta bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Simple but seriously tasty. 

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Love Greek food? Try my Greek Orzo Salad next!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Roasted Garlic Hummus

Basic hummus recipe with roasted garlic, lemon and spices. A healthy and inexpensive crowd-pleasing dip! 

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I really love hummus. I think I have lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to make it myself and the hummus never seems to be smooth. I found a simple trick for getting ultra smooth hummus. All you have to do is squeeze the skins off the canned chickpeas (garbanzo). It’s a vital step in making the seriously smooth hummus. The only downfall is it does take quite a bit of time but it’s worth going the extra mile to make the best hummus.

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The second thing I changed about my hummus is I’ve used roasted garlic. It’s an underrated ingredient in savoury cooking and can transform any dish into something quite special. If you’d like to learn how to roast your own garlic I find this post helpful for tips. I’m not really a fan of the taste of raw garlic in hummus as I find it way too strong and overpowers other flavours whereas roasted garlic adds the right amount of flavour.

Tahini is also a super important ingredient to add to hummus. It’s a sesame seed paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking and recipes. I highly recommend it for authentic flavour and texture.

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I make this hummus all the time and I always find it great to have a bowl aside in my fridge ready for snacking on. The hummus is great and it can be served with vegetable crudités, spread in tortilla wraps with chicken and salad or served as part of a mezze. My favourite way to eat it is with toasted pitta or crunchy pitta chips alongside tzaztiki (Greek cucumber dip).

After tasting this hummus my taste buds were transported back to Cyprus and the summer. It’s my favourite hummus recipe and is super easy and quick to prepare and hardly costs anything to make – which means this recipe is particularly great for those on a budget and for busy students like myself. 🙂

Ingredients:

240g chickpeas (this is usually 400g/14 ounce can before draining)

1 lemon, juiced (approx. 2 tablespoons of juice)

2-4 cloves roasted garlic, adjust to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

100ml tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Method:

1. Drain the chickpeas. Squeeze the chickpeas to release the skins – discard the skins.

2. Tip the chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, tahini, oil along with a generous pinch of salt into a food processor. Process until smooth, add 4 tablespoons of water to loosen the hummus.

3. Adjust seasoning. Spread out into serving bowl or dish. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: The hummus will keep for up to 1 week. But it is best eaten fresh. I leave my hummus in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving as this allows the flavours to develop. Before serving drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, freshly chopped parsley and spices like smoked paprika or zaatar.

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I was making this hummus again and decided on adding some Moroccan inspired spices. Just up the cumin to a full teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Delicious!

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Enjoy!

jess

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Patatas Bravas

An easy recipe for patatas bravas. This traditional Spanish tapa consists of crispy cubes of potato with spicy tomato sauce. You will love the simplicity of this dish! 

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For my last recipe of the year, I thought I would share a savoury recipe I make all the time. Patatas bravas always makes an appearance whenever we’re serving tapas for dinner. This recipe would make a fantastic party food for New Years Eve which is in just a couple of days time.

My family are massive fans of Spanish food and it’s one of my favourite cuisines to both cook and eat. A few of my most loved Spanish dishes have been inspired by past holidays and trips to Spain. The taste testers really love all kinds of Spanish recipes. Anything from paella, to churros to delicious and easy to make tapas just like the one I’m sharing with you today.

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If you’ve never made or eaten these, patatas bravas are simply chunks of roasted potato (although traditionally they’re fried) served with a rich and slightly spicy tomato sauce. It’s mandatory (in my opinion) to serve the dish with an aioli dipping sauce which is a basic garlic mayonnaise and the most popular accompaniment to patatas bravas. This recipe has amazing flavour and certainly transforms the humble potato into a delicious and cost effective meal the whole family will enjoy.

You will start by preparing a simple spicy tomato sauce, in Spain it’s known as “salsa brava”. This sauce is based on my marinara sauce, but I’ve swapped the Italian herbs for a little smoked paprika and pinch of both cayenne and chilli to add some authentic Spanish flavour.

Once the sauce is simmering away, it’s time to prepare the potatoes for roasting. Peel and cut the potatoes into roughly 1-2 cm chunks – you want the potatoes to be irregular shapes as this helps the sauce “cling” onto the potatoes. Toss the chunks of potato in olive oil and then roast until golden and crispy! I prefer this method to frying because it’s better for you and you don’t need any specialist equipment.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

Spicy Tomato Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small white onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika (pimentón)

Pinch of ground chilli or chilli flakes (add more or less to taste)

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1 x 400g can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes

Small pinch of sugar

Potatoes:

900g waxy potatoes (such as King Edward, Maris Piper or Yukon Gold)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. To make the sauce: Heat the olive, gently sauté the onion and garlic on a medium heat for 5 minutes until soft. Now add the paprika, cayenne and chilli and continue to cook for a further minute until fragrant.
  2. Add the purée along with the chopped tomatoes, the sugar and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to boil then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. To prepare the potatoes: Preheat oven to 180 Fan/200 C. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-2 cm cubes. Pat the potato cubes with kitchen paper towel to absorb any moisture. Then toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread out evenly onto 1-2 large baking trays. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until soft and golden and crisp on the outside.
  4. To serve: Scatter the crispy baked potatoes into a tapas bowl/dish. Spoon over the warm sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley, if you like. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes:

  • The tomato sauce can be made in advance. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • You can blend the tomato sauce if you prefer a smoother texture.
  • The dish is best served warm, but it’s also delicious cold the next day.
  • Recipe is vegetarian, omit the aioli to make it suitable for vegans.
  • Adjust the level of spice to your taste, add more or less to your preference.
  • This recipe can easily be doubled to cater for more people.

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Enjoy!

jess

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