There will be spud: Yotam Ottolenghi’s potato recipes (2024)

Let me give you two potato-based vignettes, set 40 years apart.

In the first, I’m aged about seven, and a bunch of us are running about Jerusalem on our equivalent of Bonfire night, all runny-nosed and overexcited from a bedtime long ignored. We are each given a potato, told to throw it into the embers of the fire and then, crucially, to watch and wait.

Having no firm grip on the concept of time, and unpractised in the art of focused patience, we soon lose interest, of course, and move on to the actual fire and its immense perils. But when the flames finally subside, after what seems an eternity, we are reminded to poke about in the coals with a stick and seek out our potatoes. To our amazement, they have all turned into perfectly round pieces of coal. The biggest shock, however, is that underneath the thick, black, charred, hand-staining skin is the most delicious and delicate cooked potato flesh. A wonderful thing that I’ve cooked all by myself.

Fast-forward 40 years, and a bunch of us are running about in the test kitchen on the last day of a month-long shoot for my latest book (Nopi: The Cookbook, out this September). We may be less runny-nosed than those seven-year-olds around the fire, but, circling the test kitchen oven, we are just as over-excited. The last dish of the entire shoot involves a simple roast sweet potato, to go into pancakes. The sweet potato emerges from the oven, its skin all billowy and soft, and is sliced open to reveal its sweet orange flesh. We all stop for a second, looking on in wonder at this perfectly simple and simply perfect food. What more could you want?

Hasselback fondant potatoes

The trademark dish of the Hasselbacken hotel and restaurant in Stockholm, these Swedish-style roast potatoes, thinly sliced widthways but held together at the base, fan out like an accordion when they are baked. They look hugely impressive, and manage also to combine just about everything that makes potatoes so addictive: the edges are as crisp as any french fry, while underneath is a creamy, mashed potato-like centre. The potatoes will require some attention during the initial frying, so they open properly, but stick with it: they look beautiful and are packed with flavour. Serves four.

1kg small charlotte or new potatoes, skin on (about 12 potatoes)
100g unsalted butter
Salt and black pepper
200ml double cream
150ml chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 anchovies, finely chopped
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp chopped rosemary
30g finely grated parmesan
10g sprigs of thyme

Use a small serrated knife to cut widthways incisions across each potato about 0.5cm apart and going three-quarters of the way through the potato, so it stays in one piece.

Put the butter in a large, ovenproof saute pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once it starts to foam, add the potatoes cut side up and half a teaspoon of salt. Fry gently for 15 minutes, basting throughout, until the potatoes are nearly cooked and golden-brown all over. You want the incisions in the potatoes to open up, so use a small knife to help prise them apart. Remove the potatoes and wipe clean the pan.

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Return the potatoes to the pan cut side up, and add the cream, stock, garlic, anchovies, lemon zest, rosemary, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes, basting the potatoes as they cook. Take the pan off the heat. sprinkle over the parmesan and thyme, then roast for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through, golden-brown all over and the cream is bubbling. Serve at once.

Roasted potato skin and iceberg lettuce salad

There will be spud: Yotam Ottolenghi’s potato recipes (1)

You need only the baked potato skins for this dish, so use the flesh to make spicy potato hash (see next recipe), or just mash with some crushed garlic and butter. Iceberg isn’t normally my first port of call in the lettuce department, but it works particularly well when you’re looking for extra-freshness and crunch. Serves four to six.

1.2kg large baking potatoes (ie, 3-4 potatoes)
1 tbsp rose or regular harissa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small iceberg lettuce, trimmed and cut into 3cm-wide wedges

For the dressing
25g preserved lemon skin, finely sliced (about ½ a lemon)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the potatoes on a small baking tray and bake for about 90 minutes, until soft and cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven, set aside and, when cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh and save for another recipe.

Tear the potato skins into 5-6cm-long pieces and put them in a medium bowl with the harissa, two tablespoons of oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Mix well, then spread out evenly on a wire rack placed on a large baking tray. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning the skins over once, until they are dark golden-brown and turning crisp. Remove and set aside to cool – they will continue to crisp up. Once cool, put the skins in a large bowl with the lettuce wedges.

When ready to serve, whisk together the dressing ingredients with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and pour over the salad. Toss and serve.

Spicy potato hash

If you can’t get hold of ’nduja or sobrasada, two types of spreadable spicy pork sausage, use cooking chorizo instead (if you do, remove and discard the skin first). This is lovely with a red onion and tomato or plain green salad. Serves four.

3 large baking potatoes, each weighing about 400g (or the leftover potato flesh from the previous recipe)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches spring onions, trimmed and cut on an angle into 2cm slices
1 tbsp thyme leaves
15g basil, shredded
150g ’nduja or sobrasada, broken up into 1-2cm pieces
Salt and black pepper
80g gruyère, roughly grated
4 fried eggs, to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and bake for about 90 minutes, until cooked and soft all the way through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then cut in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl – you should have about 720g – and lightly mash. (Snack on the skins as a chef’s treat, or save them for the potato skin salad.)

Put a large, nonstick saute pan on a medium-high heat with a tablespoon of the oil. Once hot, add the spring onions and thyme, and fry for six minutes, stirring a few times, until soft and starting to brown. Remove from the heat and tip into the potato bowl, along with the basil, ’nduja or sobrasada, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix together to combine (as always, your hands are the best tool for this), then form into eight round patties around 8cm wide and 2cm thick.

Heat the grill to its highest setting. Wipe clean the pan, add a tablespoon of oil and put on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add four patties and fry for five to six minutes in total, turning them over carefully halfway through, until dark golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and place on a large baking tray lined with parchment. Wipe clean the pan, add another tablespoon of oil and cook the remaining four patties.

Once all the patties are cooked and on the baking tray, sprinkle the cheese over the top and place under the grill, in the middle of the oven. Cook for three to four minutes, until the cheese has melted and turned golden, then remove and serve at once with a fried egg on top or alongside each patty.

There will be spud: Yotam Ottolenghi’s potato recipes (2024)


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