This recipe was inspired by Papas Fritas, a poem by Pablo Neruda.
The poem describes the sensual pleasure of cooking fried potatoes; dropping the light, fluffy potatoes, which are like the snowy wings of a morning swan, into the pan; how they come out of the amber-coloured olive oil semi-gilded; and adding garlic for earthy fragrance, and pepper. The result, he says is a gift of the land, simple and full of flavour.
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who won the Nobel prize for literature. He went into exile in Italy, and there is a charming film about a postman who befriended him while he was living there, called Il Postino, see below for a couple of clips from that. The music of the film is also delightful.
If you want extra crispy potatoes you can fry, drain, and fry again and again a third time, always in searing hot oil.
Recipe for earthily, richly, simple fried potatoes
• 100 – 150 g/about 4 oz of any firm, waxy potato – eg Cyprus, go here for a list
• Rapeseed oil for frying (Neruda uses ‘el crepitante ámbar de las olivas’ or ‘the crackling amber of olives’ but the rapeseed oil will give you crispier potatoes. A nice compromise is to use half and half)
• Sea salt flakes (Maldon ideally)
• Sweet smoked Spanish paprika; or some cracked pepper; or some sprigs of rosemary; or some crushed garlic
1. Slice the potatoes into smallish wedges (don’t bother to peel them) – these are the ‘nevadas plumas de cisne matutino’ – the snowy wings of a morning swan – of Pablo Neruda’s wonderful poem about fried potatoes.
2. Boil them for about ten minutes until they seem a little soft on the outside
3. Drain them and let the steam come off for about a minute and then jiggle them about to roughen up a little
4. Heat up the oil until nearly smoking in a large frying pan, and fry the potatoes, again for about ten minutes – they should be crisp and again – as per the poem again – ‘semidoradas’ – or half gold. Sprinkle over the salt flakes and as an option, as Neruda suggests add some crushed garlic for its ‘terrenal fragancia’ – its earthy perfume.
5. Sprinkle either with the paprika; or mix in some sprigs of rosemary while still really hot so that the scent of the rosemary gets into the potatoes; or, as Neruda suggests, some garlic and pepper