Monday, 24 February 2014

Perfect Roast Potatoes and Decadent Casserole

In an effort to save money, I've made an effort to go to Woolworths close to a nearby university as it always has vegetables "reduced to clear" (apparently students don't eat vegetables?). Anyway, it's working out really well for me; mushrooms, corn, greens, tomatoes... I haven't paid full price for a vegetable in weeks.

As luck would have it, the other week one of the clearance vegetables was baby red potatoes. With no idea of what I'd do with them, I bought them, and arrived at home determined to roast them. But, as crazy as it sounds, I'd never really roasted a potato (pretty much every other vegetable, but never potatoes). After a cursory look at a few websites, I decided to just throw myself into it and see how it turned out (they were ridiculous cheap, after all!)

The result was (not to sound full of myself but) the most delicious roast potatoes I've ever eaten. Looking at the recipe below, I'm sure you're thinking "Yeah, well with THAT much fat, how could it not be delicious". And you know what; it is. Ridiculously delicious. It's also obscenely easy.

Perfect Roast Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 220C.

Halve or quarter 1kg baby red or other roasting potatoes into approximately 2-3cm cubes. Place them into a large casserole dish; they should completely cover the bottom in a single layer and have very little to no space between them.

In a microwave safe bowl (or, if you don't have a microwave, a small saucepan) add 1/2 cup non-dairy buttery spread (I used Nuttelex Olive), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 6 cloves crushed garlic, and 5-6 sprigs of roughly chopped fresh rosemary or oregano (or a mix). Microwave this for 30 seconds until the spread has melted; microwave slightly longer if needed (if in a saucepan, warm the mix over a medium heat until the spread has melted, removing the saucepan from the heat at the first sign of bubbles). Add a few splashes (about 1-2tsp) roasted sesame oil and mix again.


Pour this mix over the potatoes; use a spoon to distribute the mix evenly (make sure the garlic cloves and herbs are spread out in the mix). Give a few cracks of black pepper and a good sprinkling of salt over the top.


Once the oven is preheated, place the casserole in the oven and roast for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the mix again (give another crack of pepper and salt if desired), and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes until cool enough to eat straight from the dish.




With some leftover of these potatoes, I started experimenting with using the leftover potatoes (and fat) in some fry-ups, but ended up returning to the trusted casserole for my final experiment. I had some leftover bread from a visit to Flour & Chocolate, so decided to use that up as well, along with some other vegetables from my clearance haul. The result is an extremely delicious, and very rich, casserole. Though it may seem small, this is certainly not the sort of dish that you need to go back for seconds of! I simply ate it from the bowl, but it could be nice served on some freshly toasted bread as a sort-of bruschetta/crostoni, or with some simply grilled vegetables (asparagus, charred greens, green beans, etc) as a side as a simply and casual yet impressive main.

Potato, Bread and Chickpea Casserole
Preheat the oven to 220C.

Halve of quarter 500g baby red or other roasting potato into approximately 2-3cm cubes. Place them in a large casserole dish. Cut up a stale bread roll approximately the size of a shoe (I used a ciabatta roll, approximately 20x5x3cm) and one mushroom into 1-2cm cubes and also add them to the dish. Quarter a handful of small (cherry, grape or similar) tomatoes (I used a "tomato medley", which included a mix of red, yellow, and streaked green tomatoes; the mix of colours looks great and the subtly different tastes add wonderful layer to the flavour, though any small tomatoes will do!) and add them to the dish. Finally, add 1.5 cups / 1 can / 420g cooked chickpeas and 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced (roughly break up the slices into individual strands/layers).


In a microwave safe bowl (or, if you don't have a microwave, a small saucepan) add 1/2 cup non-dairy buttery spread (I used Nuttelex Olive), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 6 cloves crushed garlic, and 5-6 sprigs of roughly chopped fresh rosemary or oregano (or a mix). Microwave this for 30 seconds until the spread has melted; microwave slightly longer if needed (if in a saucepan, warm the mix over a medium heat until the spread has melted, removing the saucepan from the heat at the first sign of bubbles).
Add a few splashes (about 1-2tsp) roasted sesame oil and mix again.

Pour this mix over the casserole mix; use a spoon to distribute the mix evenly (make sure the garlic cloves and herbs are spread out in the mix). Give a couple of splashes of red wine, few cracks of black pepper and a good sprinkling of salt over the top. Once the oven is preheated, place the casserole in the oven and roast for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter one or two handfuls of greens over the top (I used baby kale, which is quite large, but for baby spinach or other small greens, you may want to use a little more).


Stir greens into the mix until well-coated, give another few cracks of pepper and a sprinkle of salt, and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes until cool enough to eat.



I have a few posts floating around that I'm just waiting for the inspiration to finish, so hopefully I'll see you again sooner rather than later!