Interesting food for interesting times


POTATO PLEASERS  Latkes are quite like our boxty, but smaller and thinner.

Redmond Cabot

There’s such a thing as slow food fast food. Some of us now may have a lot of time on our hands. Not I – keeping the food business going and having young children off school means keeping an eye on them all the time, being referee at the drop of a hat. A super-quick but very tasty meal is always in order to take the mind off things.
Like pasta alla puttanesca. Its ingredients typically include tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives. My colleague and friend, Piotr Kubasik – a super chef who trained at La Bella Vita in Westport under the late Angelo Forcini – is always great to talk food with. “Often this recipe doesn’t include tomato sauce, but I do because it adds to the texture,” he says.
“Which pasta? I think linguine, though any skinny pasta would work. Don’t be too fussy – the legend behind this dish (it loosely translates as ‘whore’s pasta’) is add anything you have at hand to this dish. Spaghetti is good; linguine is even better with this sauce.” That said, Piotr always puts his foot down when it comes to insisting on using flat-leaf rather than curly parsley!

Time-poor tasty pasta
This is a makeshift recipe. Cook your pasta in boiling water – you now have seven minutes to get your sauce ready. Keep that pasta very ‘al dente’, as you will finish it off in the sauce so it absorbs the flavours.
Heat a glug of olive oil in the pan, and add a finely shredded clove of garlic and soften it in the oil. Add about ten chopped-up black olives. Chop five to six anchovies and add them to the pan. Throw in a few capers – about 20 small ones; if you have the bigger version, chop them up. Reduce the heat and add in about ten small chopped tomatoes, and let them melt a bit. Add a tablespoon of passata or tomato sauce. Stir and reduce.
Don’t forget your pasta. Drain while very al dente and put in the pan with your sauce. Add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water. If you have it, add in a tablespoon of finely chopped parsley. If you like chilli, sprinkle in some dried flakes. Keep tossing for a minute or two until cooked. Serve up in heated bowls.

Latke – what’s not to like?
If you do have time on your hands, why not try these absolutely delicious traditional Jewish savoury treats. This is a recipe for something very simple, cheap and delicious – just slightly palavery and time-consuming to make. So, if you have time ...
Similar to our boxty, latke are smaller and thinner pan-fried potato rostis, or potato pancakes. Plain flour is used here, but self-raising can be used instead if flour is in short supply – they’ll just be a bit puffier.
The main trick is to really squeeze the bejaysus out of the grated potato in a muslin or cotton cloth to get as much of the moisture out as possible. Traditionally, latkes are served with sour cream. Or you could make a mezze of them with slow roasted tomatoes, hummus, sliced avocado and a block of feta cheese roasted in the oven in tin foil at 200°c for ten minutes (add some chili flakes, oregano and a drizzle of olive oil if you like).

What you need

  • 1kg baking potatoes (large)
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 25g flour, sieved
  • Seasoning
  • Glug of vegetable oil

What you do
Finely grate the potatoes and onion, and mix well. Roll into a clean tea towel and squeeze over the sink to remove all liquid. You may need a second tea towel – the drier, the better. Mix the potato and onion with the sieved flour, then add the beaten egg and seasoning.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan ’til moderately hot. Place several heaped teaspoons of the mix into the pan to shallow fry. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Lower the heat and use a spoon to flatten the latkes. Fry for about four to five minutes on each side until golden.
Remove from pan and drain excess oil on kitchen roll. Decorate and serve to your preference!

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.