Sunday, 3 June 2007

Crispy squashed potatoes with garlic, lemon and herbs

I was standing at the stove scratching my head about what to make for supper, when I remembered this clever recipe, invented by my darling aunt Gilly, who'd over-boiled some large potatoes intended for a salad. Like everything she cooks, this dish is just wonderful for a crowd. Here is my version:

Crispy squashed potatoes with garlic, lemon and herbs

6 large floury potatoes, in their skins
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
a large knob of butter, melted (the more, the better; depending on your waistline)
juice of 2 lemons
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oreganum and a few rosemary needles) or 2 T dried herbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Put the whole potatoes, skins and all, in a pot of water, bring to the boil and cook until their skins begin to split and they are cooked right through. This will take up to 30 minutes. Drain them in a colander and leave to dry out for a few minutes.

Now put the potatoes in an oiled baking dish, slash a cross in each one, and squeeze the bottom of the potato hard so that the cooked flesh squishes up and the skins flatten against the dish. With a fork, fluff up the insides of the potatoes so that it's all raggedy, like a crumble topping. Crush the garlic (or chop it very finely) and mix it with the olive oil, the melted butter, the lemon juice and the herbs.

Spoon this mixture all over the potatoes (or, better, use a pastry brush to paint it on so that every little crag of potato is well coated). Sprinkle with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Now place the dish in a blazing hot oven and cook until the potato is golden and crisp. If you're using Parmesan, sprinkle it over the potatoes 10 minutes before serving.

For extra zing, you could add any of the following: pesto, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, powdered cumin, or finely grated lemon zest.

Serves 6.

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