As a Brit, ‘football’ to me is what Americans call soccer. While it was all around in the UK, I admit I didn’t really like British football all that much – too many divas, faking injuries etc; I was more of a rugby fan. While living in Spain, though, I was a bit more appreciative – there were still many of the same issues in the game, but it all seemed to have a better pace to it. Plus, there were way better snacks: tapas are perfect as football snacks, whichever version of the word you are talking about. One tapas dish that is pretty much central to any order is patatas bravas, and today I am sharing a healthier patatas bravas where the potatoes are roasted rather than fried and the sauce has no sugar or salt. Don’t worry though, this sauce is SO good, you’ll be adding loads and cooking up some more potatoes soon or finding any other excuse to use it again.
The first time I lived in Spain, I lived in Catalunya which in general supports Barcelona’s football team (often known as Barça). However Barça is a team that seems to create enemies and so there were also a number of Real Madrid fans in the town I was in who in many cases supported them as they were seen as Barça’s big rival. Barça-Real match nights were always interesting but I remember one night when I was teaching during an important game and you could tell when every goal happened, and who it was, by what the shouts were from the bar next door and which direction the fireworks came from to celebrate (there were strong supporters’ bars for each team in different directions). Much as I loved my class, I would still have loved to have been taking in the atmosphere in the bar, sipping on a beer and eating some patatas bravas and other tapas. These days, and maybe then too, I am even happier making these healthier patatas bravas to enjoy at home, whether as a snack on their own or alongside other tapas like pinchos morunos and fried eggplant, as we had here.
What are patatas bravas?
Patatas bravas – ‘brave potatoes’ – are traditionally deep fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce. Exactly what is in the sauce varies a little from region to region – when I lived in Madrid, patatas bravas came with just a spicy tomato-based sauce and you had to get ‘patatas mixtas’ to get it with alioli (garlic mayo) as well. In Catalunya, the sauce was always what seemed to be the two blended together already. Personally I like having a little of both but that you can mix yourself, and so that’s what I have made for these healthier patatas bravas.
The tomato sauce can be either cooked while the potatoes are roasting or you can make it ahead and keep it in the fridge – it’s fine either warm or cold. It’s easy to make, being simply some onion and garlic cooked up, spices added then wine and tomatoes, cooked down and blended. I used some fantastic smoked paprika I got recently which helped give it great depth of flavor. It’s also got a nice kick without being over the top. Any leftover sauce is great to use with other things too, just store it in the fridge.
These healthier patatas bravas may be more at home watching Spanish football than American football, but they are so good they certainly should fit in as any kind of game snack, which is why I’m sharing them for today’s football-themed Sunday Supper. The sauce has so much flavor and is perfect, especially alongside some simple alioli (garlic mayo), to smother the roast potatoes. Easy but oh so good.
Healthier patatas bravas
By roasting rather than frying the potatoes, these are just as tasty but healthier. The sauces really make these classic Spanish tapas.
- 1 1/2 lb potatoes 700g
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt approx
For bravas sauce
- 1/2 onion medium
- 1 clove garlic large
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika (recommend smoked or Spanish)
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 9 oz tomatoes 250g, either tinned or fresh, skinned and chopped (3/4cup once chopped)
For aioli (optional)
- 1 cloves garlic or 2, roasted in skin with potatoes
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Peel the potatoes and dice into bite-size chunks. Toss the chunks of potato in the oil and sprinkle with a little salt in a roasting dish so they are in one layer. Add the unpeeled garlic in the side of the pan if making alioli. Once the oven is ready, roast for around 40min, turning once, until they are lightly golden.
For bravas sauce
Meanwhile make the bravas sauce (alternatively you can make it ahead and keep refrigerated). Cut the onion into a fine dice and finely chop the garlic. Start warming the oil in a skillet/frying pan and add the onion before it has become hot. Cook for around 5min until softening then add the garlic. Cook another approx 10min until it is starting to color but not burning (if it looks like it might, reduce heat and add a little oil if needed).
Add the cayenne, paprika and cumin and cook a minute before adding the wine - take care it may splutter a little - and tomatoes then simmer for around 10-15min until it has reduced a little. Blend the sauce until smooth and leave to cool.
When the potatoes are ready, remove from oven. If using, pop the garlic from the casings and mash in with the mayonnaise. Serve the potatoes with the sauce(s) on the side or drizzled over the top.
Try these other Spanish tapas dishes:
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