Patatas bravas – the wonderful flavours of Spain

Each country has its own unique cuisine and certain elements or dishes of that cuisine are more famous than others and tend to make their way into popular eating in other countries. Spain is probably most famous for its tapas and rightly so. When I’m in Spain it’s always what I look forward to most.

It’s a completely different way of eating to the meat and three veg that a lot of us grew up with. Of course, the degustation is huge in the food world at the moment. And although the principle may have similarities in that you get a small taste of many things instead of the traditional one plate of food, the degustation has a formality about it that tapas eschews. The spirit of tapas is more informal served as they are in rustic terracotta bowls to be shared with drinks and friends. It’s not about a particular dish or dishes. It’s a way of eating.

I talked last week about December being the beginning of summer in New Zealand. And although I also said that summer often takes a bit of time to get started, today has been a perfect early summer day that then transitioned to a stunning evening. Nothing else for it but to eat al fresco out on the terrace.

What better way to enjoy such an evening than to sip on a crisp, cold glass of wine and munch on a few delicious tapas.

It also seemed the perfect opportunity to share a recipe for my take on perhaps my favourite tapas dish (well, one of them) – patatas bravas. Crispy fried potatoes served with a thick tomato sauce spiced with chilli, paprika and sherry vinegar. If this sounds delicious, let me tell you it tastes even better.

The traditional way to cook the potato cubes is to par-boil and then fry them in plenty of olive oil but I prefer to roast them in olive oil. You don’t need to use as much oil and the potatoes can happily roast away in the oven while you make the sauce. And I’ve always had a weakness for a roast potato. If you use a good floury potato you’ll get gorgeous fluffy potato on the inside while it will be golden and crisp on the outside. Who could resist?

I chose to serve the patatas bravas with fried chorizo and seared tiger prawns. Some fresh wild rocket tossed with olive oil and lemon juice and some crusty bread finished off a delicious little selection of tapas. Sitting out on the terrace with the colours and smells of Spain and a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc – well, there was nowhere else I’d rather have been. Perhaps with the exception of Spain itself.


Before I start, let me apologise for the absence of terracotta dishes – they’ve been added to my “must purchase” list.


Patatas bravas

Serves 4 as part of tapas

750g Agria potatoes (or an equivalent floury potato)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt and pepper


Bravas sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet)

¼ teaspoon chilli flakes

300g tinned chopped tomatoes (best to buy the finely chopped or use passata)

70g semi-dried tomatoes

½ teaspoon caster sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 bay leaf

Splash of sherry vinegar

Fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


To serve with (optional):

200g dry-cured chorizo sausage

200g large raw prawns, shelled and deveined

100g fresh wild rocket

Fresh crusty bread of your choice


Begin by getting the potatoes in the oven. Heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).

Peel the potatoes and chop into cubes of roughly 2cm. Line a shallow oven dish with foil and baking paper and place the potato cubes in a single layer. Grind over salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil. I’ve said 3-4 tablespoons but you want enough to make sure all the cubes are well slicked in the oil.

Place in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crisp and fluffy on the inside (cook’s treat is to test the first golden cube to come out of the oven).

While the potatoes are cooking you can make the bravas sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion slices. Sauté until soft. Grind over a little salt to help prevent the onions from catching. As they start to soften add the garlic and sauté until softened.

Add the paprika, stir through and let this fry for a minute or so with the onions and garlic. Now add the chilli flakes and stir through.

Add the tinned tomatoes, the semi-dried tomatoes, sugar, salt and bay leaf and stir together well.

Lastly, and with a definite nod to Spain, add a splash of sherry vinegar and stir through. Let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened.

Now remove the bay leaf, transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. You should have a wonderfully thick and pulpy sauce.

You could of course make the sauce well in advance and simply reheat when you were ready to use.


Once you are absolutely ready to eat, remove the potatoes from the oven and transfer to a serving plate. Spoon over the delicious sauce and garnish with a little parsley.


If you wanted to make this as a side dish instead of as part of a tapas selection then it would be fabulous served with fish or chicken.

As mentioned above I chose to serve it as a tapas dish alongside chorizo and prawns with some fresh wild rocket. If you wanted to go this way then let me tell you nothing could be easier.

With the chorizo sausage try and get Spanish dry-cured as this is ready to eat. It’s important when you’re buying chorizo to check this as fresh chorizo sausage needs to be cooked first.

I do prefer to buy the dry-cured and even though it’s ready to eat I like to give it a blitz in a hot pan. I simply slice up the sausage on the diagonal and give it a minute or so on each side in a hot pan with just a dash of olive oil.


In the case of the prawns I think it’s quite important to use a largish prawn here. You want them juicy and plump. I was lucky enough to pick up some beautiful black tiger prawns from my gourmet supermarket. They had already been shelled and deveined – I’m all for saving myself some grunt work. Season them and then pan-fry in a tablespoon of olive oil on each side until they’re a blushing pink and the meat is lovely and opaque. You could of course add some garlic but I find that the flavours of the Bravas sauce and the chorizo are so bold the prawns can be served simply in all their blushing pink glory.


To complete this delicious selection of tapas, simply toss some fresh wild rocket in a little extra-virgin olive oil with a spritz of lemon juice and slice up some fresh crusty bread. If you wanted to, you could pop the bread under the grill to give it some extra crunch.

Now I suggest that you transfer these tempting plates of food to your outdoor table, pour yourself and your lucky loved ones a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy the wonderful colours and flavours of Spain.



  1. annika says:

    Completely envious of your warm weather and eating outdoors! It’s starting to get cold here! This recipe sounds oh so good. I make roasted potatoes quite a bit but usually serve with garlic sauce… will give this one a try! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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