I have not always loved potatoes. Mash, pale and soft on the plate, was my nemesis when growing up, but as my tastebuds developed, so did my appreciation. I am now sunk by the fluffy interior of a blistered jacket spud or a thrice-cooked chip, and don’t get me started on the velvety depths of a dauphinoise. Then there are the waxy varieties: jersey royals, cornish new, ratte and pink fir, to name just a few. That beautifully firm texture and nutty, sweet taste is a treat.
The salt slowly encrusts the potatoes, which helps season the mellow tomato sauce. Blitz the watercress with vegan mayo, if you like.
Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1.25kg small jersey royals, scrubbed
4 tbsp sea salt
For the aïoli
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
1-2 tsp white-wine vinegar, to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
150ml vegetable oil
50g watercress leaves, finely chopped
Start with the tomato sauce. Warm the oil in a small pan on a medium heat, then gently fry the onion, seasoning it with a few generous pinches of salt, for six to eight minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, cook for a few minutes more, until fragrant, then stir in the paprika and cinnamon, and cook for a minute more, until they have stained the onions. Add the tomatoes, leave to simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick and reduced, then season to taste.
Meanwhile, put the potatoes and sea salt in a large, wide pan (ideally of a size in which the potatoes can sit in a single layer) and add enough cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Pour off the water, leaving the potatoes in the pan, return to a low heat, and continue to cook gently, turning them occasionally, until a layer of salt forms over them.
While the tomatoes are simmering and the potatoes boiling, make the aïoli. Put the garlic in a tall jug with the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and several large pinches of salt. Blitz with a hand blender for 30 seconds, then, with the blender still going, slowly add the olive oil in a thin, steady trickle. After a minute, increase the trickle to a thin stream. Once you have added all the olive oil, pour in the vegetable oil, this time in a thicker stream, until emulsified and combined. Stir in the watercress, blitz again briefly, then taste and add more lemon juice or salt, if needed. Serve the salt-crusted potatoes alongside the warm tomato sauce and the fiendishly delicious aïoli.
The aïoli is wonderfully versatile: use it on a jacket potato, or with croquetas or tempura. It’s also great in an egg sandwich with any leftover watercress.