For me, cooking is all about using seasonal, fresh ingredients from the farmer markets. Every dish I decide to prepare or adapt is based on my desire to make it reflect the weather outside, the available ingredients at that specific time and the signals that my body is sending me. It’s hard to truly listen to your body if you’re neck-deep in junk food, but once you’re on a health-conscious diet things change drastically: you wake up in the morning with the urge for some green juice, o huge bowl of salad or a poached egg and you just can’t figure out why. Well, you don’t even need to, because your body knows best. I tend to follow its demands, even if sometimes this means eating a little bit more sugar :)
Spring is all about nature coming to life, it’s about green and fresh, about young and tender. Unfortunately new potatoes aren’t out yet but, while waiting, I decided to put some good old fashioned russet potatoes to good use. My hubby thinks that “food is all about the sauce” (he’s not a foodie, so let’s excuse his ideas :), so I thought I should make him happy by adding some creamy spinach and ramps sauce to his Hasselback potatoes. Why the combination? Because I wouldn’t dream of any spinach combination that excludes garlic and ramps ARE wild garlic. I figured it would give it consistency and a milder flavour since all the greens used were raw. I was not wrong.
Hasselback potatoes with creamy spinach and ramps sauce (vegan option)
6 large russet potatoes in their skins, thoroughly washed
2-3 tbs olive oil
1 knob of butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Himalaya salt, ground black pepper
For the sauce
3 handfuls raw spinach leaves
1 handful ramps (wild garlic) leaves
4 tbs sour cream or soft silken tofu (for the vegan option)
Himalaya salt, ground black pepper
Preheat the oven (with grill) to 200°C fan-forced/gas mark 6/400ºF.
In order to cut the potatoes equally, put each potato, in turn, in the bowl of a large wooden spoon and cut across thinly. Alternatively, you can place the potato lengthwise between two parallel wooden spoon handles and cut: the knife will hit the wooden handles and won't cut the potato all the way through.
In a saucepan heat the olive oil and butter; add the crushed garlic cloves and braise for a couple of minutes, just so that all the flavour incorporates in the fat.
Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and spoon the fat over them, then sprinkle with Himalaya salt and ground black pepper; put in the oven and cook for about 1 hour.
I used the grill function for the first 30 minutes and the fan-forced function during the entire baking time: this lead to a reduction of the baking time to approx. 45-50 minutes.
Test to see whether the flesh is soft, then remove from the oven.
While the potatoes are baking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan (no oil) add the spinach and braise just until the leaves soften. Remove from stovetop, add the leaves to a processor together with the ramps, sour cream or tofu, salt and pepper and mix well until you have a creamy sauce. Pour over potatoes and serve warm.
I loved the result: it was such an ode to spring! The potatoes were, as expected, crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and the sauce simply brought everything together, with its creaminess and fresh perfume. I had a wonderful sourdough baguette to dip in the sauce (ok, so I cheated a little bit) and I felt like life couldn’t get any better.