At the height of my scientific career (AS level Biology), we had a joke that if you didn’t know the answer to the question, if you wrote “surface area”, you had a pretty good chance of being right. Seemingly, a lot of cellular function relies on having a large surface area for reactions to take place. Well, that’s the secret with this recipe. The posh potatoes are a variation on the increasingly popular “hasselback” potato. By cutting into the potato to create an accordion effect, you massively increase the surface area available to olive oil and heat – therefore maximise the things that make potato yummy (fat and crispiness).
Instead of using normal white potatoes, this meal is fancified (I’m too tired to be told that’s not a real word) by using one sweet potato and two to three new potatoes per person.
The spinach in this dish represented a huge personal victory for me. For reasons beyond the reach of scientific explanation, I’ve always ballsed up spinach, either making it too bitter or too rubbery. I therefore avoided cooking it and saw it largely as a salad ingredient. This was my first success at wilting and therefore a significant step forward on the road to becoming Grandmaster of Middle Class.
TIME 1 hour
2 sweet potatoes
4-6 new or jersey potatoes
Half a block of halloumi (preferably the one with chilli in it, next to the normal halloumi in supermarkets)
A bag of spinach
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Optional: garlic infused olive oil
With a sharp knife, prepare each of the sweet potatoes and new potatoes. You want to make a series of cuts as close together as possible to create the accordion effect (see picture). Cut three quarters of the way down the potato and pull the “leaves” apart a little. Make sure you don’t cut all the way through or you’ll just end up with lots of potato discs.
Place on a baking tray and coat generously with the olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt. Put in the oven at 220 degrees for forty minutes. Depending on your oven, they may need a touch longer. You want them browned and crispy, so wait until they are nearly ready before starting the halloumi and spinach which are very quick. If necessary, you can cook the potatoes fully and leave them on the bottom shelf of the turned off oven while you do the rest.
Cut the halloumi into 4-6 slices and fry in a dry pan for 3 minutes on either side until golden brown. Don’t overdo them or they will be dry and nasty.
Remove the halloumi and add a dash of oil to the pan. Garlic infused oil is a very nice touch. Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt for three minutes. If it won’t all fit in at once, add it handful by handful. The spinach shrinks a lot as it wilts.
When ready, plate up the potatoes, stack the halloumi and pop the spinach on top of it for a restaurant-style finish.
Enjoy the fruits of your scientific labour.
Replace the halloumi with tofu. Cut half a block of firm tofu into thin strips and pan fry in plenty of oil until golden on both sides. Towards the end of he cooking, add your favourite chilli sauce (sriracha, Nando’s, whatever you like) to the pan so that it coats the tofu. The chilli provides the necessary sharp contrast to the spinach and olive oil. Don’t put it in the pan too early though, because burning chilli sauce will inevitably leave you coughing for the next hour.