Today marked the end of week one of this yoga retreat, and although we have begun by easing ourselves into things very gently, by the end of this morning’s practice we were all feeling ready to embrace the forthcoming rest day tomorrow. Especially after Graeme’s special workout that he put us through yesterday afternoon - a routine which he has devised to help students develop the strength and fitness which will, in the long run, make our asana practice more effortless - at least that’s the theory anyway.
Of course, such hard work must always be balanced by a certain amount of fun and relaxation, so last night we had our weekly pot luck dinner. A wonderful variety of dishes appeared, including: a beautiful mixed salad, zucchini fritters, a torn bread salad (with caramelised onions, garlic and prosciutto), lentils, beetroot in a yoghurt sauce with toasted walnuts, hummus, rice with mushrooms and asparagus, and chicken cooked in a coconut milk and banana curry. Needless to say, we had beautiful local Paros wines to wash it all down with, and for dessert we had big bowls of fresh apricots and cherries, as well as chocolate-dipped strawberries and Greek pastries. For my own contribution to this feast I made a big bowl of these crispy paprika salted potatoes - so simple, it is a stretch to really call this a recipe; however, they were such a huge success that I thought it would be rude not to share them with you as well.
I discovered in the local supermarket the other day this wonderful tin of paprika salt. Now I would not ordinarily buy something like this - after all it doesn’t take much to mix a bit of salt and paprika together to make your own - but as soon as I lifted the lid of the tin to inspect, I was so captivated by the smell and the colour that I just couldn’t resist. Besides, this is my idea of the perfect “souvenir” to take home as a reminder, for months to come, of this holiday.
Paros Potatoes Recipe
(Quantities here are not critical, this recipe is really just a guideline)
potatoes (Agria, if you can get them, are best)
olive oil (Greek, if you can get it)
paprika salt (or coarse sea salt and smoky paprika)
freshly ground black pepper
Peel potatoes, and cut into largish dice - about 2.5cm (1 inch). Put potatoes into a pot and cover with cold salted water. Set the pan over high heat and bring to the boil. Boil for about 5 minutes - by this stage the potatoes should be just barely fork tender - not cooked through, but just starting to yield when poked with a fork.
Remove pan from the heat, drain potatoes into a colander or sieve, and shake really well to “rough” the potatoes up. Set aside for half an hour or so to allow the potatoes to dry completely.
Pour olive oil into a large skillet - enough to completely cover the base of the pan to a depth of about .5cm (1/4 inch) - and set the skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot (test by carefully dipping a piece of potato into the oil - if it immediately starts to sizzle it is ready) add potatoes to the pan in a single layer. You may have to cook them in several batches if you are doing a lot of potatoes. As soon as you have added the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle over a little of the paprika salt (coarse sea salt and smoky paprika) and dried oregano. Turn the potatoes over in the hot oil from time to time (depending on your element you may need to turn the heat down a little) and cook until they are golden brown all over, cooked through, and crispy on the outside.
Remove to a paper towel to drain, sprinkle again liberally with the paprika salt, dried oregano and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm while you cook the remaining batches.
Once all your potatoes are cooked, put them in a large serving bowl, toss them well to make sure all the potatoes are well coated with the spices.
Serve immediately and try not to be overwhelmed by the sighs of satisfaction from your guests. One word of advice - bring these to the table last, for I can tell you this - the minute you put these on the table someone will not be able to resist sneaking one, and before you know it the bowl will be empty before you even finish bringing the rest of the dishes to the table. As you will have already devoured several of these in the privacy of your kitchen as you’ve cooked, you should not be surprised by this!!