In a recent post for my classic Greek spanakopita, I referred to my friend Elena whom I met on the tiny island of Paxos one hot and sultry evening. She used to run a teeny tiny little taverna with just four tables covered in waxed gingham cloths around which sat 16 beautiful old white chairs with faded rafia seats. She made the best roast potatoes which were utterly irresistible even after a long hot day exploring – the secret is to serve them hot with lots of cool sides such as a generous bowl of Greek salad, tzatziki and, of course, a cold beer or a jug of ice cold retsina. This Easter, having been given a generous bunch of wild garlic leaves, I made a vegan pesto to add an extra special spring zing to a classic recipe. I think she would have liked it though I suspect that it would have taken a while for her to come round to the idea of such a fancy adornment to a perfectly good potato.
1kg new potatoes (I used organic Alouette), washed but unpeeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped, to garnish
A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped, to garnish
For the pesto:
100g fresh wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tbsp walnuts (you can also use pine kernels)
Half a lemon, juiced
2–3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns, to your taste
How I make it
First make the pesto by combining all the ingredients in a blender and whizzing them together. Set aside (this will make more than you need but you can store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days. You can also freeze it).
If necessary, cut the potatoes in half. Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Partially cover and leave them to cook until they’re just tender, around 15 minutes. Drain and leave to steam dry.
Heat an oven to 180C.
Then, using the back of a large knife, gently crush each potato to expose the centre and increase the surface area – this makes for lots of edges to crisp up. Drizzle with olive oil and generously season with sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crisp.
Carefully turn them out onto a pretty platter and add more sea salt flakes to your taste. Spoon over the pesto and garnish with parsley and walnuts. Serve immediately.
To make Elena’s classic Greek roast potatoes, simply add some rosemary springs to the roasting tin and sprinkle the potatoes with lots of wild oregano before roasting. When you’re ready to serve, add more sea salt flakes to your taste and, just before serving, drizzle them with fresh lemon juice before chucking over stacks of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley.