Mussels with Tomato, Fennel and Feta

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Weekend trips to Holland are not the best for my waistline. Holiday food traditions have sprung up over the years, and are difficult to escape. A kaasbroodje, liquid cheese wrapped in puff pastry, as a late breakfast on the train out of Schiphol. Bitterballen, balls of shredded meat wrapped in bechamel and deep fried dipped in mustard, as a reward after long cycles across the coastal dunes. Freshly made Turkse pizza, or lahmacun, from the elderly Tunisian/Greek man on the main street who takes more pride and satisfaction in his culinary skills than a Michelin chef. Fresh bread from the market with chunks of hard goats cheese, devoured on the banks of the canal because the ducks there have developed not only the size, but the tenacity of feral cats and will snatch food straight from your hands.

One of the only healthy traditions which has sprung up is cooking a large pot of mussels, a staple at Dutch supermarkets, at some point in the weekend. Mussels are full of vitamins and acids which are said to help brain function and reduce inflammatory conditions. While this may not be the most photogenic dish, it is a very tasty one, especially combined with a dollop of aioli and fresh bread to mop up the sauce. The recipe is adapted from the ever reliable Morito cookbook. The recipe allows for some mussels to be thrown out, because it’s never a good idea to take a chance on shellfish.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter/tapa


  • 1 sliced bunch of spring onions, green and white parts
  • 1 thinly sliced bulb of fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 5 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
  • 50ml white wine
  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 150g feta, crumbled
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh tarragon
  • Olive oil


  • Sort through the mussels and find every mussel that is open, even slightly.
  • Tap each opened mussel sharply on the side of a counter top or sink.
  • If it closes, keep it.
  • If it stays open, throw it away.
  • If you’re not sure, throw it away.
  • Rinse all the now fully closed mussels thoroughly with water.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the fennel and fennel seeds slowly for five minutes.
  • Add the chopped spring onion and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or two more.
  • Add in the tomato, sugar/honey bay leaves and white wine and bring to the boil, then reduce to the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring the mixture back to the boil and add the cleaned mussels to the pot.
  • Put on a lid, and cook until the mussels are opened (about 3-4 minutes).
  • If there are any closed mussels when the majority have opened, discard them.
  • Stir in the tarragon and feta, and stir immediately.




Galicia Guide: Part 2



Vigo is the biggest city in Galicia, and not really a tourist destination.  Our main reason for going there was to visit the Cies Islands, a nature reserve off the coast, but it turned out to be a great city in and of itself. It’s perched on the side of a fairly steep hill with views out over the Ria, and is largely modern and 19th century, with sweeping boulevards through the city centre. It reminded me of Marseille without the constant feeling that someone is about to mug you. The old town is quite small, you can cross it in five minutes, and is filled with shaded winding passageways leading out into bustling light filled squares. We stayed in the centre in a hotel that seemed to have acquired all of its furnishings from some kind of adult film company prop sale. Each night, without fail, we ended up starting off in  A Lareira, a lovely little wine and food shop in the Old Town which had a few tables. There you could get a selection of great local wines by the glass and delicacies such as cured beef ‘jamon’ and little pinchos. We also enjoyed Taberna Baiuca another wine bar in an adjoining square, which was playing host to the world’s largest dog while we were outside.





Sanxenxo is trying to market itself as the Marbella of Galicia, and honestly, the comparison is a bit too kind on Sanxenxo. It’s a town of high rise sixties flats crowded around a city beach. Apparently, it’s the favourite holiday spot for Madrilenos. We spent a considerable portion of the trip in the bus station there, wandering up to various staff, pointing at buses and saying ‘Pontevedra’ in an increasingly fearful tone as bus after bus disappeared off with no regard for timetables. Its saving grace was a visit to the lovely vineyards at Adega Eidos, where we were given a tour in impeccable English by Noella (despite the fact that they get about one set of English language visitors per month). Adega Eidos is at the top of a large hill near the bus station, which we climbed twice. Learn from our mistake, the vineyard is not open from 1-3pm. They make three different albarino wines here as well as some liqueurs, which we tasted after a tour of the lab, vat rooms and the vineyard itself. The tour was genuinely interesting if you’re curious about wine, and trying three entirely different tasting wines made from the same grapes in the same fields gave a great insight into viniculture. Noella was knowledgable and chatty, and we ended up staying far longer than expected. I didn’t bring a camera, but you can see it all on their website.





The Cies Islands

The  largest of the Cies Islands is home to the best beach in the world according to the Guardian. It is in fact home to two mountains and multiple beaches, including a nude beach that the guidebook explains is referred to locally as ‘the German beach’. They islands are a nature reserve which only allow 4000 visitors per day, which means that you need to book well in advance in order to be sure of being allowed to visit. We did none of this, and instead turned up at the port hungover and half asleep at 9am in the hopes of getting a cancelled ticket, which we immediately did.  Fighting nausea and exhaustion on the boat over, I wondered if spending 8 hours on an island in the Atlantic was a bad idea. It wasn’t. It is one of the most spectacular places I’ve been. In our eight hours, we managed to climb to all of the various peaks, and swim at most of the beaches (my convent education didn’t leave me feeling suitably prepared for a nude beach). There are two reasonably priced restaurants on the island, as well as public toilets and a supermarket in the small campsite by Lanzada beach which made my hoarding of litres of bottled water and toilet paper in my tote bag pretty redundant. Bring lots of suncream.

Lanzada Beach

Cies 2 Cies Islands



 Halfway through our hellish five hour journey from Cambados to Vigo, a journey of some 50km (timetables are basically a sick joke in Galicia), we spent a large amount of time navigating the suburbs of Pontevedra. They are some of grimmest suburbs I’ve ever seen. So much so, when we arrived in Vigo, I frantically tried to figure out if we could cancel our upcoming two day stay there (we couldn’t). Fortunately, the old town of Pontevedra turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, straight out of Don Quixote. Medieval squares lined with arcades gave way to narrow streets lined with tapas bars. We didn’t actually end up eating or drinking anywhere spectacular, in part due to spending a night watching the World Cup final in a bar that kept loading us up with stodgy free pinchos, but exploring the old town after dark was one of the highlights of the trip.

Pontevedra 1 Pontevedra2





Butter Beans with Black Pudding, Pine Nuts and Sultanas

Butterbean Black Pudding

The last few weeks have gone past in a bit of a blur. I moved back to my home city of Dublin after nearly five years away, started college/work and have been finding my feet. I suppose it is appropriate enough then that this post is a quick and easy recipe using a very traditional Irish ingredient.

Black pudding is not (as I have seen on some websites) a dessert, but a blood sausage traditionally eaten for breakfast. Fry-ups of sausage, eggs, rashers (bacon), black and white pudding are a pretty traditional Irish breakfast, although not one people have every day or even every week. There are some other more controversial components like tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns  fried bread or potato farls (a kind of fried potato bread), and everyone has their strong opinions on these. More recently, these have been adapted into the breakfast roll, a terrifying Irish delicacy involving cramming all of the above into a baguette along with ketchup and brown sauce. Managing to eat one without most of it ending up down your front requires a combination of ingenuity,flexibility and luck that few possess. I’ve never given it a go, but have seen better people than me try and fail.

I’m not a huge fan of fry-ups, but I really missed black pudding while I was away. It is quite spicy, a bit like haggis, and utterly delicious as long as you’re not too squeamish about what it’s made of. This recipe was adapted from one by an Irish chef, Paul Flynn, using things we had around the kitchen. The butter beans were a bit mushed when they came out of the can, so it ended up a bit like a hash, but it tasted great. You could use any kind of beans for this. Morcilla or boudin noir would be good substitutes for black pudding, or any kind of strong sausage. This makes four small tapas type portions.


  • 1x 400g tin of butter beans, drained
  • 100g of black pudding, chopped into smallish cubes
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbs sultanas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • Cider, white wine or sherry vinegar, to taste (lemon juice would work too)
  • Olive oil


  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
  • Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened.
  • Add the garlic for an extra 2 minutes.
  • Toss in the beans, black pudding, and sultanas and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, toss in the pinenuts and herbs.
  • Dress with a bit of vinegar to sharped according to your taste.
  • Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if you like.
  • Season and serve warm.

Mussels with Fennel Alioli

Mejillones con alioli

I have a special place in my heart for mussels. Mussels were my gateway drug to shellfish. It started at a party. There were people to impress, I had a reputation to maintain. I tried a smoked mussel tentatively, nervously, surprised at how good it felt. After that came scallops. Then I moved on to harder stuff. Regular clams were followed Razor clams. Raw scallop by raw sea urchin. At this stage, there isn’t a mollusc I can say no to.

Mussels are pretty universal in any European country with a coastline. You find them north and south, in warm waters and cold. They are also the most inexpensive of shellfish, at least anywhere I’ve lived. Though not, of course, anywhere near as cheap as Jamie Oliver seems to think. Here in Denmark you can usually get two kilos for about 35 kroner, which is pretty affordable by Danish standards. They come fresh from the Limfjord, an hour north of Aarhus. It’s better known internationally for its oysters, but Limfjord mussels are beautifully blue shelled creatures, very plump and sweet. You can see the incredible blue in my wallpaper photo, which was taken on the edge of the Limfjord.

Mussels with alioli is a Spanish inspired tapa. Mussels are served all over Spain in various tapa styles. This makes enough for 4 as a meal with bread or frites, 8 as a tapa, or a nice big sharing plate for a party.


For the mussels

  • 2kg of mussels
  • 150ml wine
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped, white and light green parts only
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

For the alioli

  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • Approximately 100ml to 150ml of neutral oil like sunflower
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
  • Salt, pepper,lemon juice and honey, to taste


  • First make the alioli.
  • Toast the fennels seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant.
  • Put the egg yolk, garlic, mustard and vinegar in a large bowl and whisk together.
  • Using an electric whisk, or hand whisk if you’re incredibly strong or masochistic, slowly whisk in the oil teaspoon by teaspoon.
  • Whisk well for 30 seconds to 1 minute before adding next teaspoon.
  • The alioli will slowly emulsify over the course of about five minutes, but you have to be very careful not to add too much oil at once or it won’t work.
  • Once it is nice and thick add the fennel seeds.
  • Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and (if you like it a bit sweeter) honey to your taste.
  • Clean and check the mussels.
  • Clean by scrubbing under running water.
  • Any open mussels, tap them on the side of the sink.
  • The mussels should close up quickly.
  • If the mussels don’t close up throw them out, they’re dead.
  • Saute the onion and leek in the butter on a low-medium heat in a pan large enough to hold the mussels.
  • After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic.
  • After 5 minutes, add the wine.
  • Turn up the heat, add the mussels and put a lid on the pan.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes until the mussels are all open (there may be a few that don’t, throw them out, they’re dead too), shaking the pan every minutes or so.
  • Remove the mussels, take off one side of the shell of each and arrange on a plate.
  • Add a half teaspoon of aioli to each mussel.
  • Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Scallops with Salmorejo and Chorizo Crumbs

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This is a quick, easy and elegant scallop dish that would make a perfect dinner party starter. The Salmorejo sauce is the most time consuming part (still only about 10-15 minutes) and should be made the day before and chilled in the fridge to allow the flavours to mix. Salmorejo is a traditional Spanish chilled soup, whose only difference from gazpacho seems to be the omission of onions. Unfortunately, due to the calibre of tomato available in London in early Spring, mine initially turned out a rather sludgy colour as the green pepper was clearly in control of the situation. This was remedied by adding tinned tomato puree, and a small amount of tomato ketchup, which I am fairly sure is a criminal offence in Spain, but which aesthetically did the trick. Mine was made with fresh locally sourced scallops from Rye Bay (which were sold to me with an extensive lecture about the evils of foreign scallops which are apparently pumped full of salt and chemicals to plump them up) so I sliced them horizontally to create two thinner discs, but if you are using pearl scallops, this step can be omitted. This serves 2 as a starter.


  • 3 Large scallops, cut into 6 discs
  • 3 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon each tomato puree/ketchup (entirely optional)
  • 50g chorizo
  • Toasted pinenuts (optional)
  • Olive oil


  • To make the salmorejo, finely chop the tomatoes, pepper, and garlic.
  • Mix in a large bowl or pot and blend with a stick blender.
  • Add the breadcrumbs, vinegar, paprika and some water and blend further.
  • Strain through a sieve, and if necessary add the tomato puree/ketchup to enhance the colour (I feel bad even writing that).
  • Add some olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) to taste, store in an airtight container and chill overnight.
  • Finely chop the chorizo (after removing the casing) and fry in hot oil, stirring constantly, until quite crispy around 3-5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool slightly, then chop and basically bash into crumbs using a sharp and heavy knife.
  • Use the chorizo oil to pan fry the scallops with seasoning (this should be around 45 seconds on each side, until the edges have turned golden brown but the middle still has a little bit of bounce if pressed down).
  • Serve in a shell or small bowl filled with salmorejo and topped with the chorizo crumbs and toasted pinenuts.

Baked Scallops with Spiced Tomato and Chorizo (Vieras al horno)

I seem to be going through a scallop moment right now. They are very quick to cook, taste very rich but are actually very healthy (low fat, high protein) and they are pretty much the first fish I have figured out that I really like, as opposed to tolerate when deep fried into oblivion. I’m just back from a trip to Venice, where I managed to get some scallop shells from a restaurant (weirdly, they are not that easy to get with scallops unless you have a specialised fishmonger nearby).Due to Ryanair weight limits on luggage, my boyfriend very kindly agreed to bring them over state borders in his shorts pockets, making a rather hilarious clacking noise which led to many disconcerted stares from our fellow passengers (nothing is more uncomfortable in air travel than an unexplained and unidentifiable noise).

This is a very quick and beautiful looking dish. It would make a great dinner party starter as it looks complicated and time consuming, but really is only about 15 minutes of work, and you can pre-prep them and just throw in the oven at the last minute. I am also having a bit of a moment with Rick Stein’s new Spanish cookbook, where I got these from, it has yet to throw me a bad recipe, and they are all relatively easy. I could not source guandillo chilli’s, so I used my old favourite smoked paprika instead. Serves 4 as a starter


  • 8 large scallops
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 70g chorizo, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine), chopped
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • fry the shallots and chorizo on a medium heat in a splash of oil for 8 or so minutes, adding the garlic for the last two.
  • Add the tomatoes, pepper, and paprika, season, and simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Clean the scallops.
  • Spoon the sauce equally between the 8 shells (use ramekins if you can’t find shells).
  • Slice the scallops in half horizontally and place on top of the sauce.
  • lightly season.
  • Top with breadcrumbs tossed in olive oil.
  • Bake for 8-9 minutes (the crumbs should be golden, the scallops a tiny bit coloured at the edges and springy)

Courgette (Zucchini) and Feta Cakes

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These are my favourite party/finger food dish (they are very good to keep in the freezer for when you get home at 5am from a night out but are still sober enough not to be lured into kebab territory).  I used to make large batches of these, and freeze them and eat them for weeks, because the whole frying process is a bit time consuming and involved, so if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it properly. Since then, I have discovered that they actually turn out pretty nicely from baking, which is a lot less labour intensive. I have been known to have these as an entire meal in themselves, but I’m not sure I’d advise that. Really, any herbs will do with these, so they can also be a good way to use up half bunches of herbs that are coming to the end of their fridge life, or partial packets of feta (you can never use a whole pack of feta in one go, no matter what you do with it).

Makes approximately 20 cakes


  • 500 g courgettes/zucchini, roughly grated
  • 150 g feta, crumbled
  • 100g approximately plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic  cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch dill,  finely chopped
  • Olive oil

Ingredients- Tzatziki

  • 1 x 200g tub greek yoghurt
  • 1 small cucumber, grated
  • 1 bunch mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1  garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1  Juice of ½ Lemon


  • Mix the courgettes, feta, onion, garlic and herbs in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Add the egg, and ¾ of the flour, and mix thoroughly.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium frying pan on a high heat.
  • Add a small teaspoon of the courgette mix to the pan once heated and flatten into a small cake.
  • This is to test the batter, depending on the courgettes etc, it may need more flour. It should hold its shape well and crisp nicely. If it falls apart, add more  flour.
  • Fry in batches.
  •  Each cake should be about a tablespoon of mix, flattened, fried on each side til golden (approximately 2-3 minutes on each
  • Alternatively, bake on a baking tray lined with tin foil at 200C for approximately 10 minutes each side, or until golden.
  • Line a plate with kitchen paper and leave the cooked cakes on to cool.
  • For the Tzatziki, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mix.
  • Serve the cakes with the tzatziki .

Warm Beetroot Salad with Cumin

This recipe has kind of evolved from one for a dish from Le Reminet restaurant in Paris, one of my favourites. It is one of the first dishes I mastered, owing to a teenage boyfriend who eschewed all vegetables with the exception of beetroot .All dishes put in front of him were dissected with all the precision of the state pathologist.Thus, I cook this from memory and am not entirely sure how far I have deviated from the original.It is an unusual dish, in that in can fit in as part of a Spanish tapas menu (I had something very similar recently in Brindisa), as part of a mezze (Moro also have a similar recipe) or as a Scandinavian side dish to accompany gravad lax (I am told, I have never actually managed to bring myself to eat gravad lax). It can be made with yoghurt, creme fraiche or sour cream, and a variety of herbs , such as flat parsley for Middle Eastern, dill or chives for Scandinavian, tarragon for Spanish, really whatever is to hand. I have also used it as the base for a stir fry with cashews and kale. It is also lovely with some goats cheese and salad leaves ,omitting the yoghurt/creme fraiche/sour cream. It is a genuinely versatile, easy dish, with a fairly spectacular colour. If you are a messy eater, you may want to stick to dark coloured clothes for this one.

Serves four as a side.


  • 200g cooked beetroot, in 1cm cubes
  • 2 teaspoons roasted ground cumin (or just powdered cumin)
  • 1 hefty tablespoon of selected dairy product
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch herbs of your choice


  • Saute the beetroot over a medium heat in a saucepan in some oil.
  • Once the beetroot turns bright pink (3-5 minutes), add the vinegars, and cook until reduced completely
  • Add the cumin and garlic, toss, and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the cream/creme.
  • Season and serve warm.

Turkish Poached Sweet and Sour Leeks

I am not going to lie, I did expect something a little bit punchier from this recipe than these turned out to be. They are yet another recipe from my beloved Moro (from the Casa Moro cookbook). I was thinking these would have more of a biting agrodulce type taste or even a bit of a pickled dressing but no. Being brutally honest, these are very mildly flavoured poached leeks, and I would not subscribe to the cookbook’s suggestion of them as a light meal in themselves. What they were wonderful for, however, was as part of a tapa’s menu, to offset the inevitable smokey, porky flavours you will get with a decent selection of traditional tapas.They are mild, sweet and melt in the mouth. If you wanted to liven them up a bit as a side, some aioli or romesco drizzled on top would go down a treat. Serves 6-8 as a tapa.

  • 600g leeks, preferably the smaller, thinner ones
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 teaspoons caster sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 300ml water
  • 1 bunch chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh dill
  • olive oil
  • greaseproof paper


  • Chop the garlic and saute in te oil i n a large saucepan.
  • Add the leeks, sugar, lemon juice, water and salt.
  • Cover with greaseproof paper, then a lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until soft, with the lid slightly ajar so a small crack of parchment paper is visible.
  • Stir in the herbs and season.

Patatas Bravas

This is adapted from yet another Moro recipe. Patatas bravas are probably my favourite of all Spanish dishes (insert obvious Irish potato joke here). On a visit to Barcelona a few years ago, with some vegetarians, the patatas bravas rule to eating out was developed, which worked along the lines that we could only go to restaurants which served them. This was in part due to one of the vegetarians then reluctance to actually consume things not made of tofu, and the fact that Spanish people do not understand or accept vegetarianism. When asking if a dish contains meat, they tend to consider whether or not there is a large slab of meat involved. Thus, a steak will be met with a yes, while, lentejas, a lentil stew flavoured with pieces of chorizo will be deemed vegetarian, because it only has small pieces of meat.

Traditionally, patatas bravas are fried, but in this recipe I roast them. This is because a) its easier to make large quantities of roast potatoes, b) it’s a little healthier and c) you get the exact same crispy coating if you parboil them before roasting as you do when frying. For the aioli, make a homemade mayonnaise with 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic stirred in, or add to some good quality bough mayonnaise.This is a great tapas dish, but I could literally eat these at a meal, and know plenty of others who have. If you have tomato sauce left over, it can make a nice pizza topping, or pasta sauce with some parmesan.

Serves 4 as a racion or 6 as a tapa


  • 1kg of roasting potatoes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 Spanish onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 400g tub of passata
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 fresh chilli or a teaspoon of cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quantity aioli


  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Peel the potatoes and parboil in salted water for five minutes.
  • Remove, allow to cool and chop into medium sized chunks.
  • Place the potatoes in a roasting dish, and toss in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika.
  • Season, and roast for approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour, until they are golden and crispy.
  • Finely chop the peppers and onions and sauté in a little olive oil over a medium heat for approximately 5-8 minutes, until soft and the onions are golden.
  • Add the wine and sugar, and cook down until the wine has reduced to a syrup and the onions and peppers are gently caramelised.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic cloves and chilli and sauté in a separate pot.
  • Add the passata, paprika and a pinch of sugar and bubble gently for 10 minutes until thickened.
  • Add the onion and pepper mixture and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until you have a nice thick coating consistency.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, reheat the sauce if necessary, and pour over them.
  • Top with aioli and serve.