Saturday, May 4, 2019


A stew of potatoes in all their glory.  I used both cloves of "old" garlic (top right) and, for garnish, chopped stems of green garlic (pictured on the left of the bowl).

If I asked you to name the single most important ingredient in Spanish cooking—after olive oil—what would you choose? Rice, as in paella? Tomatoes, peppers or garlic, as in sofrito? Pork/ham/sausage? Fish? 

The answer, by my count, is potatoes. In my first collection of Spanish recipes, COOKING IN SPAIN, there are 12 recipes for potatoes in the Vegetable chapter, plus another 16 to 20 recipes that include potatoes. While the Fish and Shellfish chapter is considerably longer than Vegetables, no single variety of seafood matches potatoes.

In the (almost) 10 years I’ve been blogging about the food of Spain, I have managed to feature potatoes month after month as either main ingredient or garnish. (Links to some of those recipes are below.) Here’s another traditional recipe from that first cookbook, Ajoharina.

Thickened with flour, sauce is the consistency of gravy. 

New potatoes plus asparagus and chopped green garlic give this dish a springtime flavor.

Serve, like soup, as a starter or main lunch dish.

“Ajoharina” means “garlic-flour.” It consists of potatoes stewed in a garlicky sauce that is thickened with flour. The dish traditionally is served, in place of soup, as a primer plato, first course. In poor households, it makes a sturdy, filling meal when nothing else is to follow. Ajoharina is typical of the Andalusian province of Jaén and of parts of La Mancha.  It can have scraps of pork fat added or, for Lent, salt cod. In the fall, wild mushrooms called níscalos (Lactarius deliciosus or saffron milk cap) might be cooked with the potatoes; in spring, spears of wild asparagus.

From my huerta--freshly-dug potatoes.

Onions, too, are ready to harvest. 

I’m using freshly-dug spring potatoes for this dish. Cut into 1-inch pieces, they needed hardly 10 minutes cooking time. Mature potatoes or red-skinned varieties will need longer cooking. Cook the potatoes until tender before stirring in the flour. Once thickened, the sauce should be the consistency of smooth gravy.

This recipe is usually completely vegan, but, if you like, add scraps of ham or bacon to punch up the flavor. The color and flavor come from pimentón (paprika). Normally, this is ordinary unsmoked pimentón, but, if you like, use some smoked pimentón de la Vera as well. Hot pimentón is completely optional; it does perk up potato stew quite a lot.

Garlicky Potato Stew

Serves 6. 

2 pounds potatoes (about 8 medium), peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped green peppers
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 ounce diced serrano ham, pancetta or bacon (optional)
4 (or more) cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika)
Pinch of hot pimentón or cayenne (optional)
½ cup grated tomato pulp
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 asparagus spears, cut in pieces and blanched (optional)
4 tablespoons flour
Chopped green garlic, chives or scallions to garnish

Cut the potatoes in 1-inch chunks. Heat the oil in a cazuela or deep skillet. Add the potatoes and sauté them 1 minute. Add the onions, green and red peppers and ham, if using. Sauté them 4 minutes.

Flatten the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and chop them finely. Add them to the sauté. Stir in the pimentón. Add the tomato pulp, cumin, bay leaf and 3 cups of the water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until potatoes are just tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the blanched asparagus, if using, during the last few minutes.

Shake flour and water.

Place the flour in a jar and add the remaining 1 cup of water. Close the jar tightly and shake it until flour is completely mixed with the water.  Pour the flour mixture into the pan with the potatoes and stir to mix well. Let cook 2-3 minutes longer until the liquid thickens. 

Thicken cooking liquid with flour. Stir to make a smooth gravy.

Serve the potatoes hot, sprinkled with chopped green garlic, chives or scallions to garnish.

The story of potatoes in Spain here.

More recipes with potatoes:


  1. Thank you for this recipe, you've inspired me to make it for dinner tonight and I'm sure it will be delicioso! I have your cookbook "Traditional Spanish Cooking" and I refer to it often. Your recipes for albondigas, marinated pork loin, and even magdalenas, are all regular dishes in our house.

    1. Deborah: Love the feedback! Thanks. I hope you'll discover some more regulars in the blog recipes too.