We’re playing Christmas carols already. Oooooh I can’t help it. Ben started the tunes this week, blame him. We love the album A Very She and Him Christmas and are planning on listening to it an unreasonable amount this season, as we do every year. Next weekend we plan on picking up a Christmas tree, though the two of us go back and forth as to where we will put the tree. Ben feels the middle of the living room is a good spot so we can, and I quote, “marvel at it”. I am perhaps a bit more practical and am championing the right corner. Watch this space.
Yep, it’s December alright. But before we watch White Christmas and Love Actually while drinking festive cocktails, we have Ben’s thirtieth birthday party this weekend. True to form, I have planned a weekend extravaganza. We’re pretty psyched. Ben has been working hard so I haven’t bothered him with many details, which I think will make it all the more fun.
I’ve been riding a bit of a hormonal train of late, as I mentioned not so allusively in a previous post on lady hormones and getting my body ready for baby making. And I’m getting there. My brain is still not letting my body do what it should but it’s cool. I mean, it’d be great if it was super easy and I didn’t have to actively do so much, but this is how it is… so there you go. September was a mess, ooof. October? Meh, it wasn’t great either. But then November came and it turned out to be pretty alright. And now December…oh, December! It’s charming the pants off me. No but seriously, there is something about December this year. The sun has arrived, the rain too, and I’m bare foot on the hot, wet cement outside out door and it feels good, really good. For now. It’s a wave, they say. I just gotta ride it and eat potato salad.
Here is the recipe for our potato salad. Ben and I make this dish a rate which I would classify as “frequent”. It sits alongside steak and fish famously and is indeed famous in our household. When I was younger I was nuts about potato. My mother bought me a book entitled “Fifty Ways With Potatoes” and I was certain I would one day open a restaurant devoted entirely to the spud. Yes, I might flirt with sweet potato because it’s so darn sweet and sassy, but my affection for white potato lives on, a strong and sturdy undertone, a consistent and sure thing. The opposite of my hormones, you could say.
Roasted or steamed and served with vinegar is my preferred method for cooking potatoes. This Sicilian Potato salad employs the latter technique, and since learning the recipe from The Duchess, Nicoletta two and a half years ago it is now the only way we make potato salad. Gone are the days when I’d chop then boil potatoes, before coating them in a jar of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of chives (that was my signature dish as a teenager. That and chocolate cake.). Now it’s red wine vinegar and capers, which, alongside a decent amount of extra virgin olive oil and loads of freshly cracked black pepper, work to create an elegant and balanced dish that is at once addictive and wholesome.
This salad, along with swordfish involtini, has become our Christmas Eve tradition. Last month I prepared this dish when speaking as part of the Stonnington Literary Festival, alongside Yasmeen and Ruth, and I realised I had yet to share the recipe on the blog. So here it is. Cheers to December, potato salads and riding waves.
Sicilian Potato Salad
Serves 4-6, depending on appetites. Recipe adapted over time after our visit to The Duchess and her cooking class in Palermo, Sicily.
1kg Dutch Cream Potaotes (Sebago work well also)
1 medium Red Onion
5-6 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar*
2-3 heaped tablespoons Capers (in brine or salt, rinse well if in salt)
4-5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
a pinch or two of Dried Oregano**
Lots of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
* red wine vinegar is a worthy kitchen ingredient, adding a certain depth, warmth and zing to many European dishes. You’ll find it in the vinegar aisle. There are cheap varieties which work well, but a lovely aged one will be super special and still ends up being relatively cheap. Red wine vinegar + extra virgin olive oil + sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper = simple salad dressing heaven. Sherry vinegar is another good idea.
** you can find really lovely, quality dried oregano in Italian delis, and I find them to be worth the extra few dollars. The flavour is just next level wonderful.
1. Peel the onion then cut it in half. Slice the halves very thinly slice then place in a serving bowl that is large enough to hold the potatoes. Cover the onion with most of the vinegar and leave to sit, allowing the vinegar to work its magic on the onion, becoming a quick pickle of sorts.
2. Peel and wash the potatoes then cut them into halves or quarters, depending on their size. You want the chunks to be ~4cm in size. Place the potato chunks in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then let them boil for ~5-10 minutes until fork tender. You don’t want mush and you don’t want them too al dente. Drain the potatoes then add them to the onion mixture. Top with the capers, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil and add the oregano and pepper. Taste and add more vinegar/oil/capers as desired.
3. Serve the salad warm or at room temperature. I also don’t mind it cold from the fridge alongside canned tuna for a quick lunch.