As the sun prepared to say its golden goodnight, I thought of Spanish guitars and tapas bars. Our provisions were low and, because we had no mains power, our fridge was empty and warm.
We had eggs and potatoes. And Spam. There are some classic flavour affinities which never grow old and I thought immediately of ham, egg and chips. I had the ingredients – if Spam can be considered a good substitute for ham. Chips would be a slight problem without a chip pan, and an electric fryer would not really help even if I had one. Eggs are wonderful things and don’t really need a fridge to survive.
I vaguely remembered a recipe for sautéed potatoes from the wonderful Raymond Blanc that I tried when I lived in a house. I thought they were cut into small cubes and cooked from raw in olive oil. They took time but, sometimes, time is the most important ingredient.
I thought of the wonderful hams that I have tried from countries like Italy, Spain and Germany as the Spam’s pale weightiness overcame the can’s suction – and flopped inelegantly onto my chopping board.
Spam has an interesting history and although many people believe the name derives from ‘spiced ham’ or ‘shoulder of pork and ham’, the truth is more likely to be that it sounded good at the time it was created in 1937. It’s a processed meat, similar to bacon in some respects and, as part of a balanced diet, can be used in many ingenious and nutritious ways. I cut four thick slices along its length and sautéed them in some olive oil.
Once the Spam was nicely crisped, the peeled potatoes were cut into small, irregular pieces and replaced the Spam on a medium high heat. I think Monsieur Blanc probably blanched his potatoes first for two minutes and forty-five seconds (or something like that). He probably used Desiree or Maris Piper. I’m not sure he would have selected Tesco ‘white potatoes’ and plonked them in raw.
It was time to correct the dish. The heat wasn’t getting to the centre fast enough. I added some sliced onion, ground paprika, dried oregano and salt, stirred it all up a bit, added a splash of water and put a lid on it to help keep some steam in there.
I thought of the patatas bravas that I have enjoyed. Maybe my Tesco whites would come out a bit like that. The olive oil, paprika and oregano were certainly Mediterranean. No tomatoes though. Still, paprika is red and made from peppery, tomatoey stuff…
I had forgotten about the eggs. The potatoes were nicely soft but still quite crispy so I removed them and made a quick omelette in the same pan.
It’s true, some flavour affinities never get old. Potatoes, onions, eggs, ham – or Spam – and some warm spices. Do what you will, they will always forgive you. I name this type of cooking ‘Spamish’.
I look forward to many more of these Spamish delights and many more balmy Spamish nights.