Pressing concerns.

It was meant to be a doorstop or a bookend, but this old iron, bought for three euros at Porta Portese market, has unexpectedly grafted itself on to our kitchen lives, become part of our unsophisticated but trusted batteria di cucina and proved itself to be extremely useful. It’s perfect for squashing and searing steak, chicken or slices of vegetable onto the griddle, it’s not half bad at pounding a slice of veal to a scaloppine and it’s better, and more entertaining, than a rolling-pin when it comes to smashing, crushing and reducing digestive biscuits to crumbs. When the nutcracker alluded us, it made short shift of shelling the walnuts, hazelnuts, and on another, rather messy occasion, this iron conquered a coconut. I have only dropped it on my foot once.

If you can stand the excitement of my iron tales, there’s more. You know how the greaseproof paper scuttles back into a roll as you try to draw a circle on it with a blunt pencil in an attempt to line the cake tin ? Well it doesn’t if this sturdy chap is holding down the corner, he does the same with cookbooks that might otherwise fan closed just at the crucial moment – I know, it’s rock and roll in our house. Last but not least, our iron, our ferro stiro is ready, waiting, like a cymbal player in an orchestra, for the moment when the recipe says….. ‘place a heavy weight on top.’

I know, I know, it’s not the most commonplace recipe instruction, but every now and then, heavy weights – like cymbals – are called up for their moment of glory, like now, for pressed potato.

‘Pressed potato is a very tasty and brilliantly simple idea. It is, as the name suggests, potato that’s pressed with said heavy weight. More specifically you boil good waxy potatoes until they’re tender, then you slice them into thick rounds and layer them in a clingfilm lined mould or bread tin, not forgetting to sprinkle each layer cautiously with good, plump capers and season prudently with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Average pictures of this on Flickr but I’m sure your imagination is better.

Once you’ve filled the mould, tin or in this case a rectangular Pyrex container to the top, you bring the cling film over the potatoes neatly, as if you were swaddling a baby – not that I’ve ever swaddled a baby but I’ve observed –  then you place your heavy weight on top and refrigerate overnight. The next day you invert the pressed potato onto a large plate and peel away the clingfilm so you can admire your curiously beautiful, patchwork potato loaf, flecked with green on the sides.

You can now slice your pressed potato with a sharp knife.

I’ve made two of these this week and we can now firmly agree with Fergus Henderson (this is his idea) that a slice of waxy pressed potato studded with salty, gutsy capers is a wonderful base for oily, salty things. Each slice dressed with anchovy fillets and more extra virgin oil is delicious, as is a slice beside two rashers of grilled bacon. On Tuesday Vincenzo had two slices topped with two frilly edged olive oil fried eggs. But our favorite was a slice of pressed potato with a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a very big dollop of one of the very nicest lotions, green sauce (salsa verde) made from masses of parsley, mint, capers, garlic, anchovies and olive oil. By the way, I am never using the mixer again for green sauce because it’s true, you end up with a pulp rather than the marvelous textural delight you get if you chop roughly by hand.

Green sauce is a wonderful thing, as is pressed potato and hard-boiled eggs for that matter.

This is a plateful that requires good bread, sourdough is particularly fine with this lot, and a serious amount of messing up – green sauce piled on potato and mashed into eggs, everything nudged and piled on bread, more oil, more bread to mop up more green sauce, another slice of pressed potato……you get the idea I hope . Bold and simple food.

You can of course use any heavy weight – before the iron I had a brick in the kitchen.

Pressed potato

Adapted from Fergus Henderson’s book Nose to tail eating

Good waxy potatoes are important

  • 2kg waxy (cyprus or the likes) potatoes, peeled
  • a healthy handful of capers (extra fine if possible, if not roughly chopped)
  • salt and black pepper

Boil the potatoes in salted water, check for when they are done with a sharp knife in order to catch them before they fall apart, Drain.

Line a bread tin or mould with cling film. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, slice them into 1cm thick circles. Lay one layer of sliced potatoes at the bottom of the tin – don’t be afraid to patchwork this – sprinkle cautiously with some of the capers, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover with another layer of potatoes, more capers and salt and pepper. Repeat until the tin is full. cover with cling film and place a heavy weight on top.

Place in the refrigerator over night. The next day tip the pressed potato out of the mould and slice with a thin sharp knife.

Green sauce

Adapted from Fergus Henderson’s book Nose to tail eating

  • Large bunch of flat leaved parsley
  • a small bunch of mint
  • a handful of dill
  • a small tin of anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 12 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
  • a handful of capers, rinsed if under salt and roughly chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper

Chop your herbs finely but not too finely and mix with the anchovies and capers in a large bowl. Add the olive oil a bit at a time, you want to keep the consistency loose but still spoonable, not runny or too oily. Taste and season with black pepper, the anchovies and capers mean you probably won’t need extra salt. Serve in generous dollops.

I’m sure you can make a neater pressed potato than me, Vincenzo called my attempts pressed stressed potato, I was quite stressed at that particular moment so I wasn’t amused. I have another pressed potato in the fridge under the iron right now, we are going to have it tomorrow night with smoked eel and horseradish sauce which I’m hoping will be very tasty.

Other pressing concerns, yep, I have a few, mostly tedious and the reason I’m not here as much as I’d like to be. Thats life I suppose and it’s good to be here now. Have a really good (rest of the) weekend.



Filed under food, potatoes, recipes, sauces, vegetables

43 responses to “Pressing concerns.

  1. I’m imagining this with some smoked trout but the eggs and salsa verde sounds (and looks) amazing. Just have to think of an alternative to a brick or an iron now – maybe the side of a small iron saucepan? Oh, and I’m about to dig out Nose to Tail Eating again now, I haven’t looked at it for ages. Gx

    • rachel

      With smoked trout – perfect, how about smoked trout and green sauce !! I like Nose to tail eating so very much and this is such a good green sauce recipe. Go on… steal a brick from a building site.

  2. Dea

    Oh my golly, ms wolly
    this is just about perfect for lunch tomorrow. All I’m missing is the greens for the salsa verde and perhaps the anchovies. I may have to go to a supermarket, they close everything rigorousely on Sundays here in good ol’Marsala, but there are supermarkets alternating on Sundays. I have tried and tried to grow fresh herbs on my balcony or in my kitchen, on a ledge. Everything dies, I think it has to do with the winds, Marsala is on the western most point of Sicily and its very windy, everything I plant doesn’t make it. So I am off to a market in search of herbs and I will make this, thank you, I didn’t know what to do for lunch tomorrow. So glad you put up a post, was keen for a recipe and yours hit the ball out of the park! Thanks my friend, a presto 🙂 Dea xoxo

    • rachel

      I’ve heard about the winds and then scirocco in Marsala – I ‘ve also heard lots of wonderful things about the food
      and landscape, as you know I am longing to visit…. I imagine you can find pretty delcious fat capers at your market – perfect for this.

      • Dea

        Hey dear,
        so if you do… please contact me ok? I will email you my contact info and we’d love to have a meal with you and show you around 🙂
        Oh and yes the capers are amazing indeed, they sell them in salt in big buckets at the market, buona domenica 🙂

  3. oh yum oh yum oh yum. just off work and a bit brain dead, but this really does look perfectly delicious. off to go make a green sauce to slather on some(every)thing. and yes, I feel the same way about life getting in the way a bit with posting. but that’s what blog readers are for. we’ll wait for you. x.

  4. I love this. It’s so magical when you have these objects sitting around that decide to help you cook lunch sometimes… your iron must be so proud 🙂

  5. Dea

    hmm here I am leaving a comment again, rather stalkish don’t you think? Ha ha just kidding 🙂
    Anyway I forgot to report that your potatoes, boiled eggs and salsa verde menu was a smashing hit!
    My husband Enrico said between one mouthful and another …hmmm this isn’t exactly Italian, its inspired by Italian…kind of inspired by the mediterrenean cuisine rather, and I thought exactly!
    While I adore where I live and the freshness of the ingredients and how authentic and simple everything can be here, I do sometimes get weary of their stubburn insistance on rarely wanting to try something new. Its always the same things, that is why I find it refreshing to make things from my cookbooks and from food blogs. Its a change of pace, invariably what ever I make is enjoyed. So thank you Rachel, for helping us break things up. Di nuovo ciao 🙂 Dea x

  6. Rachel, we just got back from Sunday supper. Today was above and beyond with three proteins: rabbit (pan fried), meatballs (in the sauce) and fried egg (over asparagus). And you know, even after all of that, I would love to sit down to some pressed potatoes with green sauce. I can taste the saltiness of the capers now…

    • rachel

      Triple protein (especially the rabbit) sounds bloody wonderful, oh and the asparagus. Yes the capers were big fat salty one from Sicily
      bloody wonderful too.

  7. I just came across your blog and am really happy and excited to get a glimpse of the food you’re eating in Rome!



  8. oh, as well, that is an amazing shot of the iron on its own.

  9. I will be making this. Tonight.

  10. Looks like something I could eat everyday. For several meals a day. Breakfast and lunch, minimum. Love the idea of pressed potatoes. With the hard boiled eggs it has a sort of deconstructed Spanish tortilla thing going on that could well seduce me.

  11. a-ha! so that’s what i should have been using my iron doorstop in Rome for…hmmmm….
    lovely arrangement on the plate, all colours contrasting beautifully, and am sure the flavours were, too. x shayma
    ps hope the tasks you are busy w/ are not *too* tedious?

    • rachel

      Yes, even though they do make brilliant doorstops (we have two more). Actually only quite tedious really. I like to complain !

  12. I just love finding new ways to add oily, salty goodness to my life.

  13. What a brilliant idea. I have an old iron just like this given to me by my grandmother. It sits in the deep recesses of a cabinet. I am bringing it out of hiding tonight and putting it on the counter. Thanks for the great idea.

  14. fabulous. gotta love fergus.

    that iron is gonna make it to the grill as you do a pollo alla diavolo – if not, it should.

  15. I love this workhorse of an iron—he’s quite clever and versatile! I remember my mom’s makeshift press–a filled tea kettle–that she used primarily to make us kids grilled cheese. Poor mom wasn’t much of a cook, but we loved the “tea kettle sandwiches”

    Delightful post, Rach!

    • rachel

      The filled tea kettle sounds ingenious – these make shift objects are so much nicer (and just as good)
      as all the expensive, gadgets we are encouraged to buy nowadays. Tea kettle sandwiches – I’d love them too.

  16. I love the potato terrine. It would go with so many things I love. And the iron is so much sexier than the tomato can I use to weigh terrines.

  17. makingromaroma

    Rachel, dear girl, is there no end to your creativity?! Thanks for the inspiration and delightful read, as always. This recipe might just fill the void of my Spanish tortilla, since I no longer eat eggs.

  18. I think what you’ve been saying all along in the most beautiful of ways is that I am an absolute fool not to have Nose to Tail Eating in my bookshelf.

    Your old iron is so much more graceful than my street brick.

  19. I must must must make this soon. As in, NOW. I love salsa verde and don’t make it enough. And thank you for making me feel better about not having a food processor anymore (I sold it before leaving NYC). Salsa verde is better by hand! Thank goodness. Funny, I leafed through Henderson’s book ages ago and found myself sort of intimidated by all the noses and tails, etc. But you’re making me want to revisit it.

    • rachel

      I don’t make it enough either, at least I didn’t, this batch has got me on a green salsa verde roll.
      As for Nose to tail, yes do, if only for his green sauce, green bean chutney and wonderful fishy salad suggestions…oh and all his salt cod recipes….

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  21. Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

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