Romanian Potato food: Good food for bad days

Romanian potato stew

This is an old friend, a childhood love and a steady companion since forever. Very creatively named “potato food”, it celebrates the beauty of the potato and it’s everything you can hope for. All Romanians eat and love the potato food, it really is one of the most prominent dishes in our culture. Yes, it’s humble, it’s sometimes called “food of the poor”, it’s served in workers’ cantines, it’s basic, it’s the antonym of fancy…say what you want, but give it a try and you’ll fall in love! I will be forever grateful for this recipe, it saved me when 20 EUR was my weekly allowance that needed to cover food, beer & smokes. And looking at today’s economy and downward slope we’re on, I thought I’d just put it out there. It’s comforting to know that if you ever find yourself in times of trouble, you can cook something (very) cheap, nourishing and oh!, so delicious. Here goes!

As for most national dishes, there’s a ton of recipes and they differ from family to family. Needless to say, my family potato food recipe is the best by a long shot! Nope, I’m not biased at all 🙂

What you need

7-8 potatoes (I just buy the 5 kilo pack from either Delhaize or Aldi)

2 onions

1 carrot

1 long red pepper

Vegetable oil (I used sunflower)

Tomato juice (preferably home made)

1 bay leaf & a bit dried thyme


Salt & pepper

How to make Potato Food

Peal the potatoes and chop them up, 2 cm pieces more or less. Half-boil them (10-15 minutes max) in a big pot with salted water. In the meantime, finely chop the onions, the red pepper and grate the carrot on the small grater. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and toss in the bay leaf, the veggies and the dried thyme, add salt to soften the onion (yes, I’m gonna keep on saying this, it really does work). Cook until the onion is golden. By now your potatoes should be ready. Take a large pirex dish or an oven-proof pot and dump in the potatoes and the veggies. Add the tomato juice and a splash of water. Now this is rather controversial issue: how MUCH tomato juice do you add? Well, you make the rules here. If you like your food more saucey add more tomato juice, if you like it a bit dryer…add less. Salt & pepper + paprika and then mix well. Cover and stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Take the lid off and keep for another 15 or so. And that’s it, really!

I love eating this with Feta cheese and good pickles, but for this amazing lunch I went in a different direction. A salade de blé/ mâche with capers and cherry tomatoes. My man also got some hot, pickled tiny peppers. Lots of Feta cheese. Eternal bliss!

The fine print: potatoes are very healthy if not drowned and cooked in oil (aka French fries), but still, this is not  “diet food”. It’s healthy, delicious and nourishing, but will not make your extra 2 kilos evaporate 🙂


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