Fried Potatoes – Earthy Rich Simplicity – a Poem of Potatoes

This recipe was inspired by Papas Fritas, a poem by Pablo Neruda.

The poem describes the sensual pleasure of cooking fried potatoes; dropping the light, fluffy potatoes, which are like the snowy wings of a morning swan, into the pan; how they come out of the amber-coloured olive oil semi-gilded; and adding garlic for earthy fragrance, and pepper. The result, he says is a gift of the land, simple and full of flavour.

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who won the Nobel prize for literature. He went into exile in Italy, and there is a charming film about a postman who befriended him while he was living there, called Il Postino (The Postman), see below for a couple of clips from that. The music of the film is also delightful.

fried potatoes recipe
The young Pablo Neruda.

If you want extra crispy potatoes you can fry, drain, and fry again and again a third time, always in searing hot oil.

Recipe for earthily, richly, simple fried potatoes

Serves 2


• 100 – 150 g/about 4 oz of any firm, waxy potato – eg Cyprus, go here for a list
• Rapeseed oil for frying (Neruda uses ‘el crepitante ámbar de las olivas’ or ‘the crackling amber of olives’ but the rapeseed oil will give you crispier potatoes. A nice compromise is to use half and half). In any case, you want sufficient to shallow fry, ie to coat both sides of the potatoes – the oil needs to be at least 4cm/1½” deep.
• Sea salt flakes (Maldon ideally)
• Sweet smoked Spanish paprika; or some cracked pepper; or some sprigs of rosemary; or some crushed garlic; or sumac… or a mix


1. Slice the potatoes into smallish slices/wedges (don’t bother to peel them) – these are the ‘nevadas plumas de cisne matutino’ – the snowy wings of a morning swan – of Pablo Neruda’s wonderful poem about fried potatoes.

2. Boil them for about ten minutes until they seem a little soft on the outside.

3. Drain them and let the steam come off for about a minute and then jiggle them about to roughen up a little.

4. Heat up the oil until nearly smoking in a large frying pan, and fry the potatoes, again for about ten minutes – they should be crisp and again – as per the poem again – ‘semidoradas’ – or half gold. Sprinkle over the salt flakes and as an option, as Neruda suggests add some crushed garlic for its ‘terrenal fragancia’ – its earthy perfume.

5. Sprinkle either with the paprika; or mix in some sprigs of rosemary while still really hot so that the scent of the rosemary gets into the potatoes; or, as Neruda suggests, some garlic and pepper.

For a host of other ideas for things to do with potatoes follow this link.

fried potatoes recipe
Semi-gilded by the amber oil.



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