Gastronomy in Spain varies greatly from region to region, but there are few places that are as highly talked about as La Rioja. Before even going there to visit there, my friends told me how well you can eat, and they were not wrong. The food is at the same level of quality as the Rioja wine that dominates the scene. I visited the capital, Logroño for a day trip and I can safely say, that I spent more time eating than seeing the sights. One of the dishes that was available in most places, was patatas a la riojana.
While stews and soups are not uncommon in Spain, This one does not have beans or lentils or anything like that, which is a very common trait for this country. This is also a dish that has a little kick of spice that adds to the warmth, and also is one of the few things in Spain that actually has some spice in it. Served as a tapa or starter, you will find this in almost every bar in the La Rioja and will definitely be inclined to taste it.
Funnily enough the dish is comprised of potatoes, alongside chorizo, pimientos choriceros (a mildly spicy red pepper), onion, garlic, pimentón and bay leaves. Some variants are even simpler than that, by cutting out the vegetables, but it might not be as spicy. The potatoes are cut in a way in which they are partially broken off, leaving the starch to thicken the soup a little and are also added to the dish last before being left to simmer. Most bars are pretty generous with the amount of chorizo added to the dish, so carnivores will take a shine to it. Other variants may include lamb or rabbit, though I only encountered that in one bar in Logroño.
Several recipes are available online to make at home and I followed the recipe of Omar Allibhoy, the founder of Tapas Revolution, as his recipe was practically identical to the real thing as you can get. You can also find it pre-made in supermarkets in a can version, but I wouldn’t go wild with that particular version as it’s nowhere near as good as the real thing as is usually the case. It takes about 40 mins to make at home, and will always be better, providing you follow the guidelines.
I would define the taste of patatas a la riojana as hearty, but with a smoky flavour and the texture of a stew that you would similarly get in the UK. It wouldn’t be something that would blow you away, but it would be repeated if given the chance. I highly recommend it to anybody travelling to the La Rioja region as well as it’s surrounding areas. To summarise, If you are impartial to a hearty stew and fancy something that has a Mediterranean twist, patatas a la riojana should be on your list, and don’t forget to have a glass of the red stuff on the side to complement it.