Potatoes with a punch
I found myself in Lebanon over Christmas thanks to my girlfriend, Cynthia who I'll soon be writing a blog about, as I owe her a lot more than a trip to the Middle East. But she'll have to wait for now as I want to tell you about how I came across these potatoes.
Upon arrival, I instantly fell in love with the country and cuisine. Having been through a horrendous and continuous period with the explosion in August, a crumbling economy and now Covid causing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, the people of Lebanon just crack on. They are without a doubt some of the most resilient, kind and positive people I have ever encountered.
We spent most of the time in Brummana, which is a town about a half an hour drive out of Beirut and up towards the mountains. The scenery there is stunning, covered in green landscape and rolling hills that go all the way down to the ocean. One of the most amazing features of Lebanon is the opportunity to ski in the mountains and swim at the beach all in one day. A 1hr drive between the two; if you're driving Lebanese style. Perhaps 1hr 30 if you're a little more conservative...
The food is something else. Incredible platters, mouth watering shawarma wraps and these outstanding potatoes. The Lebanese have taken the humble potato transformed it in the most magnificent way. I introduce to you; Batata Harra.
Traditionally deep fried and covered in a paste consisting of coriander, chilli, garlic and lemon. They are unforgettable. Having always loved potatoes in every form, I had to give them a go. To my delight it turned out to be one of my most successful videos to date, currently sitting at 473,000 views.
If you'd like to learn more about Lebanese cuisine and try some other recipes yourself, I highly recommend this book.
But back to the potatoes. You can view the video here and the recipe is as follows:
- 5 or 6 large potatoes
- 2 handfuls of coriander (traditional) or parsley if you prefer. Both work very well.
- 5 gloves of garlic
- 1 large red or green chilli (or whatever your preferred spice level)
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- Half a lemon.
A quick disclaimer, I didn't follow the traditional route of deep frying in order to offer a healthier option.
Preheat your oven to 190c. Evenly cover a baking tray with 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil/vegetable oil (something with a high smoke point) and place into the oven.
Peel and cut your potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Get them onto boil in salted water and let them simmer until soft. Best way to know when they're done is to stick a sharp knife into a potato and if it drops straight off, they're done. Should be about 5 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, let them steam for a couple of minutes and then season well with salt and pepper. Put a lid on the sauce pan and shake hard to rough up the edges. Take your baking tray out of the oven and throw the potatoes into the hot oil, not in the literal sense.
Leave the potatoes in the oven for a total of 45 minutes and turn them once half way through. After which they should be golden brown and crispy.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking get your coriander (remove the big stems), chilli, garlic, cumin and paprika into a food processor. If you don't have one get ready to do some chopping. Blend the ingredients.
Once your potatoes are almost done, get a wok on a medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add your paste and and cook down for a minute or two - don't burn. Finally add your crispy potatoes, give them a good mix so they're evenly covered and squeeze over your lemon.