Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Potato Challenge: Moroccan Potato Cakes (Maakouda Batata)

Yesterday was another Monday - and another potato dish is in the books.

I was living dangerously this week.  I actually didn't do a trial run for the potato dish on the weekend - and that almost spelled disaster because of one little error I made in the calculation of my ingredients...

As usually, I looked at several recipes, but essentially, I ended up following this Moroccan potato cake recipe.   The dish seemed pretty simple: Cook and mash potatoes, mix them with sauteed onions and garlic, add spices and egg, then shape the mass into patties and fry those in hot oil. I had already pondered making the potato mass in advance on Sunday when I can across this recipe that suggested that the potatoes should be boiled a day in advance so that they could firm up in the fridge over night, Shredding the the next day was supposed to give the mash a bit more consistency.

That sounded like a plan.  I cooked the potatoes in my trusted steamer on Sunday night.  Before I stuck them in the fridge I weighed how much I had there so I would know how much spice to add to the final mass.  The primary recipe I was going to use called for 2 lb of potatoes.  That's about 1 kg, give or take.  The potatoes from my steamer weighed about 1500 g.  (The only scale I own that can weigh items that are larger than 2 lb is a German scale.  Because of that it only weighs in grams). I was not sure that this would be enough potatoes for the group, so I set up another steamer basket full of potatoes and called it a night.

When I got home from work on Monday evening - a little later than I had planned - I needed to get cooking in a hurry.  I had not quite decided on how I was going to fry the potato cakes at this point, but that decision was made for me when the oil for the deep fryer (that I store in the fridge) smelled quite old.  The deep fryer was out. I had never fried anything in a pan with hot oil, but it was probably not rocket science.

Before I could worry about frying the patties, I needed to make the potato mash. I shredded the 3 lb of potatoes from the fridge using the coarsest shredder attachment of my Cuisinart food processor and put them into a large bowl.  Then I diced 3 medium onions.  The recipe called for 1 onion, but I was tripling it, so - math...

I sauteed the onions until they were translucent, then added 4 Tbsp of a  minced garlic to the pan, sauteing both until fragrant.  After adding onions and garlic to the potato mass, I wiped the pan clean and heated up some oil to liven up the spices a bit. I added 3*1.5 tsp of cumin, 3*1 tsp of coriander seeds, 3*1 tsp of turmeric in the hot oil and heated the spices until the turmeric was dark orange and fragrant. I actually put a bit of the potato mass into the pan to help with the removal of the spice mixture from the pan.  Normally, I don't follow a recipe this closely, but this one seemed to work out well and I was planning on tweaking it after I tasted the mash.

It was when I added 3*1.5 tsp of salt to the potato mash that I thought to myself  "something is not right here" for the first time.  As I looked at the large mound of salt forming on top of the potato mash I had the sneaky suspicion that this potato/salt ratio was not OK.  I have been cooking long enough at this point to know that I can usually trust my instincts when it comes to salting dishes.  For some reason that remains a mystery to me, I ignored my instinct and just went on cooking.

I chopped a bunch of cilantro, then started adding eggs.  3*3 = 9 eggs.  After I added the 5th egg it became pretty clear that the addition of more eggs would turn this mass into potato soup.  So I figured I'd try making patties and just see how the would hold up to frying.  I mixed up all the ingredients in the big bowl using a spoon.  Then, before forming the first patty, I taste tested my creation.

Have you found the mistake I made, yet?  Can you predict what I tasted?

I tasted salt!  This was the most over-salted potato mash that I had ever created.  For a moment I considered throwing the whole thing out and starting over.  The next second I pondered what would happen, if I just showed up at the dinner without the potatoes.  What do you do, if your pot luck item turns out to be inedible? Do you just bring some chips... (It's still potatoes.)

Then again, maybe this could be fixed.  After all, what's the best food of all to soak up salt?  The humble potato!  Remember when I told you before that I had steamed more potatoes on Sunday night, just in case? I still had those potatoes! They may just be what I needed to rescue this dish.

Rather than shredding them I just peeled them and pushed them through my potato ricer.  I figured they'd have more surface area to suck up the salt that way. (I know, dream on.)

The more potatoes I added, the better the  mash tasted.  I was concerned there for a moment that by diluting out the salt, I'd also dilute out the other spices, but my concerns were unfounded.  With every potato - and every taste test, the mass tasted better.  By the time I had worked in all the extra potatoes, the dish actually tasted quite good, if I say so myself.

On Monday night I was still convinced that the recipe was at fault - that it was just no good.  I didn't actually catch my mistake until this evening as I was starting to write up this blog post.  For some reason, the amount of potatoes required for the recipe I used registered as being 1 lb in my head.  3 lb of potatoes therefore required 3 times the spices and salt.

However, the recipe did not call for 1 lb of potatoes, it called for 2 lb of potatoes!  3 lb of potatoes is only 1.5 times that amount.  I had literally doubled up on all the spices and salt!  No wonder this was *way* too salty.  By adding the additional steamer basket full of potatoes (the basket holds about 1.5 lb of potatoes) I actually adjusted the amount of potatoes in the dish to 3 times the original amount, thereby adjusting all the ingredients amounts to proportions listed in the recipe.  I even needed to add another egg or two or three, so the egg amounts were good, too.

To fry the patties I heated oil in a large pan until a wooden stick inserted in the oil threw bubbles.  Then I shaped the potato mass into 2-3 inch patties and fried them - 2-3 minutes on each side.  It didn't take long at all.

The original recipe suggests that the potato mass should be dipped in egg and chickpea flour.  I completely forgot to do that.  They still tasted great anyway.

Unfortunately not the best pic, but it's all I got.

I did make a second variety of the potato cakes for the dinner.  The second site I had looked at suggested that the potato mass could be dipped in a batter of chickpea flour and egg.  I did actually make the batter and fried some of the patties with the batter.  However, I didn't think that this added anything to the dish.  Also, I would suggest to add fewer eggs into the potato mash, if you want to dip the patties into batter, because they'll be easier to handle, if they're a little more substantial.

Moroccan Potato Cakes (Maakouda Batata) recipe

With modifications from

6 pounds potatoes, boiled or steamed with skin on
3 medium onions, diced
4 Tbsp garlic, minced (I buy it as minced garlic in oil)
4.5 tablespoons cumin seeds (I was out of ground cumin)
4.5 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 teaspoons turmeric
a couple dashes of Sriracha sauce
3 teaspoon ground coriander (I didn't have coriander seeds)
1 bunch chopped cilantro
6-9 eggs

Chickpea flour
Olive oil

1. Steam and mash or shred the potatoes
2. Saute diced onions and minced garlic
3. Heat cumin, coriander and turmeric in hot oil
4. Combine all of the items into a big bowl
5. Add chopped cilantro
6. Add salt, pepper, Sriracha sauce
7. Add scrambled eggs, one at a time until patties can be formed

For frying:
Heat oil in pan until a wooden spoon throws bubbles
Fry patties 2 min each side, careful not to crowd them

Dip patty in scrambled eggs, then chickpea flour
Heat oil in pan until a wooden spoon throws bubbles
Fry patties 2 min each side, careful not to crowd them

Make batter from
3/4 cup of chickpea flour
3-4 scrambled eggs
salt, turmeric
Dip patty in batter
Heat oil in pan until a wooden spoon throws bubbles
Fry patties 2 min each side, careful not to crowd them


No comments:

Post a Comment