I love food that is made with care and attention and I am a fan of the potato, I love the nuances of flavour and texture. For me Potato Cakes are all about the potato. I don’t add anything to them to perk up the flavour as what I want is the flavour of the potato to shine through.
These are something that I make maybe twice or three times are year, everyone loves them and there is an almost stunned silence once they are actually tasted. Did you ever have this experience as a child? Your Mum has got some new potatoes (my family were peasant farmers from the south of Italy so our potatoes came from the back garden damply, dirty and sweet smelling, a quick rinse under the cold tap and straight into the pan). We were little and we just never had snacky things around, so when it came to meal times we were hungry. Mum would squat down with the pan of potatoes on a chair and with her skilled, heat resistant fingers she would peel the skin from the scalding potatoes, break them in two, blow on them and share the pieces between me, my big brother and my little sister. That flavour of potato fresh and unadulterated has a simplicity that is rare.
These potato cakes are all about the potato.
I prefer waxy- you may prefer floury- try them, learn which potato is the one YOU like mashed, or roasted – you don’t need to be told, go cook, eat, share, enjoy!
make about 18
450g / 1lb waxy potatoes (Estima, Nicola, Wilja, Melody), peeled
225g / 8 oz, plain flour or Gluten & Wheat Free Flour
250ml / 1/2 pt liquid (cooled vegetable stock or a milk – Soya/ Goats/Dairy, your preference)
1 tsp Sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil (as needed – have to just add my dad would kill me for frying in extra virgin, please use a simple ‘Mild Olive Oil or even vegetable oil)
Boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water for 15–20 minutes until soft.
Drain then and cover in cold water for about 30 -40 seconds, this will make them just cool enough to handle (not any longer as they will become wet inside). Now begins the apprenticeship in ‘asbestos fingers’.
Quickly peel the skin away and discard and put the potatoes back into the pan.
Mash them as normal don’t worry if there is an occasional larger piece, they will taste great in the final cake. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes.
Sift the flour pepper and salt
Mix the flour and potatoes and start adding in the liquid.
It needs to have a consistency like a firm cake batter (this quality is dependent on the potatoes you use) It needs to be able to hold it’s shape without being so hard that it cannot expand a little as it cooks.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat.
Now I like to use an ice cream scoop but you can use a couple of dessert spoons to make up the cakes, add them straight into the hot oil as you scoop.
It should take 2-3 minutes to brown to a nice golden colour, any faster and you need to turn the heat down, otherwise they won’t be cooked through. Any longer and they will just absorb all the oil and be heavy and greasy – so turn the heat up a tad.
Turn them and press them down so they make a sort of skirt of collar around themselves (so they are 1.5 – 2 cm thick).
As they cook pop them onto a warm plate with kitchen roll on to absorb the excess oil.
These can be served as an accompaniment to other food but we tend to eat them on their own with some boiled cabbage or white beans and red onion stew, they are very nice with some Sweet Chilli sauce too.
Simple and classic.
Come and see me on Saturdays’ at Bermondsey Square Farmers Market in Southwark. It’s just off Tower Bridge Road, a short walk from The White Cube, Southbank and Borough Market.
All new customers will get a lovely washable cotton shopper as a ‘Thank you and please come again next week’ (Whie stocks last!)
Every Friday at about 6 pm GMT I publish photos of the items I have cooked for market. Have a look at the Facebook page.