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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Moroccan Potato Cakes with Chermoula Sauce

 Moroccan Potato Cakes with Chermoula Sauce

Moroccan Potato Cakes with Chermoula Sauce
by Victoria Challancin

Eaten by themselves or as a filler for a sandwich, Maakouda Batata, or potato cakes, are a popular street food in Morocco, where it is usually served in a sandwich.  These fritters can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or as a sandwich, served either in flatbread or a split baguette with tomato slices, onions, and lettuce.  For a recent Moroccan dinner of salads that I mentioned before, I chose to serve them as side dish and paired them a lively chermoula sauce made of fresh herbs and spices.  Served hot, warm, or at room temperature, these richly flavored patties awaken the senses with the exotic spices of North Africa in an unforgettable combination of flavors.  Simple, yet delicately flavored, these potato cakes will fly off the plate.

 I mashed the potatoes with a bean masher, leaving them a little bit chunky; the onions sautéed with spices and the chopped cilantro give the dish its rich flavor

 The potatoes after mixing the ingredients

Recipe:  Maakouda Batata, or Moroccan Potato Cakes
(Original recipe from Christine Benlafquih,
Cook's Notes:  I used this recipe as a guideline and added the ingredients to my taste, which means I didn't peel the potatoes (I like the bits of skin left in).  Nor did I measure anything, but I think I stayed pretty true to the basic amounts given, adding a bit more cilantro than listed.  I have given the amounts I used, more or less.

1 kg or 2 lbs potatoes (about 5 medium)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium to large cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or start with 1/4 cup and add more if preferred)
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil, for frying

Place potatoes, peeled or not, in a pot of cold water.  Boil until soft enough to pierce easily with a sharp knife; cooking time will depend on size of potatoes.  Drain the potatoes and allow to cool a bit.  Chill the potatoes for several hours or overnight if you have time.  If not, simply continue with the recipe.

Melt the butter in a small skillet.  Add the onions, and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and sauté one minute more, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add the spices to onion-garlic mixture.

Grate the potatoes into a mixing bowl or mash with a potato or bean masher. Add the cilantro and onion mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.  Add enough beaten egg to bind the potatoes, but not so much that there is excess egg in the bottom of the bowl.

Shape the mixture into cakes about 3 inches in diameter.

Heat enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of a skillet or griddle.  Add the potato cakes, and cook slowly over medium heat, about 10 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Serve as an appetizer, side dish, or main vegetarian dish hot, warm, or at room temperature.  You can also make this into one large cake in a skillet, instead of individual ones.

 The potato cakes look quite greasy here, but in fact, they weren't at all

 The finished potato cakes

 Moroccan chermoula sauce

Moroccan Chermoula Sauce
Chermoula, also spelled "charmoula" or even "chrmla," is an extremely popular sauce found throughout North Africa.  In Morocco I have mainly eaten it with fish, where it is usually used as a marinade, in a fish tagine, or a wet sauce to be brushed over grilled fish as it cooks  Versatile, this sauce can be used with anything--seafood, roasted vegetables, meat, chicken, cheeses, or even as a salad dressing.

Recipes vary according to the cook.  Some versions include saffron, preserved lemon, onion, fresh chiles, and even tomatoes, though my Moroccan friends tell me that tomatoes aren't included.  I have made so many versions of this sauce, but this one, that I copied years ago from who knows where, but probably from my dear friend Latifah, is one of my favorites.  Feel free to experiment.

(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (I used Spanish smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or 1/2 finely chopped serrano chile, red or green
2 medium-large garlic cloves, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lightly toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.  Grind to a powder.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and pulse to grind again briefly--or mix a bit more by hand.

Place garlic, parsley, cilantro, and olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Grind to a smooth paste.  Add the spices and lemon juice; blend until smooth, adjusting flavors according to taste.  Add more chile, lemon juice, or oil if desired.

Chermoula sauce or marinade

Just to show you how versatile this sauce is, here is a dish I served with the other 8 Moroccan salads at the afore-mentioned dinner party.  This is a great sauce--once you start making it, you won't stop!

 Steamed cauliflower with chermoula sauce

Cook's Note:  Although I chose to serve the chermoula sauce with cauliflower, it would be wonderful with carrots, asparagus, zucchini, beets or roasted vegetables in general.  Steam the vegetables, or roast them in the oven using a bit of the chermoula to moisten them.

Recipe:  Steamed Cauliflower with Chermoula 
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup chermoula sauce (see the above recipe)

Steam the cauliflower until crisp-tender.  Place in a bowl and add chermoula sauce while still hot.  Toss to combine.  Add more chermoula sauce if desired.  Serve room temperature or cold.

Parting Shot:  Morocco
Morocco:  A reflection of the way we felt when WIFI was strong!

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©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like love and life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks!


Hotly Spiced said...

I love the look of these potato cakes. I used to love potato cakes when I was little but they never had Moroccan flavours - I think this is how I would prefer them although I've never had them in a sandwich before! xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Victoria I feel as though we're always on the same wavelength. I was just talking to someone about how much I love street food and would love to learn more about it in different countries and here you go! :D

Eha said...

Hello Victoria! Australia calling again!! Now I must have stated a dozen boring times I do not usually eat potatoes: but these ones I just have to make! And your recipe for 'chermoula' is quite a bit different to mine and ever so appealing!! Latkes +++ [my humble apologies to those who only make those!]. And thank you for the othet suggestions . . . I may share I hope!!!

Joanne T Ferguson said...

G'day! I love the flavor combination, TRUE!
Might have to put these on my list to do!
Cheers! Joanne

Martine @ Chompchomp said...

These look super tasty. With all those spices for flavour I cannot wait to whip some up and try.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I love potato cakes but this recipe takes them to another level...especially the the sauce.

Nancy said...

I love potatoes and these cakes are right up my ally. The sauce sounds wonderful and definitely to try on the cauliflower too. Thank for sharing Victoria!

David Crichton said...

Hi Victoria, I visited Morocco last year and left feeling down-hearted. I thought I was going to see some amazing places and eat fantastic food. Unfortunately the westernised interpretations of Moroccan food are so much better.

I have been looking for a chermoula sauce recipe for ages. I love chimichurri and wanted to use the chermoula for a change.

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

Oh, David, I am so sorry your visit to Morocco was less than perfect. It is such an amazing country--I have visited nine times and am never disappointed. And the food can be amazing, but not at the touristy places, which, I agree, can leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. But great food is there to be had--it definitely is! The spicing is usually what makes it--delicate, but complex and utterly alluring.

My Kitchen Stories. said...

I love with a passion potato cakes. How delicious are these with Chermoula. ONG, And an excellent way to use up left over chermoula that I think any one might like

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

The potato cakes look really good. The sauce sounds great too!