We first had batata harra at a hole-in-the-wall Lebanese takeaway in town. So what’s a batata harra, you may ask. And I can answer: spicy fried potatoes, served, like falafels, in pita bread with salad and tahini sauce. Mr Thrifty was the first to try one (being the potato-lover that he is) and declared it Really Tasty. In fact, he liked it more than the falafels we bought there. I thought it very good as well, though points off for nuking the cold pre-cooked potatoes before making the sandwiches, thus rendering all the scrunchy bits rather… unscrunchy.
So batata harra, along with falafels, became a popular choice for the odd time we decided to grab a quick, cheap lunch. Then I discovered how to make homemade falafels, which far surpassed the bought ones, and we didn’t go to the Lebanese takeaway after that.
But Mr Thrifty was still hankering after a batata harra. So I thought, how difficult could it be to recreate these delightful sandwiches? Easier than falafels, for sure, as the filling was a lot simpler and didn’t require firing up the deep fryer.
So a couple of days ago, I finally made batata harra. I fried up some potatoes with onion and peppers, made a garlicky yogurt-tahini sauce, and cut up some lettuce & tomatoes to go with it. Heated the pitas (store-bought, alas) and tucked into a lip-smacking-good meal. YUM!
I didn’t have any hot chilies to add, so the only heat came from a bit of cayenne that I added. Nor did I have any fresh coriander (cilantro). Even without those ingredients, the batata harra were much better than those from the takeaway. And much more thrifty! 🙂
Batata harra sandwiches
|For the potatoes
|2 tablespoons||olive oil||2 tablespoons|
|1||small onion, diced||1|
|1||red or green pepper, peeled and diced||1|
|1||chili pepper (optional), finely chopped||1|
|1||large clove garlic, minced||1|
|1/4 teaspoon||dried coriander||1/4 teaspoon|
|1/8 teaspoon||cayenne, or to taste||1/8 teaspoon|
|salt & freshly ground pepper to taste|
|2 tablespoons||finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) (optional)||2 tablespoons|
|For the salad|
|thinly sliced romaine lettuce leaves|
|chopped fresh tomatoes|
|For the sauce
|4 tablespoons||tahini paste||4 tablespoons|
|4 tablespoons||plain soya yogurt||4 tablespoons|
|1 tablespoon||lemon juice||1 tablespoon|
|1||small clove garlic, minced||1|
|1/4 teaspoon||ground cumin||1/4 teaspoon|
|salt to taste|
|4||large pita breads (or 6 small)||4|
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1.2cm (1/2″) cubes. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside. (This will remove some of the starch from the potatoes, making them less likely to stick to the pan when cooking.)
2. Heat a large heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and cook onion until softened, about five minutes. Add peppers and chili (if using) and continue to cook until vegetables are soft (about an additional five to seven minutes.) Then add the garlic and cook for another two minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet.
3. Drain the potatoes and dry them with a clean kitchen towel. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet (still over low heat) and fry the potato cubes, turning now and then, until they are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
4. Drizzle two tablespoons of water around the edge of the skillet and immediately cover the potatoes with a lid. The lid does not have to fit the skillet, you can use a smaller lid and just rest it on the bottom of the skillet (which is what I do). Cook for five minutes, then remove lid and test potatoes to see if they’re cooked through. If not, cover them again with the lid and give it another couple of minutes (add a bit more water if the pan is dry).
5. When the potatoes are cooked through, add the vegetable mixture back into the skillet and mix thoroughly. Season with dried coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add the fresh coriander, if using, and heat through.
6. Meanwhile, cut up the lettuce and tomato for the salad. Mix together the sauce ingredients until smooth, adding water as needed to thin it to the consistency of a thickish salad dressing.
7. Warm pita breads and slit one side open. Put in a handful of lettuce and some tomatoes. Spoon a bit of the sauce on top. Then fill with the fried potatoes and top with more sauce.
Makes four large or six smaller sandwiches, enough for two people who love potatoes!