Across the eastern Mediterranean – and, indeed, the whole of the Middle East – vegetable-based dishes are as much revered as any that may contain meat or fish. They are the heroes of mezze-based feasts; they are stuffed, they are stewed, deep-fried, sautéed and steamed. Above all, they are always in season and often purchased on the way from work on the day that they are to be consumed. Interestingly, potatoes don’t feature very often on the menu but, when they do, they usually pack a punch with complex spicing designed to enhance their natural earthy flavours. Claudia Roden’s classic ‘A Book of Middle Eastern Food‘ was originally written in 1968 so – despite the fact that it was updated over 30 years ago – remains a true reflection of the traditions of Middle Eastern cuisine and the instinctive way that the people of the region approach everyday cooking. Whenever, I have some odd vegetables knocking around, Claudia’s book is my bible because she has a genius solution for everything. This effortlessly edgy dish, inspired by her recipe for batata harra, a Lebanese potato salad is no exception. It’s absolutely delicious and one of my go to recipes when I crave spicy hit.
225g new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3mm rounds (discard the ends for their lack of beauty)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
Half tsp crushed chillies
2 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lime
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g of dill, finely chopped
Pinch of Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
How I make it
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and salt generously. Bring the water to the boil and then allow to simmer until the potatoes are just tender (around 10-15 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, coriander and the crushed chillies and fry for a couple of minutes to release their natural aromas.
Add the turmeric and the lime juice, mix and let it sizzle away for a few seconds.
Tip in the drained potatoes and stir gently to coat them with the spice mixture.
Add the chopped herbs, gently mix them in and cook for a couple of minutes longer.
Tip out onto a serving plate and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.
Serve warm or at room temperature.