Monday, August 16, 2010

Spicy potato cakes

There is a moment, just before I am about to tuck in to breakfast, when I experience something very close to enlightenment.

It’ll be the weekend. I will have taken a walk to a local deli and purchased some freshly baked bread (Cassis’ Provencal baguette — herbs, olives, tomato — is my current obsession) and perhaps a chocolate croissant. Back home I will then have put four eggs (two for me, two for the Guinea Pig) into a pot, just covered with water, and set it to boil on the stove. This is the equivalent of a stop-watch, because within this time I must carefully coordinated the toasting of bread, brewing of coffee and slicing of tomato to coincide precisely with the eggs reaching that alchemistic state of perfectly cooked (yolk runny, white firm).

In the final seconds, the plates are laden with toast soldiers, sliced tomato and expectant little egg cups; the coffee plunger is poised for action; the salt and pepper grinders are in their proper places; a magazine, newspaper or book is propped just so for ease of reading while eating; and finally, the cry which signals that the transcendental apex of Saturday morning bliss is about to be realised — ‘It’s reeeeadyyyy!’ — sees the whole production culminate in a moment, a glorious, single moment.

Me, sitting before my breakfast, teaspoon in hand, enveloped in smug contentment. I am content because I know exactly what the next hour holds for me: pure, unadulterated hedonism.

(Hedonism, to me, used to mean drugs, alcohol and late nights — now it's breakfast. How time flies.)

Know what I mean?

I once longed to be one of those people who are perfectly satisfied with a virtuous bowl of muesli and a dollop of low-fat yoghurt, but convulsive shuddering meant I could never quite get the spoon to my lips. I crave eggs, every day (I’ll let you know how that’s working out for me in 10 years time).

Now, if I were living in North India, I wouldn’t have any trouble getting used to these potato cakes for breakfast (which is how they’re served there, or so my Best Ever Indian Curry Recipes cookbook tells me). No eggs involved, but they are gorgeously savoury, stick to your ribs and still have that sort-of breakfast hash-brown thing going for them.

I had them for lunch. I was trying to replicate memorable starter I had at Masala Dosa — and I think I came fairly close (close enough!). The Bombay mix might seem an odd choice, but trust me, it works. These are ideal to make for a crowd as a starter or snack. Serve with chopped cucumber and tomato with yoghurt, and the sprinkles, and just watch people’s faces. It’s fun.

Spicy potato cakes
Makes about 16

450g potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed and allowed to cool
1 tbsp white poppy seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chilli
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped, plus extra to garnish
2 cloves garlic
5 cm ginger, peeled and chopped
Sunflower or canola oil, as needed
1 tsp salt

1. Toast the spices until fragrant, then transfer to a mortar. Add the garlic, ginger and coriander and pestle the crap out of it until you have a thick, pasty mixture.
2. Combine the spices with the mashed potato and mix well. Using your hands, form into little patties, about the size of your palm.
3. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the patties in batches until golden brown and gorgeous. Drain on paper towel.
4. Arrange on a dish, sprinkle with the salt and some coriander leaves, and serve with raita (I like a combo of chopped cucumber, red onion, tomato and yoghurt) and Bombay mix.

But before I go, I do have to tell you about the most divine little secret centre up the road from my house in Newlands — Montabello Design Centre. Well, it may not be much of a secret, but there's something about it that feels like a discovery, all tucked away just off Newlands Avenue.

It has an enchanting nursery, a forge, and various art and craft studios dotted all over the show. Best of all, there is wonderful café — Kwalapa — which is now one of my new favourite breakfast spots.

PS: Do please take a moment to nominate me for the 2010 SA Blog Awards in the Best Food and Wine Blog category (click on the widget on the top right). You know, if you think I should win ... or if you just want to kill two minutes. I'd be much obliged.


  1. Lovely potato cakes! Deliciously spicy.



  2. Enjoyed reading your eggzlent breakfast post so much I actually think you deserved my heartfelt nomination, :)
    I look forward to more posts & the potato cakes look pretty good too, just might try those bad boys.
    Cheers Anna

  3. Thanks as always for your culinary latest with beautiful photos :) My fingers crossed for the blog award!

  4. Looks like perfect picnic dish for me :)

  5. This quote sums up my entire mid-twenties experience:

    (Hedonism, to me, used to mean drugs, alcohol and late nights — now it's breakfast. How time flies.)

    Ha! Looks yummy as always.

  6. a true Indian breakfast indeed - is the oily savoury thing universally appealing on rising?

  7. Ah another reader while eater! My parents tried to breed that out of me, but it never quite stuck. To this day there is nothing better than settling down with some (any!) reading fodder, while indulging your tastebuds.

    Lovely potato cakes - and wouldn't they just be perfect for an Indian style picnic?

  8. I ate two eggs a day for 10 years with no ill side effects. Would do the same still - and have more than 4 eggs a week now :)

  9. OOHH MMYY, those look fantastic. I am with you on breakfast and eggs. But think about all those farmers who ate 3 or more eggs everyday and lived to a healthy 90+! I like the spicy potato cakes-I am going to add your spice mix to my latkes recipe for a variation. Good luck on the SA blog. I voted for ya!

  10. Wow! Lots of gorgeous spice going on in these little beauties! Sounds delicious.

  11. I like these cakes and I bet they would be great with your avocado sauce...

  12. I'm so with you - muesli is all find and well... but a proper breakfast needs some savouries. These potato cakes look divine (although the perfect soft-boiled egg & toast soldiers is pretty awesome too!)

  13. Potato cakes like this sound divine! I could have them for lunch and dinner, though unlike you I don't usually crave eggs! All these spices are intriguing.

  14. Man, I love Masala Dosa! Their chai is heavenly.

    Hubs and I lived in Irene Road in Newlands, just a short walk away from Montebello. That little nursery is like something out of Alice In Wonderland - it's enchanted. And sitting under the trees drinking tea at that restaurant is so restorative :-)

  15. oh wow I am going to India will have masala dosa and think of you he he adore your blog and style of writing and Doc says he loves it to :-) Rebecca

  16. Hi Robyn, I am too a lover of eggs for breakfast! I love your bowls - they are lovely! Spicy potato cakes for breakfast mmm my mouth is watering!

    P.S. I voted and thanks for voting for me :>)

  17. What a great idea for potatoes, I am so bored with the normal choices I have. Going to try these soon.

  18. your potato cakes look delicious!

    oh and I'm a huge lover of eggs too hehe don't think I can quite give them up :)