2 April 2010

Earnestly speechless

Before Easter celebrations roll in, please, let me tell you real, real, real quick about this simple, simple, simple dish that would do no less than be a graceful side to meat, poultry, and even fish, should that be your main! Like I just said, the dish is awfully simple. But what you also should know, and consider this your fortune, is that it is utterly delicious. So much so that every time I dig my fork in it, I want to fling my room window open and scream, scream, scream my excitement out at the people on the street, because I swear I get so thrilled about the stuff by every mouthful that I want everybody in the world to know what I know. And it is this: fried potatoes with coriander, cumin and spring onions are terrifyingly awesome together. So much so that it makes me earnestly speechless – even voiceless. And that, as you can see, clashes with my plans to scream. I don’t quite know what I’m going to do, except that I am going to eat those potatoes as much as I can. And if possible, I am going to eat only those potatoes. Come Easter there will be no exception. I’m sure.

At this point I think I should tell you that I am, by default, no stranger to a good potato. The reason is that I am Russian. Consider this for a moment: In the year 2007, Russia, the e-site potato2008.org tells us, was ranked second among the world top ten potato producers. The same potato2008.org says that in potato consumption, Russians “took silver” as well. I personally can testify to that. I grew up in a family where potatoes were bought in sackfuls every fall to last us through the winter months. Up to this day, the tradition, of which my grandparents are in charge, is still running.

Since my childhood up until a few years ago, fried potatoes with onions was the most frequent dish to appear on my plate. I was so familiarized with the stuff that at some point it became impossible for me to get excited about a good potato at all, is what I’m saying. Impossible until I tried the recipe for Lebanese fried potatoes with coriander from the MORO East book last week, that is. Since then, all I want is to scream from, and with, excitement.

Happy Easter, Dear Reader!

Fried potatoes with coriander (cilantro)

Adapted from MORO East by Samantha and Samuel Clark

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course

1 (about 2 pounds) kg potatoes, peeled and washed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
10 spring onions, thinly sliced
Large bunch of coriander (around 50 grams), finely chopped (stalks included)
8 Tbsp (120 ml) olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Cut the potatoes in half and place them in a large pot. Cover with cold water, add salt and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15-20 mins, or until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Drain and let cool until they are comfortably warm to handle.

2) Cut the potatoes in chunks. Gently toss with the cumin, garlic, half the spring onions and half the coriander, making sure not to break the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3) In a wide non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the potatoes and fry on one side until these are golden and a bit crispy, about 10 mins. Turn them over with a wooden spoon, taking care not to break them, and fry until the other side is also golden. Transfer to a large serving bowl and combine with the remaining coriander and spring onions. Adjust the seasonings.