Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sicilian Summertime

Polpette di Patate Siciliani
Sicilian Potato Fritters with Mint & Parmesan

Let's just pretend it is Summer, ok? Actually... I take that back; let's all pretend it is Summer if we are reading this in Europe. And as for those American people and anyone else that actually has days filled with sunshine and warm temperatures at the moment- you can just read on as if this were the most normal thing in the world and bear with us... 

So, let's pretend it is Summer, it is hot and you are preparing a meal. Chances are you will be preparing some kind of meat or fish on the grill- or making a nice salad. Chances are also that you will be preparing a couple of different things- and that you will need a couple of side dishes to go with them. That always seems to be the dilemma in Summer- what to serve with your grilled goodies. Something easy to prepare in advance and that will taste as good cold as it does warm. And ideally, something that will go well with any number of different meats or fish... but does anything like that even exist? Sure it does! You are looking at a plateful of them right here!

It was my sisters fault- she was the one who posted on Facebook what a wonderful aroma was coming from the kitchen, as my mother was making "polpette di patate"- an absolute favorite of mine since my childhood and something that always reminds me of my mother and of home. Sigh. Wouldn't be so bad... but they are miles away in Sicily, in the sun and I am here in Frankfurt in the cold and the rain! So I had no choice other than to make some myself! They are so eary to make that I should do it more often- and I think all of you should too! 

I started off by boiling 2 good sized potatoes- I mean each one a good handful in size. I peeled and coarsely chopped them and boiled them for 15-20 minutes until tender. Whilst they were boiling, I finely chopped 1 Spring onion, a good handful of mint and about half as much parsley. I also grated about 1 cupful of parmesan and prepared 1 cupful of bread crumbs and an egg... these were all of the additional ingredients I would need. And as soon as the potatoes were boiled- I was ready for action!

I drained the potatoes and mashed them, then added the onion and herbs whilst the potato was still hot and seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, stirring everything together thoroughly with a fork- no need to fuss here! This initial heat helps to "cook" the onion and herbs in advance and ensure that the fritters are nicely cooked, through and through, without you having to absolutely soak them in oil later. You could also fry the onion in advance- but again, that is one of the reasons I love to work with Spring onions- they are so mild and cook so quickly that there is never any problem with a strong, harsh onion flavor.

I added just a handful of bread crumbs and stirred them in- that helped cool the potatoes off a little, which also allowed me to add the egg without it curdling because of the heat. I stirred it in quickly with a fork- moving fast can't hurt- and of course this made the mixture much softer... so then I added more bread-crumbs, little by little, until the mixture became almost firm enough to shape. The consistency should be something like that of a bread dough. 

The last, most important step of course, was to add the grated parmesan cheese- this helped absorb moisture and make the mix firmer once again... but now I had everything together and was ready to start forming and frying my little fritters!

I kept a bowl of water close by in which I could moisten my fingers- very important when forming the fritters as they tend to be rather sticky! I fried mine in olive oil- the secret being to move the fritters immediately when you drop them into the pan, so that they do not have a chance to stick, but begin to crust over. If they don't stick to the pan within the first 5-10 seconds- they won't stick at all. And if they don't stick and you keep the heat moderate, you can fry them with considerably less oil- which is a good thing! They can easily stay in there on the same side for the first 4-5 minutes before flipping them over- another reason for this is the parmesan cheese, which also has it's own fat and which will form a crispy, non-stick crust on the outside, which becomes a wonderful golden brown. 

Another 4-5 minutes on the second side and they were done- there really is nothing more to it than that- and as I already mentioned- the best thing about these is that they taste wonderful both hot and cold... even straight from the fridge (bear this in mind, should you wake in the middle of the night with hunger pangs and sleepwalk to the fridge! lol! )

I hope you enjoy this little taste of "The Old Country" as much as I do- in fact I know you will! Everybody does! I just hope we get a little more sunshine soon so I can make them more often!


  1. Yum! I want to try these right away. My brother in law is visiting with his twin boys. He's a vegetarian, they hate most vegetables but will eat potatoes. This might just be a dish that everyone would like... finally!

  2. Frank... I ate them all in one go! I felt bad afterwards... but OMG it was worth it! The taste of The Old Country! You're going to love them! Francesco