Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tiny Potatoes, Spicy Salad

The number of vendors has increased over the past few months in Harare – shop-side vendors dangling plastic sleeves of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and okra from sticks like veggie mobiles; street-side vendors displaying their greens, mangoes, avocadoes and maputi (popped maize) on upturned boxes; and, my favorite, the men who defy death itself, standing smack dab in the middle of busy roads (even when the lights aren’t working) hawking the most delicate of commodities – crates of eggs.

Given Zimbabwe’s ever-more-astronomical currency denominations, bargaining for these items sounds absolutely ridiculous. “Tomatoes, imari?” I ask. “Five million.” “And the potatoes?” “Seven point five.” "I’ll give you 10 million for both." “11.” Sold. And so I count out a small pile of bills – one 5 million note and 30 200,000s.

I am picky about my produce. The tomatoes can’t be too ripe or too firm; the mangoes and avocados must be string-less. And the potatoes I seek out from venders are the tiny, spherical ones that you barely need to chop. A quick slice or two and they become bite-size.

These potatoes are ideal for tourchi batata, a spicy potato salad from Tunisia that can be served hot, cold or anywhere in between. This salad is quick to prepare and easy to double – after making it the first time and seeing my husband gobble it up I have vowed never to make a single recipe again. You could peel the potatoes, but I like to keep them on. I served tourchi batata last week as a tapas-like dish with afternoon drinks – beer cuts the spice best. I’ll let my friends make their own comments, but I think the salad was a hit.

Tunisian Potato Salad (Tourchi Batata)
Adapted from Sephardic Cooking: 600 Recipes Created in Exotic Sephardic Kitchens from Morocco to India
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound / 450 grams small boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons / 30 milliliters olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa (more, or less, to taste)
½ teaspoon / 2.5 milliliters salt
1 teaspoon / 5 milliliters ground cumin
1 lemon, freshly squeezed

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Cool and cut into cubes (or, with tiny potatoes, just in half). Heat the oil in a skillet, and add the harissa, salt, ground cumin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and boil for a few seconds. Pour over the potatoes and toss. Let marinate for twenty minutes or so and serve warm, or serve at room temperature, or refrigerate for at least one hour and serve cool.

1 comment:

kombuis said...

This sounds absolutely yummy - I love Harissa, and I love potatoes, so it's going to be made pretty soon!
I really enjoy reading your blog, and I don't think it's trivial writing about food at all, even during the most turbulent times. Food and cooking is an expression of our culture, and encapsulates what makes us human. So keep on writing, please! It's almost like a travelogue, you have no idea how riveted I am by your tales.