Australian (Aussie) Potato Cakes: Part 1

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 18, 2010

There are so many things I miss about living in Australia. The laid back life style, multicultural communities, the beauty of the land and the food…did I mention the food? The British influence left us with a Parliament, the metric system, great schools and dream-worthy fish and chips that will rival any fast food joint here in the USA! Growing up in Melbourne, we had access to some of the freshest produce, fish, lamb, beef & poultry because of the city’s proximity to the coast and neighboring rural farms. My family shopped and cooked fresh meals every day. Every now and then we would stop at the neighborhood fish and chip store where you could get some beautifully batter fried fish, crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, with thick cut chips (fries), Aussie dim sims (going to try this next), homemade jam and sugar donuts and potato cakes (or potato scallops). They would take your order, fry it up for you and roll it up in white butcher’s paper. You could enjoy it on the go by poking a hole in one end, or take it home and unwrap all of that golden, fried goodness.

When my family moved here, I used to dream of those delicious potato cakes and dim sims. If you have never had one, potato cakes are a huge flattened circle of potato (about 5” in diameter), dipped in the same crispy batter (like the fish) and fried to a golden brown. There was nothing here in the USA that was even remotely close to this and so for years I would dream about how I could make them myself.

I made my first attempt this weekend, and they were absolutely delicious, but not quite the texture I was after. Aussie potato cakes are more firm inside, so next time I am going to try it with another type of potato, probably a waxy potato. I figured some things out, like how they get their uniform shape, and the type of batter they used, but getting the right inside texture is important for it to be authentic. I am going to keep trying, so if you are a potato lover or an Aussie trying to get their potato cake fix…stay tuned for Part 2!

Fluffy Potato Cakes (makes 6-4” cakes)

***An original recipe from www.goodfoodgourmet.com

2 medium russet or Idaho potatoes (boiled in skin, then riced)

1 Tablespoon butter

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3” or 4” round cookie cutter

Flour for dusting (with pinch s&p)

Flat bottom jar, same size as cutter

Canola oil for frying (at least 2” in pan) 

Crispy Batter

2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

About 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup beer or club soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Boil the potatoes in the skin and when they are cool, peel them, cut them into pieces and put them through a potato ricer. Melt the butter and add that into the potato mixture along with the salt and pepper. Line a half sheet pan with a piece of parchment. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of potato into the round mold and spread out the mixture, then take a flat bottom glass or jar (in my case it was an old lid that I use to press down cookie pie crusts) and press the potato until it is completely flat. Whatever you use, make sure that it fits perfectly into the size cutter that you have chosen, like this…

Once you have spooned in the potato, press it down firmly but gently (so that it does not squeeze out through the bottom), then lift up and you should have a perfectly round potato cake, like this…

Repeat until you have used up all of the potato, then cover and freeze at least overnight. Thanks to the cookie cutter/mold, they are all perfect in shape, like this…

The next day, make the batter by putting the flour, salt and pepper into a small bowl and add enough liquid to make a thick paste, like this…

Use a whisk to mix ingredients so that you don’t have lumps. Make sure your oil is hot before you remove the potato cakes from the freezer. Then take one of the frozen potato cakes and dredge it in some flour, then dip it into the batter and then put it right into the hot oil.  If they do not all fit into the fry pan, keep them in the freezer until ready to use. I could only fit 3 at a time, because you have to give yourself room to flip them…

When you remove them from the oil, make sure to salt/pepper them while they are still hot. They held together beautifully, so I am sure that the companies that make potato cakes have some method for molding them and freezing them, and then dipping them into a batter that is also “freezer friendly”, so that when shop owners need to cook them, they just throw the frozen potato cakes (already battered) into the hot oil  at the moment they are ordered. The final result looked like this inside…beautiful and fluffy, but not authentic…yet!

www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar amber October 21, 2010 at 12:05 p

Hi, the reason you don’t get the texture right is because you shouldn’t mash the potatoes…it should be a whole slice of a potato long ways then dipped in batter. Try it you will LOVE it. I used to live in Melbourne and now live in WA and here they make the potato cakes the way you described…they are NOT The same and don’t even compare. I put my slices in the microwave uncovered for abour a couple of minutes. I use royal blue potatoes but in WA no potato is really nice. Anyway…dip them in the batter of your choice. I use self raising flour and water only. and deep fry…YUM.

I don’t know why though when you get them at the fish and chip shop they are a little different…could be the oil or the professional friers etc. The once you make are definitely the UK version. The aussie version is just a slice of potato. I BIG one sliced long ways. Good luck…I love the dim sims too. I buy those frozen ready made and just fry…my mouth is watering just thinking about it. :) )

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet October 23, 2010 at 2:51 p

Hi there Amber, thanks for visiting my blog! Yes, I thought that too when I first started trying to make them, but there is no way that you will be able to find a perfectly round potato that is about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. My basic idea is that they are slicing the potatoes very thin and just steaming them gently, and then pressing them into a mold. Once they are frozen in the round shape, they are then battered and fried…My last attempt was better than my first attempt. I do plan to make this one more time, and I think I have almost cracked the code! Hope to see you back here again!

avatar spookylean November 14, 2010 at 6:18 p

Hi Caterina, as another Melbournian living in the USA I frequently find myself fantasising about potato cakes, dim sims and souvlaki. If you ever master the art I, for one, will be very appreciative.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet November 16, 2010 at 12:15 p

Hi there! great to hear from you! Definitely check back as I will be adding many great Aussie recipes that are hard to find…and yes, perfecting that delicious potato cake!

avatar Tony December 11, 2010 at 11:23 p

In Sydney the potato scallops were never perfectly round. I think they just sliced very large potatoes. I found getting the batter the same as the takeaway shop the difficult part.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet December 13, 2010 at 12:49 p

Hi there and thanks for writing! The potato cakes I remember were huge, not small ones…and when you broke them in half, there were layers of potato inside. That is the authentic effect that I am after. I have had people write to me and tell me that they think that it’s probably a very large potato, but I remember them being about 5″ in diameter…so that would be a really big potato!

avatar Lisa September 30, 2011 at 5:09 p

I am so making theae! Am in USA and craving a potato cake!

avatar Carla October 24, 2011 at 4:21 p

check out this video.. its a mildura fish and chip shop owner
http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2011/06/24/3252730.htm

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet October 27, 2011 at 6:51 p

Thanks so much…I watched it! The potato cakes I remember growing up in Melbourne were not from large potatoes…they were perfectly round in shape and HUGE which could not have been a potato but actually manufactured from thinly sliced potatoes…I’m going to try making them a few more times and won’t give up until I figure it out…lol

avatar PB January 2, 2012 at 10:01 p

I’m in Sthn California – I’ve tried potato scallops and had success.
I peel the spuds and slice them, settle in water for a while then drain, lightly flour then I cook them in hot oil for 4 minutes each side to partly cook them. Then I take them out and cool them, and then dip in beer batter and cook them up. This way the better is crisp and perfect and the potato cooked. I’ve found in fish ‘n chip shops in Oz that they are undercooked.
I saw the post about refrigerating the sliced potatoes etc – don’t do that. The cooking kills bacteria. The shops in Oz cook them and let them cool – when you order they put them back in hot oil for about one minute each side, salt and serve – this way they are cooked, crisp and delicious.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet January 3, 2012 at 8:33 p

Hi PB! Growing up in Australia, the potato cakes as we used to call them were huge rounds, about 5″ wide…so it could not have been one potato…and when you cut into it, it was layers of potato that had been pressed together. It seems as though nowadays they are just using a large potato and dipping it in batter…I am trying to replicate the ones I remember as a kid and I think I am almost there…stay tuned!

avatar Christine February 23, 2012 at 5:14 p

I can’t wait to try out some of the methods you described. Used to live in Melbourne too. I tried making it once and failed miserably, but your blog has motivated me to try again! thanks for sharing.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet March 3, 2012 at 11:28 p

Hi Christine! Thanks for stopping by and so glad you found some recipes that bring back those wonderful memories of ‘home’…I will be sharing many more! xo

avatar Jenny C February 27, 2013 at 12:24 p

Ok so I have to tell you the way these are made us a lot less time consuming. You peel raw potatoes and slice them to whatever thickness you want you then dip them in batter and deep fry for about 4 minutes drain them and then deep fry again for about 2 minutes drain and eat. That’s how the cages also round Australia do it. Cheers Jenny x

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet March 7, 2013 at 8:19 p

Jenny, when I was a kid growing up in Aus that’s not how they made them…but I understand that this is how they are making them now…

avatar Lynn March 13, 2013 at 4:47 p

Anyone have a recipe for the pastry used in the large yellow aussie dim sims?

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet March 18, 2013 at 10:27 p

Hi Lynn! I’ve done a good bit of online research about it and have yet to take my notes to the kitchen…but when I figure it out I will definitely share it because I love the dough too and for those who know what we are talking about know that it is very distinctive!

avatar Denise April 7, 2013 at 2:00 p

I live in the UK now and I wish they sold the Aussie types of potato cakes (Melbourne ones) and dim sims (especially these) I crave them! Lol

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet April 7, 2013 at 2:43 p

Denise I’ve lived in the USA for many years, and I still crave them!

avatar Melissa June 12, 2013 at 8:10 p

I’m living in the UK and they are now selling really small versions of ‘Melbourne-style’ potato cakes in the fresh food section of Sainsburys. They’re called something different and they’re only about 1.5 – 2″ in diameter, but its the closest I’ve been able to find so far.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet June 18, 2013 at 6:53 p

Melissa, I get homesick for the ones I grew up eating, and they no longer make them this way in Australia…so I have to make them at home!

avatar Mark July 7, 2013 at 10:41 p

Caterina
I lived in Melbourne from 1964 to 2004, Potato Cakes are my preferred fish & chip shop food, with flake, when l first bought a potato cake they were was 2 cents, now they are $1.
Fish Chip Shops when l was kid never had perfectly round potato cakes, they were large round or irregular shaped, as they were made at the shop by the owner from large potatoes they sliced and battered and twice fried, once to form the batter before storing in fridge and then frying when they sold them to you. The perfectly round ones you describe are made in factory and sold to the fish & chip shops and convenience stores, they aren’t as good as the ones made by the owners, when l was kid.
Perth where l now live couldn’t make a potato cake to save themselves, so l make my own and store them in the freezer in batches of 6 for cooking later when needed. Recipe is simply slice potatoes raw into 1/8th thick rounds and soak in cold water for hour, then dip into plain flour and water batter or if you prefer something more yellow half water half milk batter and fry once on medium heat then cool down and store in freezer and then fry on high heat when eating them.

enjoy

Mark

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet July 8, 2013 at 10:07 p

Hi Mark! Thanks so much for your info. I lived in Moonee Ponds and Tina Arena and her sisters were my neighbors…we all grew up together. There was a chip shop there in Moonee Ponds where the potato cakes were unlike anything that people write in about. They were large round-ish disc shaped hunks of layered potato that when folded into the paper with the rest of the items, was hard to pull out, except in pieces. When you broke it apart, it appeared ‘layered’, which is why I got the idea that the potatoes may have been par-cooked and then pressed together into the large disc shapes. These were then dipped in batter and fried. I can’t tell you how much I miss these things along with my dim sims! If they made them here they would make a killing!

PS…this chip shop also made handmade donuts that were filled with strawberry jam…the lines out the door were insane…

avatar Judy B July 19, 2013 at 8:25 p

Potato scallops are bit mashed potato they are just slices of potato (not to thick, dipped in batter, I like beer batter and deep fried. I used to run a road house and was a shearers cook and that is how I was taught to make them and I never had any complaints

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet July 23, 2013 at 7:26 p

Hi Judy B, thanks for your comment…there are simply so many ways to make them…

avatar Tim McGrath October 30, 2013 at 6:34 p

If you want to see how to make the genuine Aussie potato cake, watch this video. I am 67 and have eaten potato cakes from cafes & take-aways all over SE Aus. This is the only way I have seen them made. The type you describe I have seen in frozen food sections of supermarkets. Horrible junk. Because you are young, and grew up in the city, you probably have never seen the huge potatoes that are used for making potato cakes. However, you must have seen the extraordinarily long potato chips sold in some fast food outlets. Think about it! Enjoy the video. http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2011/…/3252730.htm‎

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet November 7, 2013 at 7:56 p

Thank you Tim! Sadly the video link no longer works…I will try it again from time to time…

avatar Gus November 20, 2013 at 4:02 p

Caterina,

It’s not the size of the potatoes necessarily (though that might help) but the angle in which you slice it. I lived in Melbourne, Sydney and in Adelaide I did a lot of cooking in a community kitchen and never saw potatoes of the average size of potato cakes found on those three cities, if that makes sense. There’s a video from this fish and chips shop up in Mildura. Interesting to see how he goes about slicing his potatoes. Might help you ‘crack the code’ at least in the size department. I have not yet tried his recipe so I don’t know if it’ll have that smoothness that makes Aussie potato cakes so addictive.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet November 21, 2013 at 8:07 p

Hi Gus! Actually, I still believe that the potato cakes I remember as a kid were large, pre-fabricated patties made from gently steamed potatoes that were pressed together into a large round shape. The recipe that I made came very close to what I remember. They were definitely NOT slices of large potatoes…at least not made that way from our local fish and chip shop in Moonee Ponds…

avatar Christine December 22, 2013 at 10:41 p

I tried putting 3 thinly sliced potatoes together and arrange the layers such that it forms a large round then dip it in batter made of self-raising flour, water. It turned out exactly the same as what I had back in Melbourne!
The result is a large round with thinner edge and a thicker center. The texture is exactly as I remember, slightly firm when biting the centre.

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet December 22, 2013 at 5:30 p

Yes, that sounds like what I remember…as you cut into the potato cake there seemed to be layers of potatoes…which is why I went for the steamed and pressed patties because they were all uniform in size…

avatar Djuana November 26, 2014 at 3:05 p

Hi Catherine,
back around 1966, my mum used to work in a fish & chip shop on Ross st Port Melbourne. She hand made battered mashed potato cakes almost the same as yours, but they patted it out, kind of like a scone mix, then cut them out.
We are going to give your recipe a go :)

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet December 4, 2014 at 8:50 p

Hi Djuana that’s good to know! My local chip shop was a place on Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds close to the train station. We would stop there often because he also made fresh donuts filled with raspberry jam. I still remember the long lines outside of his shop. The potato cakes he made were sliced, steamed and then pressed out into large flying saucer sized potato cakes, then battered and fried. I clearly remember this because you could see the many potato layers when you broke the potato cake apart. it’s such a shame they don’t make them like this anymore!

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