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)
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!