Kuku Sibzamini – Saffron Potato Fritters in the Persian Manner

Kuku Sibzamini

This recipe first appeared in BBC Good Food Magazine, India, March 2013, for a ‘Persian Delights’ feature I was commissioned for.

It has to be fried. And preferably spicy. And you have to wash it down with steaming cups of tea.

Just before the deluge of the monsoons, the sky in Lahore turns a steel grey and everyone in the house scurries about closing windows in every room and the doors leading to the garden. Our cook, Riaz, knows that the rains are a cue for getting out the chickpea flour to whip up some spicy vegetarian fritters, which we call pakoray. Riaz slices and dices whichever vegetable we have in the house – potatoes, onions, aubergine – and dunks them into the pakora batter. He spoons the batter with a tablespoon into the oil-filled wok and then the pakoras start to form and bob up and down in the oil. He transfers them to a platter and places them on the tea trolley alongside a green chili, fresh coriander and yoghurt chutney.

I don’t know where and when this tradition started in Lahore, but barsaat; the rainy season – becomes an excuse for indulging in carb-laden gluttony. As it rains, the whole family gathers in the veranda, near the fuchsia bougainvillea vine. The tea trolley rolls out and there is a cup poured for everyone – for my father, ‘bas, aadi chamchi chini’; half a teaspoon of sugar, for my mother, the cup has to be filled two-thirds of the way up, no more and no less. And for my Uncle, just a spot of milk; he likes his tea rather tannic.

With my favourite aubergine fritter resting on the saucer of my teacup, I like to stand near the edge of the veranda, where the rain bounces off the earth and wets my feet. I love the smell of the wet earth in Lahore, even now, when I go back, it reminds me of the summers I had off from school, gathered in my grandparents’ home, when my cousins and I picked raw mangoes from the tree in our garden and ate them sliced with with lime juice and red chili pepper behind our parents’ backs.

Kuku Sibzamini

The fritters in this recipe are Persian and made with potatoes. They are somewhat different than the spicy Pakistani fritters I grew up eating in Lahore; but nonetheless, they are a perfect treat to have after a monsoon deluge, surrounded by family and friends.

I love to enjoy these with a cup of black tea – sometimes with milk, sometimes without – and always a cardamom popped in for fragrance.

Kuku sibzamini is a popular dish in Gilan, a province in Iran near the Caspian Sea. ‘Kuku’ is an egg dish and sibzamini means ‘apple of the earth’ – which is the humble, versatile potato. Soft pieces of potatoes are held together with egg and eaten while hot and crispy. The addition of vermillion saffron raises this otherwise simple frittata-like dish to another level. Serve it alongside a creamy, thick yoghurt with lots of fresh herbs and coarse salt. You can also enjoy it sandwiched between noon-e-barberi and Irani panir with fresh herbs.

Serves 4-6
30 minutes active time

Ingredients:
*500g potatoes
*4 eggs
*1½ tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
*2 tsp baking powder
*1 tsp salt
*1 tsp black pepper
*½ tsp turmeric powder
*1 tsp saffron threads, crushed to a powder-form
*oil for shallow-frying

Preparation:
*Wash, scrub and quarter potatoes
*Bring a large pot of water to boil
*Cook potatoes in pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork
*When the potatoes are fork-tender, drain them, and when cool, remove the skin, (which will come off very easily)
*Mash potatoes with a masher till you see lumps (the potatoes should not be mashed till smooth). Set aside.
*In a separate bowl add eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, turmeric powder and saffron. Beat to combine.
*Add the egg mixture to potatoes and stir gently to combine. The mixture will be thick.
*Place a large non stick frying pan on medium high heat and add a few tablespoons of oil for shallow frying.
*Drop tablespoons of the mixture into the frying pan. Fry about 30 seconds on each side till golden.
*Serve hot with thick yoghurt and fresh herbs.

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Comments

  1. Wow… loved the post… there is no better feeling than having a bowl of the fried beauties along with a cup of hot kadak chai and a lot of banter… the Sibzamini looks yum…

  2. Mehrunnisa Yusuf says:

    shayma, what a wonderful post! i can conjure up barsaat especially the smell of the earth when it receives the rain. sometimes in london one gets a whiff of that smell and it makes me very nostalgic. in our house ‘barsaat ki shaam’ was always synonymous with listening to reshma over cups of chai and samosas from the bazaar plus pastries from united bakery.

    sending you much love, x

  3. Wow, what a delightful version of aloo pakoray. I think the similarities end at potato and fried! It could easily be a breakfast dish – an irani take on eggs and hash browns! yummmy!

  4. These look just so beautiful! I love anything when frittered and with yoghurt! It’s basically a dish made for me.

  5. What kind of potatoes can be used in this recipe? Thanks.

    • @Sue The Désirée potato works quite well, but since you are boiling the potatoes, you can actually use any variety you prefer.

  6. We have the same tradition but mine never comes out as crisp as my Maa’s. Never heard about coating them with egg. Have to try them for sure.

  7. barsaat, pakode and chai – an essential desi way of life. The only thing I couldn’t do this trip was get wet in baarish. Ammi said I would get sick and with an infant I wouldn’t take the risk.

    This saffron flavor ones sound different, but pretty glorious on its own.

  8. Thanks for the post,it looks Yum… and very well prepared.

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