Thursday, September 26, 2013

Potatoes with Garlic and Cilantro or Batata Harra: a crowd pleaser! بطاطا حرة

Batata Harra Or Spicy Potatoes
The weather has been gorgeous lately in the Bay area. I just love California weather! On beautiful days like this, I sit down in my backyard and catch up on my magazine reading: Food, Travel, Health, Decor and Fashion, but I have to admit that my favorite passe-temps is imagining the type of trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs that I want to grow in my huge imaginary backyard of my perfect imaginary midcentury modern house. I also think about layouts, Sunset magazine is surely to blame. My second favorite passe-temps would be creating menus for imaginary dinner parties...that may or may not take place. I love to close my eyes and envision the table filled with scrumptious plates, whether it is a buffet style or seated dinner.  The dish that often pops to mind is Batata Harra, a Cilantro and Garlic Potatoes   dish that literally translates into Spicy Potatoes.
Don't let the name fool you, this dish does not have to be spicy as in the case of my recipe. It is a wonderful vegetarian dish that is considered a staple in Lebanese Mezze (Mazza, Mezza..which ever pronunciation is applicable to you). It is very easy to make and very flavorful. I always make it as a side dish when I have people over for Middle Eastern food and the best thing is that you can make it ahead of time! How bad can that be (this is me channeling the Barefoot Contessa without the cocktail).

The traditional recipe of Batata Harra calls for frying the cubes of potatoes. I try my best to stay away from fried food. Actually I am not a big fan of it, except for fried eggplant, cauliflower and french fries. The rest, I can live without. Fried Chicken means nothing to me, fried fish totally overpowers the fish flavors. Fried oysters are not my thing, besides I have developed an allergy to oysters after my pregnancy. Around 20 years ago, my mom decided to let go of frying and instead she started using the microwave to cook the potatoes. It is pretty much like roasting them but it takes less time. You can always roast the potatoes in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes or until fully cooked and golden brown. 

My mom makes the best Batata Harra in the world. She loves spicy food, but not this girl...I dont like spicy food, I cant really tolerate it. I feel that it takes away from my enjoyment because I am so focused on getting rid of the heat that I miss out on the flavor. Since I moved to the US, my tolerance to spicy food has increased and I can enjoy some of them these days. It took my mother a while to admit to herself that one of her children does not appreciate spicy food, so she finally started making two dishes of Batata Harra, one with Harr (spicy) and one without Harr (this version). What is Batata Harra without Harr? A whole lot of deliciousness!


2 big heads of golden potatoes cubed into1/2 inches (I like to leave the skin on for extra fibre)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
7 cloves garlic
2 bunches cilantro
1 tablespoon dry ground coriander
Chili flakes or Cayenne to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half lemon


1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes or a bit bigger, it is really a matter of taste. I like mine on the smaller size. If you decide to keep the potato skin on, it is very important to make sure that the potatoes are thoroughly cleaned.
Cubed potatoes with skin on
2. Place the potatoes in a big microwave safe plate, drizzle about 2 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a smaller pinch of pepper. Microwave for 10 minutes. They should be cooked. If not, add few minutes.

3. Pound the garlic with a small pinch of salt into a paste. Chop the cilantro. Again, you can choose to go with finer or rough chops. This is a rustic dish.

4. In a pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and chopped cilantro and stir until the cilantro is wilted. Add 1 tablespoon of dry ground coriander and keep on stirring. Add chili flakes if using.
Garlic, fresh cilantro and dry coriander
Add the potatoes and stir and all blended. I like to crisp some edges of the potatoes to give this dish a crunch reminiscent of its fried version.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn the heat off. Add the lemon juice after 10 minutes, when the mixture is still warm but not too hot because it will make the lemon juice bitter. This dish is served room temperature or hot in the Middle East. I prefer it room temperature with some nice Middle Easter bread. It totally qualifies for a lunch or side dish at dinner.


  1. Thank you Nadine for posting this. I loved your version of it when we were over last time! I'm making it soon :)

    1. Hello, I just found your blog. This caught my eye because I "invented" something very similar to this. Yours looks less complicated and delicious, I'll have to give it a try.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! It is my mom's recipe. Batata harra is a crowd pleaser.