I adore street food. I love everything about it: the hustle and bustle of the street itself, the sizzling smells of the food cart, the cheery conversations with the street chef, and best of all, handing over a ridiculously small amount of money for an utterly satisfying snack.
Unlike touristy restaurants, street food offers simple, local food, which somehow captures a culture in its buzzing flavours. So when my friend Zita, of Zizi Adventures, mentioned that she was hosting a monthly mingle with the theme of street food, I just knew I had to get involved.
From New York City to Marrakesh, wherever I’ve travelled, I’ve eaten the street food, but it was during my journeys in South America that I fell in love with it. I was on a seriously shoestring budget, so sometimes street food was all I could afford. Pretty lucky then, that it’s so good. One of the more ubiquitous snacks on offer is papa rellena – stuffed potato. This little parcel of pure comfort and deliciousness could warm even the coldest of Bolivian nights.It is a little, round, crispy thing, but inside, it is fluffy, light potato and a filling of all kinds of wonderful things – olives, raisins, meat, spices.
What I didn’t think through before embarking on this culinary adventure was that while I like street food, and love papas rellenas, I don’t really have the first clue how to make it. I’m a much safer baker than street food chef, and halfway through cooking, I was cursing myself that I hadn’t tried something I’m more familiar with. But as I got messier, I giggled more – and isn’t that what street food is all about? It’s not polished haute cuisine, it’s imperfect, fun, messy. So if you don’t mind getting your hands covered in mashed potato and giggling your way through a cookery session, read on.
Since I am a vegetarian (and a dangerously experimental cook), I didn’t use entirely traditional ingredients for the filling, but tried to replicate the flavours as best I could – there’s something almost tagine-like to the filling, with the olives, fruit and warming spices, so that’s what I aimed for.
3 medium potatoes, suitable variety for mashing
1 small tin kidney beans, drained
2 tbsps cooked sweetcorn
Handful of raisins
a few black olives, quartered.
1/2 an onion
clove of garlic
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsps tomato passata
Put a large pan of water on to boil. Peel the potatoes, chop into cubes and put into the boiling water. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to simmer.
While the potatoes are boiling, heat a little oil in a frying pan and add chopped onion and a crushed clove of garlic. When the onion is beginning to soften, add the kidney beans, sweetcorn, raisins and passata. Reduce heat and stir well. Add a few cumin seeds, about a tsp of cinnamon and the same of ground ginger. When the tomato passata has reduced, turn the heat off and tip the mixture into a bowl. Mix well and add some of the beaten egg.
When the potatoes have softened, drain and mash with about a tbsp of milk and a dash of salt and pepper. Put everything in the fridge to cool for about half an hour.
In the meantime, cover a shallow dish with flour and preheat the oven to 200c.
*If you have a deeo fryer, you can use this instead of the oven. I don’t and am quite frankly a little terrified of deep frying things, so this is a non-traditional method!*
This is where it gets messy! When the ingredients are cool, grab a small handful of the potato. make a well in the centre of it and scoop a generous amount of the filling mixture into it. Cover with more potato and gently shape to make it round. Brush with some of the beaten egg, then cover in the flour by rolling it in the dish. Brush with oil (or put into a deep fryer at this stage). Repeat until you have run out of potato. Put into a foil-lined baking tray and put into the oven for about 45 mins or until getting a golden crisp on the outside.
Serve with your favourite sauce.
Home made street food – it’s a bit of an experiment, but I had so much fun doing it; I hope you do too.