Fact: In the culinary world, it is difficult to go wrong with a potato. That does not, however, preclude the possibility of making a truly outstanding potato recipe that is capable of putting all others to shame. If you, like me, are irrevocably convinced that the almighty spud should be a food group in its own right, consider this recipe for batata harra, or Lebanese spicy potatoes, a non-negotiable.
This delicious batata harra recipe comes to us from Yumna Jawad, the recipe developer and blogger behind Feel Good Foodie. “For a Mediterranean twist on roasted potatoes side dish, try this Lebanese spicy potatoes recipe, which is called batata harra in Arabic,” says Jawad. “That literally translates to spicy potatoes, as these potatoes pack in some heat from the crushed red pepper flakes. They are widely popular in the Middle East, and don’t require any special ingredients to make them!”
In addition to potatoes, Jawad’s dish leverage two ingredients—crushed red pepper and cilantro—that are both delicious and rich in health benefits. The crushed red pepper that gives the dish its name has been shown to reduce inflammation, which can help stave off chronic illness by combating free-radical damage in the body. “Chili peppers contain an ingredient called capsaicin, which has been researched for its effects on pain relief and inflammation. Studies are still ongoing, but the initial results look promising,” Jeffrey Gladd, MD previously told Well+Good. While further research is needed to confirm the health benefits of capsaicin, a 2019 study found that eating chilis was linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Other research has indicated that the compound might also aid in blood vessel function.
Similarly, studies have shown that cilantro and coriander (cilantro refers to the leaves and stem of the coriander plant, while coriander refers to the seeds) also have significant anti-inflammatory benefits thanks to their many antioxidants. The anti-inflammatory compounds have been linked to helping to prevent cancer, boost your immune system, and boost brain health.
You can try a number of cooking techniques when making your ideal batata harra dish. You can double fry your potatoes, which will ensure a super crisp texture, and is the traditional Lebanese preparation style. If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of oil, you could also boil then fry your batata harra. And finally, you can air fry or roast your potatoes at a high temperature. “Using a high oven temperature, you can roast the potatoes with only olive oil and salt. When they are golden and crispy, you can then toss them with the olive oil, garlic, and herbs mixture. This is the method I prefer for making my batata harra,” Jawad explains. Ultimately, you’re going for a super crispy texture that will stand up to a bath in a sauce made out of cilantro, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Jawad also recommends a squeeze of lemon for that pop of acidity.
While you’ll likely want to keep these on hand all the time, given their crispy nature, Jawad does not recommend making these ahead of time. They’re best fresh out of the oven—and given how easy they are to make and how many other dishes pair perfectly with batata harra, it’s a no-brainer. “[This dish] is perfect to serve as part of a mezze, alongside some hummus, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, and muhammara. It’s naturally vegan, gluten-free, and compliments many different main dishes,” says Jawad.
Below, we’ve outlined the recipe for the roasted version of batata harra, though keep in mind that you can certainly change your technique to suit your cooking style. Same goes for the amount of spice that you add: Should you prefer a spicier potato, by all means, add more red pepper. If you’re lucky enough to have any of these left over, store them in an airtight container and reheat by popping them back in the oven for five to seven minutes until they’re crispy.
Batata harra recipe: How to make Lebanese crispy roasted potatoes
8 medium gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes, divided
1 cup chopped cilantro, divided
Lemon wedges for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet in one layer, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on top, and season with salt. Roast until the potatoes reach a golden brown color and crisp, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper, and half the cilantro. Sauté until the garlic is golden in color, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.
4. Once the potatoes are roasted, transfer the garlic mixture on top of the potatoes and toss with the remaining cilantro and the red pepper flakes.
5. Serve hot or warm with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.
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