The first Libyan dish I ever learned how to make was embatten, Libyan stuffed potatoes.
Though not necessarily a technical dish, it is a dish that takes attention to detail and time. Visiting some friends of ours who also moved to the US from Tripoli, Libya, I enlisted my friend, Nabiha to teach me the ropes. It’s funny how I’m always coming into cultural stereotypes that I have of the Arab world through my marriage. In this instance I made the incorrect assumption my friend, Nabiha, had known how to make it since a child.
“Nope! I was too busy studying to become a doctor!” she said. “Two weeks before my marriage, I went to my grandmother’s home and had a crash course in Libyan cooking.”
I love this story because it really shows the spectrum of roles that women play in Libyan society; a theme I have come against again and again. Women are mothers and caregivers, but also workers, thinkers, and in almost every aspect of society you can think of. The West has a lot to learn about this part of the world. . .
Onto cooking! . . .
Step #1: Mix the meat and spices
First thing is first, mix up your raw meat, raw onions, and chopped parsley.
Step 2: Add more spices to make things pretty
Step #3: Fry up the meat mixture
You want to fry up this beautiful mixture in olive oil on medium heat, after heating up the pan. I have known others to leave the meat raw when stuffing the potatoes, and I think this is a fine method as long as you are sure the meat is cooked through.
Step #4: Prep the potatoes
Personally, I find this the most challenging part of the recipe. You need to peel the potatoes, then cut them in slices that are about a half-inch thick. Then each potato wedge needs to be sliced like a little sandwich that is still one piece (this sounds difficult, but you can see it in the picture above).
Step #5: Bread the potato wedges
Next you want to take these cute little embatten and bread them in the mixture of egg, then breadcrumbs or seasoned flour.
Step #6: Fry up those little guys!
I rarely fry food, so this is quite the adventure for me. There are recipes that make embatten baked, but the traditional way is to fry them. The frying takes a long time, so be patient. Generally, they need to be golden brown, and flipped once. You can also use these two quick-tips to speed up the process: 1) boil the potatoes first to quicken the frying period or 2) partially fry, then add to the oven at about 350 F degrees to finish cooking them.
Step #7: Enjoy!
*Please note, spices mixtures may vary. I have found a variety of different recipes/gotten different suggestions from family and friends.
- 4-6 large russet potatoes, peeled
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 3 eggs
- vegetable oil for frying
- olive oil
- 1 lb ground lamb or beef
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3/4 tsp ginger
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3/4 tsp chili pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
- 3/4 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 cup parsley, minced
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp bread crumbs
- Mix ground lamb or beef with raw onion, spices, and parsley. Fry up on medium heat with olive oil, and let cool.
2. While the mixture is cooling, cut the peeled potatoes into about half-inch thick slices. Delicately cut the slices down the middle so that they create a little sandwich. Do not cut all the way through!
3. Once cooled, mix the meat with the raw eggs and bread crumbs. Pack the meat mixture into the cavity of the potato.
4. Begin heating your oil (vegetable oil works best) on medium for the embatten to fry in. You want the oil to be voluminous enough to cover the potatoes when they are placed in the oil.
5. Dip the potato sandwiches into the raw eggs, then dip into the breadcrumbs.
6. Once the oil is heated, carefully place the stuffed potatoes in the oil. Fry them until they are golden brown and can easily be pierced with a knife.