I was attracted by the name. Kartoffelpuffer. I may not have known exactly what they were to begin with, but reports of people willing to queue for them were bound to get my attention.
It turns out that there was no great mystery to it. As far as I could discern, these German potato pancakes were simply a seasoned mixture of grated raw potato, grated onion and egg, fried in a generous amount of oil. A reaffirmation of the irresistible draw of fried potato goodness.
Reading recipes for kartoffelpuffer, they did, on paper at least, seem almost indistinguishable from Jewish latkes, those potato pancakes often slathered with apple sauce and sour cream and traditionally eaten during Hannukah.
The canon of potato recipes is, of course, littered with endless small variations on the potato pancake theme. As you move between countries and cultures, flour, egg and onion play different supporting roles and the potato itself may enter the fray raw, pre-cooked or, in the case of boxty, sometimes both.
And even though I made what could legitimately be called either kartoffelpuffer or latkes today, using what seems to be a fairly standard formula, I have no doubt that people who have been making these for years will tell me what they do differently. For that, people, I am all ears.
Kartoffelpuffer / Latkes
The one thing I figured out having made these, is that there is no real escape from the fact that you need to use a lot of oil, because they won’t fry in the same way without. A Jewish friend refers to his annual bout of latke-making somewhat affectionately as “grease fest” and now I know why.
These pancakes do not have to be greasy, however. Keep the potatoes dry enough and the oil hot enough and you should end up with a nicely crispy result. Most recipes call for the onion to be grated, though I imagine that very finely chopped onion would do the trick too. To check your seasoning, you can fry one small pancake first and taste to see if the rest of the mixture needs more salt or pepper.
- 450g potatoes, preferably a floury / starchy variety
- half a medium-sized onion (about 75g), grated coarsely or very finely chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 0.5 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- a few tblsp plain flour or matzoh meal
- plenty of vegetable oil for frying
You’ll also need:
- A grater (or food processor with grater attachment) for grating the potatoes and onions, a clean tea cloth for squeezing dry the potatoes and a large frying pan.
- Scrub the potatoes and peel or leave unpeeled as you prefer. Grate coarsely and wrap the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel or other clean cloth. Wring the tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Mix the grated potatoes with the grated onion, beaten egg, salt and a few twists of black pepper. If the mixture seems a little wet, add a spoon or two of flour or matzoh meal to absorb the excess.
- Place your frying pan over a high heat and add about a 0.5cm depth of oil. Allow it to heat for a few minutes. To check whether it is hot enough, drop in a small piece of the potato mixture. If it sizzles straight away, then you can start frying, though if the oil starts smoking at all, remove from the heat for a minute or two and lower the heat a little.
- Take a heaped tblsp of the potato mixture, drop into the oil and flatten out as much as you can using the back of a spoon. If you have more room in your pan, add another 2-3 pancakes, but don’t crowd the pan too much.
- Fry the pancakes for a couple of minutes on each side, until crispy and golden. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and either eat straight away (accompaniments of sour cream and apple sauce would be traditional) or keep warm in a low oven while you fry the rest. You may need to replenish the oil in your pan if the level starts running low after the first few batches.
- This a fairly traditional rendition of which the variations are legion. You could add garlic and/or herbs of your choosing or leave out the onion and make a pancake that’s as good served sweet as savoury.
- Makes around 15 pancakes bearing whatever name you prefer to use.
A local radio station did a great piece this weekend on different potato varieties to use for the best latkes. It was really interesting. If someone would make latkes for us, we’d be happy campers.
I’d love to make latkes for you guys! And I’d love to have heard that radio piece so that I could pick up more latke-lore.
You should do a post on every potato pancake there is!
I should, Aoife, shouldn’t I? Don’t know that I’d fit every kind of potato pancake into a single blog post, might have to be a series (or a book!)
Hello my friend! Your latkes or whatever it is called look truly tasty!
I love them a lot!
Hey Sophie, of course it’s not the name that matters, it’s all about the taste :)
Those look terrific! We are having loads of latkes this week, 5 star foodie junior’s all time favorite :)
5 star foodie junior clearly has excellent taste, Natasha, but we already knew that :)
I actually made my first ever potato latkes the other day and I thought of you, because they were remarkably similar to boxty. See? You’re creeping into my actual life now, you and your potato ways. Mine were finely minced though, which led to a beautifully fried consistency that I much preferred to the typical shredded latkes.
Did I mention that I ate them for two days straight, lunch AND dinner? Yeah. Obsessed. Even went through a whole jar of apple sauce…
Ah, Jackie, I see that my plan for world potato domination is progressing nicely. And now, of course, I shall have to make some latkes with minced potato bits – just for comparison you understand… :)
Here we are smack dab in the middle of Hanukkah and you bring me a much appreciated latke with with the unfamiliar name Kartoffelpuffer! I’ll consider that a gift. GREG (Coincidentally one of my captacha words below is gift!)
Greg, you deserve that and lots more. In return, I’m hoping that you can give me the gift of Sippity Sup making it to (at least) the top 3 in PFB – that would be the best present ever.
These sound yummy!! Must try them out for my kids- I say they would love them.
I was wondering how did you get the IFBA widget? I can’t seem to find it. Thanks a mill – Nessa.
Hi Nessa – hope you and the kids like them! As for the IFBA logo, I made it myself. I’ll email you details.
“Kartoffelpuffer”?! That is the best word I’ve heard in AGES. Sounds like an insult, like “Hey you big kartoffelpuffer, watch where you’re going!” etc.
They also look totally amazecakes. Nom!
I know – it’s a brilliant word, isn’t it! I shall have to remember it the next time I want to insult someone, lol
Did someone say ‘pancake’? [Looks around, blinking]
They may essentially be one and the same but kartoffelpuffer is so much more fun to say! (Say it 3 times really fast with some biscuits in your mouth…) I would happily enjoy this any time of year. 8-)
Hey TN (or should I say Pancake Lady? :) ) I knew this would appeal to you of all people!