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Tunisian Croquettes for Passover and All Year Long: Banatage

The outside is rich, crispy, and nurturing, and the inside full of surprises.

Banatage are deep-fried, breaded, stuffed, croquette-esque potato balls that epitomize North African comfort food. While they are usually filled with meat, my version calls for a spiced mushroom mixture. You can also omit the mushroom mixture and experiment with the usual vegetarian substitution of chopped hard-boiled eggs!

Growing up visiting family in Israel each summer, I remember talking about my grandma Gizelle’s Banatage on the plane ride over, wondering if she would make them, secretly knowing very well that she would. She always made them, even though they are traditionally prepared on Passover, because she wanted to treat us and celebrate the special occasion of our visit. Even if it meant standing over the stove for hours, in the 100-degree heat of July in Ramle, with no air-conditioning, deep frying. Enjoy the involved process of making banatage knowing the final product represents the specialness of an occasion. The outside is rich, crispy, and nurturing, and the inside full of surprises.

Yields about 18 banatage

Ingredients:

Outside

5 potatoes

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon consomme

1 teaspoon turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste

Inside

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

1tsp vinegar

1 tsp sugar

16 oz mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tsp paprika

1 tablespoon consomme

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Frying

Matzo meal*

3 eggs

Vegetable oil

Procedure

Preparing ingredients

  1. Bring salted water to a boil
  2. Boil 5 potatoes with skin on for 30-40 min. Potatoes should be very soft
  3. Remove from water. While potatoes are still warm, remove the skin. Add oil, consume, turmeric, salt, and pepper to potatoes. Smash into a smooth, uniform mixture
  4. Place in the fridge and allow to cool completely. Potato mixture will be easier to manage cold
  5. While potatoes are boiling, prepare the mushroom mixture
  6. Saute onions in oil adding sugar and vinegar before they have become translucent
  7. Add chopped mushrooms, paprika, consume, and salt
  8. Cook mushrooms on a medium-high flame, stirring semi-regularly. The mushrooms will release liquid as they cook. Continue cooking mushrooms until the liquid has evaporated completely
  9. When the liquid is about 50% evaporated, add chopped parsley
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste
  11. Place mushroom mixture in the fridge and allow to completely cool

Assembly and Frying

  1. On a medium flame, heat vegetable oil in a pot or deep pan
  2. To prepare for frying, beat eggs in one small boil, and fill a second bowl with matzo meal. Remove potato and mushroom mixtures from the fridge and position them near the eggs and matzo meal
  3. Scoop about a golf-sized ball of potato mixture into the palm of your hand. Flatten the ball, and scoop some mushroom mixture into the middle. Start creating the banatage by gently closing the palm of your hand, wrapping potato mixture around mushrooms, and carefully forming it into a cylinder-like sphere (see photo for shape). Ensure that the mushroom mixture is totally concealed. Because the potato mixture can be sticky and difficult to manage, I suggest lightly coating hands with vegetable oil to prevent sticking
  4. One at a time, submerged banatage first in egg and then in matzo meal, ensuring uniform and consistent coverage
  5. Place the banatage in oil and fry for 3-4 min on each side, or until the banatage becomes golden brown and crispy. Avoid frying more than 3-4 banatage at a time because overcrowding will impact the fry
  6. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to cool, sprinkling with additional salt immediately
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature

*Banatage can be cooked all year long. If it’s not Passover, I suggested coating with all-purpose flour instead of matzo meal

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