Some grandmothers will call them banatages, others banataches! Welcome to Tunisia for one of the most traditional recipes, which is also a very popular dish in Tunisian Jewish cuisine.
The Republic of Tunisia (in Arabic: Al-Jumhuriya at-Tunusiya), with Tunis as its capital, is located in North Africa. Tunisia borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya to the east and Algeria to the west.
The current Tunisian people is the descendant of the Berber peoples and of peoples of many civilizations who have invaded, migrated and mixed for millennia in this region.
In the different regions of the country, three types of holidays are celebrated: official holidays, religious holidays and cultural and popular festivals.
The cuisine of North Africa is very rich and varied, like the cuisine of many countries in the Arab world. Every region and every country expresses its traditions and its history in the kitchen.
Tunisian cuisine is a blend of European and Middle-Eastern cuisines and culinary traditions of the desert peoples. The presence of strong spices comes from all the neighboring countries facing the Mediterranean and the many civilizations that dominated the Tunisian territory.
Tunisia people also say that a man can judge the love of his wife by the amount of strong spices she uses in the preparation of her dishes. If the food becomes bland, then the husband may suspect his wife not to love him anymore.
Harissa, a paste made from chili peppers, garlic and cumin, that spices up most Tunisian dishes, almost sits on the bedside table of any real Tunisian!
What are banatages?
So back to our banatages, or banataches to not offend any Tunisian mamma.
These are delicious potato croquettes that enclose ground meat in their center. They are traditionally fried after being rolled in flour and coated with egg but they can also be baked. They can also be stuffed with chicken, tuna or other fish or seafood.
Potatoes have great versatility in the kitchen. They are probably the most used ingredient in the world. In addition to classic French fries to serve as an accompaniment or as an appetizer, you can serve tasty potato croquettes: they are simple and quick to prepare.
There are many varieties of croquettes around the world, and just about every culture has developed its own recipe.
The history of croquette
The croquette was born in France and it is in 1898 that Mr. Auguste Escoffier, and Mr. Phileas Gilbert, two famous French chefs, began to create the recipe.
Over time, the chefs who were under the direction of Mr. Escoffier began to travel the world and brought with them the current recipe for croquette. With the input of different cultures, the original recipe has taken several directions, with different applications and different ingredients. The original beef croquette inspired fish or chicken nuggets, vegetarian croquettes and many other versions of croquettes.
It is said that the croquette was born in France in 1898 but the no less illustrious French cook, Antonin Cáreme, would have served something that looks like croquettes, at a banquet that took place in 1817 and that he was asked to prepare especially for the English Regent Prince and Grand Duke Nicolai of Russia.
It is possible that King Louis XIV of France was one of the first fans of the Dutch kroket. Many Dutch people consider kroket as a typical Dutch dish, but according to Johannes Van Dam, who was a well-known food expert in the Netherlands and the Chef of King Louis XIV, the kroket would also be French. Van Dam would have found a French recipe of croquettes dating from 1691, while the first Dutch recipe was born in 1830. Moreover, the name kroket was taken from the French “croquer”.
As Tunisia was under French protectorate for many years, it is therefore not impossible that today’s banatages may have French origins.
Meat croquettes around the world
The banatages have many cousins around the world. Here are just a few examples:
– Moroccan pastels,
– Japanese korokke (コロッケ)
– Carimanolas de carne, from Colombia, which have the particularity of being prepared with cassava instead of the classic potato,
– Papa rellena from Peru,
– Crocche from Italy,
– Croquetas from Spain.
Banatages are certainly those that are most consumed during the Passover Jewish holiday. Since bread is forbidden during this period, matzah flour (unleavened bread) will replace standard wheat flour to cover it before frying.
Enjoy them hot, lukewarm or cold and my only recommendation: make a lot of them! Because when you start eating them, you just can’t stop!
- 2 lb potatoes
- ½ lb ground beef
- 1 onion , grated
- 5 sprigs flat parsley , finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 hard boiled eggs , diced
- 1 egg , slightly beaten
- Juice of a lemon
- 2 cups flour
- 2 eggs , seasoned with salt, beaten
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- In a Dutch oven or a large pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for 1 minute.
- Add the ground meat and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook covered over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Once the meat is cooked, add the parsley and hard-boiled eggs. Mix and set aside.
- Cook the potatoes with their skin in a large volume of boiling water.
- Once cooked, peel the potatoes and puree them with a potato masher.
- Add the lemon juice and the lightly beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well until slightly firmed.
- Take a small amount of puree. Form a ball and flatten it into a disc.
- Place 1 teaspoon of ground meat in the center of the potato and close to form a cylinder or torpedo.
- Prepare 2 plates, one with the flour, the other with the eggs
- Heat a large bath of oil in a pot over high heat.
- Gently roll each banatage, first in the flour, delicately removing the excess flour.
- Then, roll them in the eggs and fry them for a couple minutes, or until golden.
- Serve hot, or warm with a lemon wedge.