With their crispy golden outsides and tasty use of simple ingredients, potato cakes are, in my view, warming yet frugal comfort food for our increasingly Autumn evenings. Well, most things including potatoes, onions and cheese have to be pretty good comfort food, surely.
These potato cakes are also particularly appealling to me as they make good use of ingredients I was guiltily reminded of while attempting to tidy and clear our garden at the weekend. Well, ‘tidy’ may be a tad optimistic, but I did make an effort to pull up lots of the Purple Orache that had long since seen better days and also remove some of its partner in crime when it comes to rampaging around the garden: the ubiquitous Calendula. While yanking up some of the gone to seed rampagers, I discovered a few neglected plants that were glad of the extra space. Including a pretty pink Achillea and some sunny yellow Rudbeckia that are robust but vying for room in which to flourish.
The walking onions are very good at fending for themselves, you can see one happily getting on with planting itself here.
I think the walking onions will spread more happily now that they’re not ambushed quite as much by wild rocket and calendula though and as I’m very grateful for their presence throughout much of the year (and pick them greedily), it seems only fair to allow them a little space.
Any regular readers may know I harp on about walking onions quite a lot. They’re one of those hardy perennial vegetables that is so handy to have in the garden though; pretty useful in the kitchen too. Most parts of this no-nonsense plant is edible – you can eat the green shoots as you would spring onions and also enjoy the little onions that form at the top (where most alliums would form flowers) as you would shallots. Leave a few though and eventually the weights of these onions will topple the onion over. Conveniently it replants itself again and again – literally walking around the garden.
Walking onions are also referred to as tree onions and are heirlooms, apparently dating back at least to the 1850s. There are some other great walking onion facts, including advice on growing them in this article by Mark Diacono.
Back to my potato cakes, though. I’ve cut down the foliage from our remaining potatoes but still have lots that I must get round to digging and using, while my parsley hedge is still thriving. This is a great recipe for both.
Possibly a more English (similar to the Northumbrian Pan haggerty) potato cake than the Ottolenghi inspired latkes I also love making, you can add bacon (I’ve added our air-dried ham too) or slow-cooked onions for added richness too, If you don’t have walking onions, slow-cooked regular onions or a handful of chives would be great.
Walking Onion Potato Cakes
700g potatoes, peeled
A handful of walking onions, chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
150g cheddar cheese, grated
Olive oil & a knob of butter
Preheat the oven to 180C (if you’re not using the oven for anything else, you can always cook these for longer in a pan on the hob though).
Put the peeled potatoes into a pan of lightly salted water and bring to the boil, then cook for 8 minutes or so – they should still be firm and a little undercooked. Drain and grate coarsely into a bowl when cool enough to handle.
Add the walking onions, parsley and cheese to the grated potato and season with salt and pepper. Form into flat little cakes, and heat the butter and a little olive oil in a frying pan that will also go in the oven. Brown the cakes gently until a pale golden colour on both sides, then transfer to the oven for about 10 minutes, until crisp on the outside and cooked in the oven. I love these with a poached egg, but this time we enjoyed them with a root veg salad (lots of kohl rabi, beetroot and carrots from the garden chopped into matchsticks and mixed with parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper).
As walking onions are used as herbs as well as a vegetable and this uses generous amounts of parsley, would love to include my walking onion potato cakes in Karen from Lavender and Lovage’s September Cooking with Herbs challenge.
If anyone grows walking onions, or is planning to, I also love using them in garden fattoush, wild garlic egg-fried rice, wild greens pie and even in vietnamese pork stock. Thinking about the different seasons I cooked these dishes in reminds me once again just how useful and versatile those roving alliums are throughout the year!