Potato Cakes Stuffed with Lamb and Pine Nuts

From Matthew Altizer

2013 Nov/Dec

These are loosely based on the street food of Lebanon. The crispy potato exterior keeps the rich, spicy lamb filling moist and flavourful. It’s very important to make sure that the potato cakes are brown and crisp before you flip them, otherwise they may fall apart.



  • 1-1/2 lbs. waxy potatoes
  • 1 T. flour, plus extra for dusting
  • sea salt


  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 t. allspice
  • 2 cardamom pods, black seeds only, ground to a powder
  • 1/2 lb. ground lamb
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 T. pine nuts, lightly fried in olive oil
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3 T. finely chopped Italian parsley
  • grapeseed oil for frying
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover them generously with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they’re just cooked through. If the skins start to peel off they will absorb too much water. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them sit for five minutes. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and put them through a potato ricer or mash them well. Stir in the flour, season with salt and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the filling. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a sauté pan; add the onion and sauté for 10-15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the allspice, cardamom and ground lamb. Cook the lamb for 8-10 minutes, letting it brown and stick to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and add the pine nuts, tomato paste, 2 T. of water and the parsley. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

To make the potato cakes, flour your hands and divide the dough into four equal portions. Keeping the work surface well dusted with flour, flatten one ball into a disc that is about 1/2-inch thick. Put 2 T. of the filling into the centre of the disc and bring up the edges to enclose the meat. Neaten the shape of the cake and patch up any gaps. Place on a well-floured surface and repeat with the other three balls of dough.

Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan generously with grapeseed oil, about 1/2-inch deep, and place over medium-high until the oil is hot and almost smoking. Gently lower the cakes one by one into the oil and let them cook until they are dark brown and crispy before carefully turning them over. When the cakes are finished, drain them on paper towels and serve with the Greek yogurt and lemon wedges.

Serves 4.