Baking Hermann
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Pane e Cazzilli

Ask locals about traditional Palermo street food and Cazzilli will be high on the list. Also called Crocchè di Patate (potato croquettes), they are made from mashed potatoes, flavoured with pepper and mint and finally fried until golden and crispy.

Ask locals about traditional Palermo street food and Cazzilli will be high on the list. Also called Crocchè di Patate (potato croquettes), they are made from mashed potatoes, flavoured with pepper and mint and finally fried until golden and crispy. During my Vegan Cultures series, I visited Antica Focacceria San Francesco and learned how they make this traditional street food. Cazzilli can be a bit tricky to make at home, so there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Old Potatoes

Most recipes will ask for ‘old’, starchy potatoes. That’s because as potatoes age at room temperature, they continue to convert their sugars into starches (while when stored in the fridge, they convert their starches into sugars). The higher the starches, the more likely that the cazzilli will hold their shape in the oil.

If you don’t have old potatoes on hand, you can always add some additional potato starch or even flour to the mix to help it bind together.

Mashing

You’ll need to mash the potatoes well to avoid any clumps in the dough. The best tool is a potato ricer, but if you don’t have one you can also use a fork. A sieve won’t work well with old, starchy potatoes, because they turn gluey and block the sieve instead of passing through.

After mashing the potatoes and adding the other ingredients, mix it long enough until the dough just begins to turn gluey. It’s a sign that the starches are working.

Frying

Try to keep the temperature at 170°C.

I find that it helps to coat the Cazzilli with a bit of oil before dropping them into the pan. Make sure not to add too many at once. Since the potatoes will have absorbed water during the cooking process, the moisture will begin to evaporate as they are heated. Adding too many Cazzilli to the pan will cause the temperature of the oil to plummet. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the Cazzilli won’t form a crust to keep the water inside, which causes them to break open. In case they still burst in the hot oil, simply roll them in a little bit of flour before frying.

Once they succeed, you are in for a treat because these croquettes are packed with the flavour of golden-fried potatoes with an uplifting freshness from the mint.

Another traditional Palermo street food is Panelle which is often even served alongside cazzilli in a bun for a Pane, Panelle e Cazzilli.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 750g old starchy potatoes (I used Maris Piper)

  • 30g mint

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/3 tsp black pepper

  • flakey salt for serving

  • 1 lemon for serving

Method

Add the potatoes to a saucepan, cover them with cold water and season generously with salt. Bring it to a boil and cook the potatoes for 20-30 minutes or until knife tender. Drain them and leave them to cool until cold enough to handle, then peel them and set aside. You can roast the peels with a little olive oil and salt until crispy to avoid waste.

Pick the mint leaves and finely chop them. Use a potato ricer or a fork to mash the potatoes in a large mixing bowl followed by the salt, a large pinch of black pepper and the mint. Then use your hands to work the mixture into a smooth dough until it begins to feel gluey, a sign that the starches are working.

With wet hands, shape the dough into around 20 oval croquettes (around 30g each) and spread them out on a greased baking tray. Refrigerate them for 1 hour to firm up.

Heat the oil to 170°C. Then fry 4-5 cazzilli at a time for around 4 minutes until they are golden brown. If they burst in the hot oil and spread apart, you can salvage the next ones by simply rolling them in a little bit of flour before frying. Place a few paper towels on a cooling rack. Once the cazzilli are cooked, let them drain off any excess oil on the paper towels. 

Pack 3-4 cazzilli into a bun and top with flakey salt and a drizzle of lemon juice.

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Pane e Cazzilli

Ask locals about traditional Palermo street food and Cazzilli will be high on the list. Also called Crocchè di Patate (potato croquettes), they are made from mashed potatoes, flavoured with pepper and mint and finally fried until golden and crispy.
Active Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
+ Refrigerating 1 hour
Course Snacks
Cuisine Sicilian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 750 g old starchy potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
  • 30 g mint
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp black pepper
  • flakey salt for serving
  • 1 lemon for serving

Instructions
 

  • Add the potatoes to a sauce pan, cover them with cold water and season generously with salt. Bring it to a boil and cook the potatoes for 20-30 minutes or until knife tender. Drain them and leave them to cool until cold enough to handle, then peel them and set aside. You can roast the peels with a little olive oil and salt until crispy to avoid waste.
  • Pick the mint leaves and finely chop them. Use a potato ricer or a fork to mash the potatoes in a large mixing bowl followed by the salt, a large pinch of black pepper and the mint. Then use your hands to work the mixture into a smooth dough until it begins to feel gluey, a sign that the starches are working.
  • With wet hands, shape the dough into around 20 oval croquettes (around 30g each) and spread them out on a greased baking tray. Refrigerate them for 1 hour to firm up.
  • Heat the oil to 170°C. Then fry 4-5 cazzilli at a time for around 4 minutes until they are golden brown. If they burst in the hot oil and spread apart, you can salvage the next ones by simply rolling them in a little bit of flour before frying. Place a few paper towels on a cooling rack. Once the cazzilli are cooked, let them drain off any excess oil on the paper towels.
  • Pack 3-4 cazzilli into a bun and top with flakey salt and a drizzle of lemon juice.

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