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The Inkan Empire's Gift of Potatoes: A Timeless Food and Recipe for These Times

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Photo: F.Divina; Makah Ozette Potatoes, Oregon Health and Science University Culinary and Medicinal Herb Gardens, 2018

Potato Cakes with Peanut Sauce

Recipes are adapted from Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, Smithsonian Publications and Ten Speed Press, Fernando and Marlene Divina, co-authors

This preparation was inspired and adapted for this contemporary form of potato cake from those made throughout the former Inkan Empire and from Ecuador to Peru. We’ve used this formula for all types of potatoes. Starchy flakey varietals are nice but these cakes are best when prepared with firm, waxy types that remain relatively dry after cooking. We recommend your regional heritage and Slow Food Ark list potatoes from our region like Makah Ozettes. Do avoid overcooking the potatoes and drain them straight away and thoroughly when cooked as prescribed.

Consider these cakes as a creative solution for leftover mashed potatoes although you'll want to give them a good chill down after making the cakes prior to cooking so they will better hold their shape. For our menu planning, they are terrific on their own, a component or accompaniment and good eating at any time of day for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Annatto Oil

The seed of annatto, called achiote throughout Latin America, is used extensively within the Western Hemisphere, indeed the planet, for its flavor in food preparation and for its gradient hues from yellow-orange to orange-red where it is widely used as colorant for dairy, meats, and ice cream with respect to foods and cosmetics while some of its component isolates form the basis for medicines and pharmaceuticals. Antioxidants and inhibitors in the seed, leaves and flowers of the annatto plant have uses ranging from a poultice to counter the effects of venom to inhibiting some forms of cancer and diabetes. Cultivated in the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Africa with the majority today from Peru, Brazil and Southeast Asia. That it has a largely neutral flavor lends to its broad application. Both mace and pepper are faintly present as a high, olfactory aftertaste. In addition to recipes from the respective regional kitchens of origins along the trade route of this great spice, its strong nutritive value and gorgeous range of hues earns an enduring place in our pantry. Do be careful to contain the flavored oil as it will stain light surfaces.

Yield about ½ cup

½ cup neutral oil, corn, avocado, canola

2 tablespoons annatto seed

Place the oil and seed in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Stirring often, heat for about 10 minutes. Away from the burner, allow the seeds to steep in the oil for at least 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Seeds may be reused for another purpose. Allow the oil to cool. Store refrigerated and tightly covered for up to two months.

Peanut Sauce

Peanuts, a relative newcomer to the Americas where potatoes originate, are among those New World crops brought through the impositions of Old World interlopers.

Makes 2 cups

1 large tomato, about ¾ cup

2 tablespoons annatto oil

1 small white onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter

1/2 cup vegetable stock or water

Pinch of sea or kosher salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground aji or cayenne pepper

To prepare the sauce

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, preheat a gas grill to high, or preheat the broiler. Place the tomato on the grill rack or in a broiler pan and cook, turning often, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the skin is slightly blackened and blistered. Peel the tomato and dice into ¼ inch chunks.

Heat the annatto oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until transparent. Add the tomato and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter, stock, salt, pepper, and aji and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is somewhat thick but pourable. The sauce may be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and reheated, if desired.

Potato Cakes

Makes 6 cakes

4 - 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered, about 1 ½ pounds. (or unpeeled if you like the skin of waxy varieties or new crop potatoes)

3 ramps white part only, thinly sliced, about 1 cup (or substitute green onions using white part and greens),

Coarse salt, start with a scant ½ teaspoon and season to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1 egg white

Potato flour or starch, wheat flour or cornstarch for dredging


annatto oil, for cooking

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes. Reserve 1 potato. Mash the remaining potatoes or pass through a food mill. Allow to cool completely.

Coarsely grate the reserved potato, cover, and set aside. Place the mashed potatoes in a bowl and add the ramps, salt, and pepper. Lightly whisk the egg white in a separate bowl. Add the egg white to the potatoes, and mix to incorporate evenly.

To form the cakes, separate the potato mixture into 6 parts. Shape each portion into a cake about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the grated potato onto a work surface and place 1 of the formed cakes on the grated potato. Depress the cake firmly into the grated potato to coat the cake. Turn over and repeat with the other side of the cake. Repeat the process for the remaining cakes.

Sprinkle the cakes lightly with the flour. On medium setting, heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the annatto oil. Add the cakes and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, until nicely browned with a firm and developed crust. After turning the cakes, add additional annatto oil to adequately crisp the cakes. Serve immediately with the hot peanut sauce on the side.

Photo: F.Divina; Makah Ozette Potatoes,


Makah Ozette Potatoes, Slow Food International, USA Ark of Taste


Handbook of Herbs and Spices (Second Edition), Volume 2, 2012

P.N. Ravindran, G.S. Pillai

Exotic Fruits, Volume 2, Annatto/Urucum—Bixa orellana

Paulo C. Stringheta, ... André G.V. Costa,2018

Potato and Seed Potato Sources

Washington, USA

Slow Food Seattle

Makah Ozette Potatoes and Seed Stock

Get on the Waitlist for your potatoes and seed stock

Oregon, USA

Gales Meadow Farm

Gales Creek Oregon

Makah Ozette Potatoes and full line of seasonal produce

Foodway at Nana Cardoon

Urban Farm and Learning Center

Makah Ozette Potato seed stock, produce and value added

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