Stuffed potato balls (Batata chap)

May 16, 2010  •  Category:


When your kids  grow up and live their own lives, you find yourself reminiscing about your own childhood; which brings me to these memories of  Iraq.

My dad,a man not inclined  to vacationing, had decided to take us to Iraq; he had  lived there as a bachelor, and had worked as a chief engineer in Baghdad on projects such as the Baghdad museum and parliament building; his fair Croatian good looks  as well as his knowledge of  Arabic hadgarnered him affection and lifelong friendships. He loved Iraq. It was through these friends that we were able to visit an area of Iraq known as the Marsh Lands, a very remote and unique area in the South of Iraq, known since the beginning of times  as the Garden of Eden.

People there lived on water; you could not access this area by road; you had to travel by canoe, the same long and slender canoes that were depicted in 5000 year-old cylinder seals, cutting through the reed here and there, passing by water buffaloes and staring at wild birds and fowl in the sky.

We slept in one of those reed houses (fighting off cockroaches at night) and one night were treated to a feast organized by the sheikh of the tribe. Sitting on rugs we enjoyed huge platters of a rice biryani, roasted wild ducks hunted that day, this stuffed potato dish, and masgouf , the famous Iraqi dish of  grilled fish, eating all with bread (no utensils), from communal platters.

We met people who had the innocence and generosity one only encounters in those who live precarious  lives of extreme poverty. One of the boys, Ali, wanted to show us his treasure: He produced a small dinged up transistor radio with a cassette player and soon, in the middle of the Marshes, hundreds of kilometers from Baghdad, we were listening to Rock’n’Roll music with some merry Marsh Arab boys.

Did we know at the time that their life and lifestyle were  in mortal danger? That a few years later they would be decimated?  It just did not seem possible that a people who lived such a primitive existence, so far from modern civilization, could be considered a threat to anyone.

OK. What about this Iraqi dish?

It consists of potatoes, cooked and mashed and stuffed with a minced meat (or bean) mixture, with tomatoes and onions.


  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch or flour
  • salt, white pepper
  • oil for frying or olive oil or butter for baking
  • extra flour if frying

Meat Filling:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • spices: black pepper, cinnamon, ground coriander, pinch of cloves, nutmeg, paprika and cardamom
  • 1 cup of peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil

Vegetable filling:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 cup of tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • Spices: 2 garlic cloves, a few sprigs of parsley, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg.
  • 2 Tablespoons of hot red pepper paste


  1. Boil and cook the potatoes; mash then blend with the egg, salt, pepper and cornstarch.
  2. Heat some oil and fry the onion till translucent; add the minced meat, spices and cook for 15 minutes until browned; add the tomatoes, cook 10 minutes longer, stir in the parsley. Set aside.
  3. Place in the palm of your hand about 1/4 cup of potato, flatten it and place on top of it a couple of teaspoons of meat or vegetable filling; enclose completely. (I used the globe molds to save time and effort)
  4. If frying, heat the oil to 375F and dip the potatoes in flour right before frying; if baking, brush with some olive oil or melted butter and bake for 15 minutes in a 375F oven. Serve hot, piled on a plate.

Recipe from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos

If interested in the Marsh Arabs, check out  SirWilfred Thesiger, a British explorer,  who lived amongst them and wrote  a book about it.


118 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Sue says:

    That was a touching post and what seems like a once in a lifetime experience. The potato looks absolutely delicious! I bet the texture is fantastic. Great post.


    I grew up eating potato knishes, which is very similar to this. These pictures bring back so many memories. Great post!

  3. melrose says:

    I am really impressed, how do you get all that ideas?!?! So simple, and so great!

  4. Lori says:

    Thanks for sharing this great story and the pictures. Such an interesting journey with you. These look so tasty. I like how the potato has a crispy edge.

  5. Rosa says:

    What a beautiful post! Those memories will always be with you. So sad those people were decimated…

    This dish is wonderful and so appetizing!



  6. heni says:

    I think nothing more can be said then your cuisine Joumana is mouthwatering and innovative! Not to mention I love reading your stories!

    BTW I made your makarona bel four this weekend – it was a big hit with my family! =)

  7. clém' says:

    hummmm your patato Globe looks delicious! =)
    I love yours pictures!
    XoXo Clém

  8. Angie's Recipes says:

    I adore the idea of using potatoes to make the bowl…very special. Although the baked version is healthier, the fried one would be more interesting and delicicious.

  9. Nadji says:

    Magnifique comme d’habitude.
    Je note : c’est une recette que je ne connais pas du tout.
    A bientôt.

  10. Julie says:

    Joumana, j’aime tellement ton blog, tu nous fais rêver à chacune de tes recettes, et à chaque récit de voyage. Les photos sont magnifiques…
    Gros bisous.

  11. Karolina says:

    I love the idea of potato moulds. I would definately go for vegetarian one. 🙂

  12. Ivy says:

    Fascinating story and great pictures. The recipe sounds delicious, reminds me of stuffed potato croquettes which I make.

  13. Faith says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post and getting to know more about you…thank you for sharing! This potato dish looks delicious — the potato globes are gorgeous!

  14. Devaki says:

    Dear Joumana – Your post on this wonderful idyllic village in Iraq with the amazing reed houses, the jaali work left me with a heavy heart. As a humanity it is such a pity we cannot live with each others differences.

    I love the combination of batata and meat (always wonderful) and the globes are amazing.

    Its good to be back to your blog after a week. I have missed your wonderful stories and eats 🙂

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  15. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    You are a lucky person to have had that experience. How amazing! I would even put up with the cockroaches. This food looks so good.

  16. Katerina says:

    You are very lucky that you had the chance to meet those people and enlarge your horizons with all this knowledge. Unfortunately, apart from animals in extinction, we face also communities in extinction. This dish is as unique as the memories you have from those people.

  17. Priya says:

    Beautiful vitrual visit, thanks for sharing those awesome clicks…the dish sounds truly fantastic and yumm!

  18. Anita says:

    A very touching story Joumana. It makes me think of how grateful we should be for everything we have in our lives, and leave petty stuff behind. The food looks scrumptious as always 🙂

  19. kim says:

    i love how you always include a little story behind your recipe. What a great education!

  20. Dana says:

    What an amazing, eye-opening experience that trip must have been for you!

    The recipe sounds really interesting. I love the photos!

  21. pity says:

    what a trip, what an experience, what a wonderful bunch of memories, and thanks for sharing, the potato recipe looks so delicious, I just cant wait to try it! cheers!

  22. Antonella says:

    It’s a nice recipe in a very beautiful post! simply fascinating…

  23. sweetlife says:

    great post, my hubby has been to iraq and he fell in love with the people..lovely recipe
    that brings such great memories

  24. Louise says:

    A lovely post Joumana. Oh what we could learn from simplicity…I have all kinds of ideas for those Potato Globes. I think I’ll try your recipe first and then, play!!!

    Thanks for sharing…

  25. SYLVIA says:

    What a touching scenery, the death of these people make the story very melancholy, unfortunately children always bare the scars of war.You seem a very compassionate person Joumana, this dish that you have chosen, offers comfort, and satiates the soul.It is fluffy and soft. They look like a little presents on your plate, I take my hat off to you.

  26. sippitysup says:

    This is so sweet and genuine. The Iraqi potato dish is intriguing as well. But the story is so heartfelt and universal in theme, that I can’t help thinking back myself, and I have never been to Iraq. GREG

  27. Doc says:

    Great post and fantastic recipe. It sounds like such an adventure, but a sad ending. It is wonderful you keep not only the memories but the people alive when you recreate these foods for us to try and enjoy.
    A heartfelt thanks,

  28. Nadege says:

    What a sad ending for these kind, generous souls.

  29. Lazaro says:

    Magnificent dish. Very creative. Loved reading this post.


  30. Andy says:

    Wonderfully touching article and photos. It’s amazing how the basics of life like food can induce such deep memories and emotions. You portrayed such a different vision of what I had when thinking of Iraq.

  31. stef says:

    such a great, heartfelt post. so vivid, i felt like i was right there! and the food looks awesome too :). i’ll have to try this recipe!

  32. OysterCulture says:

    What an amazing looking dish and I cannot tell what I am most grateful for, the delicious recipe or the lovely backstory. I’ll settle for both, as this post was a treat to read.

  33. The Gypsy Chef says:

    I am on my way to visit Sir Wilfred Thesiger, I need to learn more about the poor fascinating people. How lucky you were to visit with them.
    The potato dish looks delicious. I always get great recipes from you. Woman, you are amazing. I love your blog!

  34. sophia says:

    I loved reading more about your childhood and your family! It injects such a personal touch to your already awesome recipes. Potato I can actually even use that idea to stuff anything I want in that!

  35. zlamushka says:

    These potato burgers look huge ! I bet it makes one hell of a satisfying meal 🙂 looks yum!

  36. Mimi says:

    The potatoes sound tasty, and the story was absolutely wonderful. Thank You!

  37. Magdalena says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post of today, and pictures from a trip, too. And what an interesting recipe for potatoes – I bookmarked it, as I love those “bad” potatoes. Have a good night !

  38. citronetvanille says:

    Ah tu es donc moitié Croate! Libanaise du côté maternel alors j’imagine…les souvenirs d’enfances sont toujours les plus précieux. Tes pomme de terre farcies sont vraiment très appétissantes, je ne connaissais pas cette version là.

  39. john@heneedsfood says:

    What a wonderful experience to have as a youngster and shame about those killings. Did you learn any Croatian from your father? My parents are Croatian

  40. tigerfish says:

    It is insightful to know this dish has Iraqi origins/influence. I do like the combination of meat , tomatoes and onions. With the potato “cup”, must be tasting delicious.

  41. radia says:

    magnifique recette je n’aurrai jamais pensé là faire de cette façon, chapeau, bisou joumana

  42. Sridevi says:

    Potato globe looks delicious with the stuffing..

  43. Anna says:

    What a beautiful post…thanks for sharing your memories. It’s a pleasure to read about them. The recipe is so simple, but at the same time so great..
    A presto, Anna

  44. peter says:

    What a postcard you’ve shared and Oh My, what the times have done to Iraq. Sadly, the common folk always pay the price.
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an Iraqi dish and this one is definitely unique.

  45. MaryMoh says:

    Awww….this is such a lovely post. Love all the photos. This potato dish looks very interesting the way you present it. Looks very delicious too. Thanks for sharing.

  46. fériel says:

    This blog is a goldmine, as beautiful recipes!

  47. fériel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful discovery!

  48. grace says:

    thanks for sharing those memories, joumana! and wow–what a unique and awesome recipe. i love potatoes in all forms, and this just so happens to be a particular form that i’ve not tried! the filling looks awesome too. 🙂

  49. lalaine says:

    Thank, thank you! You just gave me a wonderful idea on how to re-invent leftover mashed potatoes at our house! Can’t wait to try and gobble these scrumptious potato globes.

    Loved your photos and recipe. Just wished it didn’t come with such a heart-wrenching story. How wretched that there is so much to enjoy about life and we have such a thing as war.

  50. brian_in_gib says:

    Hi Joumana,
    Just got back from Morocco and read your post. I loved it. Have you read Wilfred Thesiger’s book on the Marsh Arabs? I think you might enjoy it. Good effort.

  51. Sushma Mallya says:

    Very interesting name,looks too good…

  52. Sue Stephens says:

    Moving and poignant Joumana – thanks for sharing this story. It’s a wonderful post.

  53. T.W. Barritt says:

    A touching story. We often forget there are individuals and families and traditions behind all the news stories we hear. The recipe looks wonderful – I’d like to try both the meat and the vegetable filling.

  54. A Canadian Foodie says:

    Thankfully, you got to Iraq to see the beauty there – and in the simple people. I can completely relate as that is how much of Serbia is. Not quite so primitive, but very poor and very much a step back in time… and they have been invaded about every 100 years. Yes, GB did a number on Iraq. There is no doubt about it – such a tragedy to see what has happened there. And I have no idea what Iraqi cuisine is like, so thanks for the intro!

  55. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Wow. Stunning photos and very well written. I was fascinated.

  56. Marina says:

    Un récit très interessant…à méditer.. et pour être plus léger, une recette à tester vraiment, le genre de plat que j’affectionne..
    Pour ton commentaire sur Chypre, je te souhaite d’y retourner dans de bien meilleures conditions que la dernière fois hélas, c’est vraiment à dé me souviens bien de cette période, ma voisine libanaise avait sa maman au Liban et était très anxieuse de tout ce qui s’y passait..

  57. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    You are the master of showcasing interesting yet delicious dishes. My mind and heart are touched by your story while my stomach is touched by the dish.

  58. elra says:

    Joumana, I love anything that involve stuffing like your potato here. It looks so tempting, mouth watering dish.

  59. 3hungrytummies says:

    I am going to make this and when I do I am going to remember the beautiful story you have just shared with us! Thank you!

  60. Suman says:

    hmm..its very well written…that feast made my mouth watering…lucky you….Potato Globe with meat sounds interesting and delicious…thanks for sharing this!

  61. Patricia says:

    J’adore l’aubergine, c”est l’un de mes légumes préférés avec la tomate. Ta recette est très goûteuse et me tente beaucoup avec l’aubergine sur une galette de pain et le fromage. Une bonne dégustation à l’apéritif…
    Merci pour ces jolies photos, je découvre un pays que je ne connais pas du tout. Ces maisons sur l’eau c’est magnifique.
    … J’aimerais aussi pouvoir caresser un pélican …..
    …. Oui on peut confectionner sa pâte à pistache “maison”. Je vais d’ailleurs essayer d’en faire lorsque je serais moins débordée. (Tu peux trouver des recettes sur le site de Pascale Weeks – Site “C’est moi qui l’ai fait”)
    Très bonne soirée,
    A bientôt,
    Patricia – La Table de Pénélope

  62. HistoryOf GreekFood says:

    The desire for oil and strategic base locations produces ideological distortions and atrocities. Unfortunately Iraqis suffered a lot in their country, after and before the invasion.
    The Marshlands, home of the sacred Ibis, were almost drained by Saddam Houssein during the 1990s- since the marshes had turned out to be a perfect place for the rebels to hide. It was one of the biggest engineered environmental disaster of the last century. The government gave 3 days to the local residents to get out the area. You can imagine what happened…
    In May 2003 the re-flooding began and the Ma’dan worked to restore the marshes. But though the land of Ur has a future again, it will never be what it once was. The recovery of the ecosystem has yet to be fully assessed, many reflooded areas remain barren. I’ve also heard that oil has been discovered and this is very, very bad.

  63. My Persian Kitchen says:

    My this looks like such a delicious dish! I am going to have to try it!

  64. Sara says:

    Great Post, What a mouth watering dish!! Love the pictures!! 🙂

  65. Erica says:

    Love this post! We have a similar dish in Colombia “Papa Rellena” Stuffed potato.But we fry the stuffed potato, yours looks healthy and delicious. I would love to try this version.

  66. Nadia says:

    Joumana, this is such a moving post. I loved it. I love how you described generosity and simplicity of the Marsh dwellers. These type of people are the kindest and most sincere.

    The Batata charp looks fantastic. My husband loves a Pakistani dish called aaloo keema, which is stewed ground beef with potatoes, I am sure he will love this too. I will be making this soon!

  67. Doria says:

    Très jolies photos d’un pays que tu me fais découvrir !
    Je te souhaite une très bonne soirée,
    Bisous, Doria

  68. Barbara says:

    A marvelous dish, Joumana…and certainly easily translatable in our kitchens. This was a touching post and how lovely you were able to see the Marsh Lands and its’ people. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    (I might suggest Candian Foodie read History of Greek Food’s comment about what really happened to these innocent people.)

  69. TastyTrix says:

    Oh wow. That is an amazing story, and so very tragic and sad. It’s incredibly lucky that you are able to share this memory, and this wonderful food.

  70. Juliana says:

    I love the way that this dish is prepared…so interesting! I usually the fill the mashed potatoes with the ground meat…like the idea of the little molds 🙂 By the way, nice post!

  71. Blond Duck says:

    Those are so cute! They’re like little cups o’ beef. And how wonderful you got to know a culture before the modern world erased it.

  72. fimère says:

    de magnifiques photos c’est triste de voir un tel paysage détruit sous des tirs de mortiers ….bref
    je trouve ces pommes de terre très original et superbement présentées
    bonne soirée

  73. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Lovely dish, and a lovely and poignant story. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  74. Margaret says:

    Lucky that you were fortunate to experience this before it was affected by modern times and politics. These are very simlar to our meat pies. I guess every culture has one. Love how these are made tho, with the mold. I will have to try this potato crust next time I make something along these lines.

  75. Lea Ann says:

    What a moving story. Thanks for sharing this with us. I wonder if the Garden of Eden still exists in that same pristine habitat??? I hate to think.

  76. Krista says:

    Oh Joumana, this dish is beautiful, but it’s your photos that have gripped me. I ache so much for people around the world who suffer terribly for no reason other than where they were born. I’m so glad you have such good memories of your time there. 🙂

  77. Lori says:

    These look so good- formed so perfectly.

    Its tragic when innocent lives are taken. And for what? the bottom line is greed, power adn control. Since the beginning of time and forever more it seems. When my kids are arguing, I say “Cant we all just get along?” Wouldnt that be nice. We can dream right? Its such a beautiful thing when people who are different can respect each others differences.

  78. Arlette says:

    A very interesting , touching story, A great post Joumana
    This dish is very similar to the Lebanese Kibbee Batata , without the tomatoes, but i like the individual serving .

    Are you getting ready for your move??? or plans changed.
    I am very busy the Market is this weekend, plus catering orders, and now have couple of families asking for weekly meals…
    Take care.

  79. Boldy says:

    ЎGracias por el artнculo. Cada vez que quieres leer.


  80. Velva says:

    Your post touched me. Thank you for sharing these beautiful people and their culture with us. Love the dish too.

  81. samir says:

    oh my what a mess I made..followed the recipe to the T and couldnt not mold/shape them..they would just fall apart..added more flour ..still no luck. I ended up using the filling for Hashweh riz ma snobar.. will stick with Kibbeh Batata alot easier..How did u get this recipe too work???and I am not a novice in the kitchen,,,

  82. samir says:

    ps ..the book you adapted this recipe from is excellent, well written very authentic recipes…and usually very precise, but this one???

  83. samir says:

    thank was one of those moments in the kitchen that gets you so frustrated…I used white potatoes also starchy….let me know what comes of your research…

  84. domi says:

    Excellentissime cette recette !!! Très jolie, originale et savoureuse, j’ adore ta cuisine qui est joyeuse et vivante et sans complexe, bravo…

  85. Nicole says:

    What an amazing story. The reed houses are so intricate! I can only imagine how this experience must have impacted you.
    I ate Masgouf in Iraq in 2007 (even if it was in the Green Zone) and enjoyed some stuffed onions unlike anything I had ever eaten in the Arab world. I would love to try this dish with the meat filling. Those spices sound wonderful.

  86. Sam says:

    I love your posts a lot, though I am unable to comment regularly. Can I ask you please to add when possible what can be prepared ahead vs. last minute. For something like this is scrumptious but time consuming to do last minute. Is it possible to make ahead and freeze then fry/bake when needed? Thank you, and hope you have a blessed Christmas season.

    • Joumana says:

      @Sam: You are right, it is important to mention; I did prepare this dish a few times more lately (the recipe is included in the upcoming Iraqi cookbook) and I did freeze a portion. I would just not freeze them for longer than 10 days. Wishing you a great Christmas as well and a wonderful New Year.

  87. wholesale nfl jerseys says:

    Your style is so unique compared to other people I’ve read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got
    the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this web site.

    wholesale nfl jerseys

  88. wholesale nfl jerseys says:

    Appreciation to my father who stated to me concerning this web site, this weblog
    is really awesome.wholesale nfl jerseys

  89. wholesale nfl jerseys says:

    Great article.
    wholesale nfl jerseys

  90. wholesale nfl jerseys says:

    Can I simply just say what a relief to uncover someone
    who genuinely knows what they’re discussing online. You actually understand how to bring a problem to
    light and make it important. More people must look at this
    and understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you aren’t
    more popular because you definitely possess the gift.wholesale nfl jerseys

  91. agen sbobet terpercaya says:

    Now I am going to do my breakfast, after having my
    breakfast coming over again to read additional news.

  92. The Santorini Official Site By MCC Land At Tampines St 86 61002818 says:

    I love reading an article that will make men and women think.

    Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  93. persianas says:

    Eu gosto do valioso informação você fornecer em seus artigos.
    I’ll indicador seu weblog e verifique novamente aqui regularmente.
    Eu sou bastante certeza Eu vou aprender muitas coisas novas
    aqui! Boa sorte para o próximo!

  94. cheap nfl jerseys says:

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the
    finest websites on the web. I most certainly will recommend
    this web site!cheap nfl jerseys

  95. syair mimpi says:

    What’s up friends, pleasant paragraph and nice urging commented here, I
    am really enjoying by these.

Add a Comment