An Indian snack of spiced potato patties is pure gold – just like the colour it turns as it sizzles and cooks.
1 May 2023 - 10:22 AM UPDATED51MINSAGO
It's always reassuring to have a bag of potatoes somewhere in the deep corner of my pantry, because I can always make something with it. Just imagine a life without these carbs! I can’t. These tubers, introduced to India by the Portuguese, are now an unmissable part of the Indian culinary scene, and there is no cuisine in India that doesn’t have potatoes in one shape or another.
We can have them for breakfast – stuffed overzealously in flatbreads as parathas – or serve them as a curry with a deep-fried snack called kachoris. They can be added to dosas (lentil crepes) at any time of the day or simply cooked in any meat or vegetable-based curry. Potatoes can be simply stir-fried with spices for lunch or dinner and if that's not enough, I'll happily sizzle them in chickpea flour as vadas or eat them in my favourite way – fashioned into patties as a snack.
My love for patties is as old as I am, I grew up on a steady supply of them thanks to my mother. She was a tuition teacher who gave after-school lessons to kids at their homes. This meant long evenings for her, late dinners for us, and a worn-down woman who did not enjoy cooking. Sometimes when she was behind schedule, she'd call us on the landline, letting us know she'd get potato patties from a very popular street food vendor on her way home. Every time Maa was late, we'd secretly hope for that phone call because the patties were delicious, filling and offered a break from the usual dinner at home.
Eaten with soft dinner rolls called pav, tangy coriander and green chilli chutney that was extra crunchy thanks to raw onions and spices, they were part of a happy meal.
Boiled and mashed potatoes can be spiked with spices and stuffed with yellow lentils, deep-fried in oil or ghee (clarified butter) for vegetarian patties that are served with chickpea curry. A heart-shaped, meaty version can be packed with goat mince and offered with a protein-rich curry. The patties are golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside.
My love for patties is as old as I am, I grew up on a steady supply of them thanks to my mother.
Throughout India there is another version of the same patties served with a white pea curry called ragda. They're usually shallow-fried in oil, but the one I grew up eating in the small west Indian town of Ulhasnagar was always deep-fried in ghee, which gave it a golden hue and distinctive flavour.
Nowadays, I avoid deep-frying anything at home, but you can choose to if you wish.
Another important ingredient? The right potatoes, which hold their shape when fried. When making patties at home in Sydney, I use russet potatoes, but you can use any other floury variety.
Makes 8 meat patties and 8 vegetarian patties
You can have patties for breakfast or place them between sliced bread and ketchup as a snack. You can also serve chickpea or meat curry with these bite-sized pieces of heaven. The stuffing and patties can be prepared a day or two in advance and refrigerated. To make things easier, you can use a pastry mould to shape the patties. You should also test your first patty by frying it and ensuring it doesn't fall apart before rolling, stuffing and frying the rest of the patties. If they start to fall apart, add more breadcrumbs or a little more cornflour to the mashed potatoes, mix well and shape again.
- 4 large potatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ cup coriander leaves, freshly chopped
- 2–3 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp dry mango powder
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Oil for shallow-frying
- 1 cup chana dal (split yellow peas), soaked in water for 30 minutes
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- Salt, to taste
- ½ tsp dry mango powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp garam masala powder, optional
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1½ tsp ginger garlic paste
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 cloves
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 250 g mince (goat or lamb)
- Salt, to taste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- To make the patties, steam the potatoes for 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Alternatively, you can place the potatoes in an oven and roast them at 250˚C for 20 minutes. Pierce the potatoes with a fork to check if they're tender enough. If the fork doesn’t pass through, roast the potatoes for another 10 minutes. (You can also prepare the potatoes by boiling them, but you'll need to pat them dry with a paper towel afterwards to remove the moisture, or the patties will crumble when frying.)
- Peel and mash the potatoes.
- Place the potatoes in a bowl and add salt, coriander leaves, green chillies, mango powder, cumin seeds and breadcrumbs. Mix well, then set aside for 20 minutes. This mixture needs to be completely cool before you can stuff and roll it into patties – otherwise, the patties will crumble.
- To prepare the vegetarian patties, discard thechana dal soaking liquid and add the chana dal to a medium-sized pot. Cover with more water and add turmeric and salt. Place on a medium heat and gently bring to a boil – ensuring the dal doesn't bubble over – and cook until the dal is done, but not too mushy (around 15 minutes). Make sure all the liquid has evaporated before you add the mango, cumin, and garam masala powders and stir through. If you feel that the dal is too watery, drain it in a colander before adding the powders. Cool and keep aside.
- To prepare the meat stuffing, heat oil in a medium non-stick frying pan over a low heat and add the cumin seeds, ginger garlic paste, cardamom and cloves.
- Add the chopped onions and fry until translucent.
- Add the mince and fry on low heat for 15 minutes until the meat is dried out.
- Add all the powders and tomato paste and mix well. Cook for another 15 -20 minutes until the oil starts to separate on the sides and the mince is cooked. It should be completely dry before it's stuffed into the patties – you can eyeball the meat in the pan and check there is no liquid or moisture. You can also dab the meat with a paper towel as a test. If it's not ready, cook the mince for another 10 minutes on a medium heat until all the moisture is absorbed.
- Remove the cardamon and cloves from the mince and discard.
- To the prepare the patties, divide the mashed potato into equal portions. Now wet your palms with a little water, so the potatoes don’t stick to your hands.
- Roll one potato portion into a football shape and make a hollow 2cm-deep dent in the centre of the patty. Add 1-2 tsp of the stuffing of your choice into the dent.
- Smooth the potato over the stuffing. Ensure the filling is sealed inside the football-shaped patty and not visible. Repeat for each patty.
- Gently press all patties until they're flat – this will ensure they're fried evenly on all sides.
- Heat oil in a flat-bottomed pan and once hot, shallow fry the patties, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides.
- Serve hot with your favourite curry or with spicy green chutney and raw chopped onions.
•The meat stuffing is a meal on its own – you can eat it with bread, rice or roti.
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