This hearty little snack can be found in most corners of the globe under different names: potato cakes, patties, pancakes or cutlets as they are called in the Indian subcontinent. But what’s in a name if they are all the same?
The word ‘cutlet’ entered the South Asian culinary lexicon during the British Raj (period of British Rule in India) when Indian cooks to the British were instructed to use up meat and potato leftovers to make them. Similarly the potato and chili also found its way into South Asian cuisine with the Portuguese in the 16th century who brought them from the New World. But while these new additions were adopted and assimilated, the local people continued to cook them in the same way as they had always cooked- with their beloved spices. Cutlets are eaten today as appetizers as well as an afternoon tea snack.
The core ingredients for South Asian Potato Cutlets remain the same (potatoes, fresh coriander, onions). The seasoning, however, varies depending on the cooks’ taste buds (and pantry offerings in my case). Traditionally cutlets are coated in bread crumbs for a crispier bite but I left them out here and replaced the fresh coriander with dried oregano and threw in some sesame seeds for a nuttier taste. My star spice here was the chilli so I added a generous helping of this. The result - a hot kick in the mouth cushioned against the floury starch from the potatoes. Forget appetizer or tea, I had these for dinner with a dollop of homemade mango chutney.
Ingredients makes 10 -15 small patties
6 medium potatoes
2 tsp of red chilli flakes (reduce quantity for a milder taste)
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tsp of roasted cumin seeds
2 tsp of Sesame seeds
Handful of fresh coriander (or any dried herb at hand -I used a tsp of Oregano)
2 tbsp of Sunflower or Canola oil
1 egg beaten
1. Boil the potatoes. When soft, drain and peel off skins. Mash.
2. Blitz the onion, garlic and ginger together in a food processor. Add this to the mashed potatoes.
3. Season with salt and pepper. Throw in the coriander, chilli flakes, sesame and cumin seeds, and mix all the ingredients.
4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Make a small ball with the mixture and dip it in the egg to coat it. Then with the palm of your hand flatten the ball and pop it in the pan. Fry for 2 minutes on both sides or until golden brown.
5. Place the patties on a kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
6. Serve with a chutney of your choice or ketchup.