After years of ordering in chicken tikka, naan, and samosas, my husband and I were beyond excited to travel to India in March 2012 and experience what real Indian food tasted like. Would our mouths burn with fiery spices? Would our stomachs protest the foreign ingredients? Who knew?!?! A culinary adventure!
Our mouths did burn. Our digestive systems did protest (the Husband’s more than mine. I have an iron stomach). But oh, was it worth it. The curries. The chai. The “lamb” that turned out to be goat. I regret nothin’.
So enamored of Indian cuisine were we, that we spontaneously booked an Indian cooking class on our last day in Delhi, with a middle-aged woman named Jyoti who lived in the outskirts of town. After several emails and a harrowing cab ride, we found ourselves in her kitchen, being introduced to her spice boxes (one box for whole spices, one for ground) and learning what we would be cooking that afternoon.
As I read over the recipes again years later, I remember one of the most important tenants of Indian cooking: improvise! Some of her directions are quite specific (exactly 250 grams of cilantro), while others are frustratingly vague (Bread crumbs. Lime juice. How much, exactly, I do not know.) Once you have the basic ingredients in your kitchen, she explained, you can mix and match! So here are my versions of two of Jyoti’s recipes: Tikki (potato frittery things) with pea filling and green chutney. More recipes (including butter chicken) to come later this week! I’d like to think Jyoti would be proud.
Tikki (potato fritters) with Pea Filling and Green Chutney
Time: 1 hour Serves 4 (servings size: 3 tikki)
- 1.5lbs potatoes (about 5), peeled (I used Yukon gold)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 2 T Indian all spice powder (garam masala, chunky chat masala, any mix of Indian spices you have is fine!) or more, to taste
- 1-2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- salt to taste
- 1 egg, or 2 egg whites
- 3/4 cup frozen (or fresh) peas for filling*
- oil for frying
Jyoti notes that you can use anything for the filling – cooked minced meat, onions, cheese, etc.
Cut the potato in large chunks, place in pan and cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes once boiling. While potatoes are cooking, prep the chutney (below).
Once the potatoes are done, scoop them out, place in a bowl, and set it in the fridge or freezer to cool down quickly.
Drop the fresh or frozen peas into the hot potato water and let them sit for a few minutes, until soft. Scoop them out and set aside in another bowl. Add some salt, grated ginger, and Indian spice powder to taste.
Once the potatoes are cool, mash, rice, or grate them into a bowl. Using a cheese grater like I did works really well and is super fast.
In the potato bowl, add in the bread crumbs, spice powder, ginger, and a goodly amount of salt. Taste the mixture to make sure the flavoring is good, then add an egg or 2 egg whites if you like. The original recipe did not call for any egg, but I was afraid the tikki would fall apart so I added in 2 egg whites. It’s up to you.
Here’s the fun part! Scoop out about 1/4 cup of potato mixture, and mash it into a ball in your hand. Now flatten the ball, and place 1- 2 tsp of the peas in the center. Then carefully fold the sides of your potato cake back up over the peas to make a ball again, now with peas inside. If some of them poke out, it’s not a big deal, we’re not cooking for the Queen (although I’m sure she would think these are delicious!). Flatten the ball back out again slightly. Continue until you’ve used up all the potato mixture.
Now, you have some options for cooking these guys: you can deep fry, pan fry (what I did), or possibly even bake them – I haven’t tried that but I’m sure it would work. Here I’m going to pan fry.
Pour enough oil in your pan to coat the bottom well. (I like to use safflower oil – don’t use olive, its smoke point is too low.) Let the oil get quite hot before starting – otherwise the tikki will stick. Once hot, carefully place the tikki in the pan and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, then flip. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all are cooked; you’ll probably have about a dozen.
Eat on their own, with a bit of yogurt, with green chutney (below) or both!
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems mostly removed but don’t drive yourself crazy – a little bit of stem never hurt anybody.
- 1 small red onion, in chunks
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small tomato, seeded (leave the peel on or off)
- 1 jalapeno or other spicy pepper, or 1/2 can roasted green chiles (what I used because it’s what I had on hand)
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp sugar
- juice of 1 lime
- salt to taste
Combine everything in a blender and, well, let the blender do its thing. Thassit!
One year ago…