We've been cooking up spicy vegetable fritters like these since Susan visited India back in 1983. Fresh whole spices, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper make a big difference in such a simple vegetarian dish.
- 2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 2 tablespoons crushed, dried neem (curry) leaves
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 serrano chile, seeded, stemmed, and very finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- Mint and Cilantro Chutney, to serve, recipe follows
- Yogurt Sauce, to serve, recipe follows
For the batter: Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, add the water, and mix with a spoon until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
For the potato fritters: Roast the mustard seeds in a dry pan until they turn gray, become aromatic, and begin to pop. (This will happen quickly.) Lower the heat, add the cumin seeds, and roast until brown, being careful not to burn them, about 2 minutes. Add the clarified butter and crushed neem leaves, and cook until lightly brown. Add the onions and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and turmeric, remove from heat, and stir in the cilantro, serrano chile, salt, and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain and cool. Coarsely grate the potatoes and mix gently with the onion and spice mixture. Adjust seasoning.
To form the fritters, press some mixture tightly between your palms into half dollar rounds. (They can be held in the refrigerator a few hours.)
To cook: Heat the oil in a large saucepan to 350 degrees F. Dip the potato fritter rounds into the batter and drop them into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with Mint and Cilantro Chutney and Yogurt Sauce for dipping. Fritters can be made early in the day and reheated.
Mint and Cilantro Chutney:
3 bunches cilantro, stems trimmed and finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 to 2 serrano chiles, with seeds, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small lemon, juiced
1/2 tablespoon peanut oil
Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Turn out onto a board and chop until a paste is formed.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons black or yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint plain yogurt
Have ingredients measured and nearby before beginning. Heat the oil in a small skillet over high heat. Add the mustard seeds. (They will begin popping immediately so have a cover close at hand for escaping seeds.) Cook until popping stops.
Lower the heat, add the cumin seeds, and cook until they turn golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the garlic for 10 seconds, then the ginger for 10 seconds more, and remove from the heat. Stir in the turmeric, paprika, pepper flakes, and salt. Mix the spices and yogurt together in a bowl. Chill before serving.
Yield: 2 cups