My very good friend Vinita Damodaran, an environmental historian with an interest in food, sparked off this idea in my mind the other day when she said that the word “cutlet” has acquired different meanings in the UK and India. In the UK we mean a piece of meat such as a lamb cutlet whereas in India, it usually means a potato cake stuffed with minced meat or a vegetarian filling. This dish probably originated in Anglo-Indian families. I remember cutlets being very fashionable in posh cafes in Delhi when I was growing up – there was a really nice place near the Cottage Emporium on Janpath that did wonderful Keema Cutlets. This is my effort to recreate that taste – I hope you enjoy it.
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 45 min
You will need:
A meat grinder
For the filling:
- 500 g minced lamb or beef (lean is better)
- 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 cloves
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli powder (adjust according to your preference)
- 1/2 tsp star anise powder
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- handful of coriander leaves and stalks very finely chopped
- Salt to your taste
For the potato cutlets:
- 750g Maris Piper potatoes
- 2-3 tbsp corn starch (you may need more if the potatoes are very wet)
- Salt to your taste
- Oil for shallow frying
Wash the potatoes and put them on to boil in their skins. The reason for cooking them unpeeled is to preserve as much flavour as possible. Cook until tender. Whey they are done the skins will break (see picture). You can test if they are done by poking a table knife into them, it should slide in easily. If you cook them in a pressure cooker it will take only ten minutes. Leave these to cool.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a wok or a deep frying pan. Add the cloves and let these sizzle in the oil until they release their aroma. Be careful not to stand too close because they can suddenly pop and splash hot oil on you. After about a minute, add the onions, garlic and chilli powder. Fry this on medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add the minced meat and the powdered spices. Cook the meat until it is browned nicely and there isn’t much liquid left in the pan. Add the chopped coriander and stir through. Cook for a further 10 seconds and switch the heat off. Grind this mixture in a meat grinder so that it is less coarse.
Now peel the potatoes. If they are still too hot to handle, pour some cold water on them. Mash the potatoes after peeling them and sprinkle on salt and corn starch as you are mashing them so that both are incorporated evenly. You should end up with a smooth mash that has the consistency of dough.
Divide the mashed potatoes into 12 balls about the size of a golf ball. Flatten all of these to a thickness of about 1 cm. To put in the filling, hold a flattened ball in one hand. Put in a couple of tablespoons of filling or more if you can fit it in, the more the better and this will come with practice. Place another flattened ball on top and mould this with your fingers to close the open edges and form a cake or “cutlet”. The cutlet should be 2-3 cm thick. Make the remaining cutlets in this manner.
Shallow fry the cutlets on one side until they are golden brown. Turn over carefully and fry the other side. The cutlets are now ready. These can be served for breakfast or tea or as part of a meal. Best eaten with a salad and chutney or ketchup.