We all experience recipe fails now and then: whether it’s a new technique that needs some practice to master, a new ingredient with a flavor profile you’re not used to, (a stubborn insistence on ignoring all the rules and forging blindly ahead <cough>) or simply an off day in the kitchen, it happens. While it is certainly irritating to invest time and money into a recipe and have it turn out “meh“, or worse, inedible, I try not to get too upset by it: I often find that recipe failures teach me much more than successes. And sometimes, from the depths of kitchen catastrophe, like a phoenix from the ashes, a new recipe is born.
The potato filling from my failed attempt at Indian dosas is fantastic: vibrantly yellow, chock-full of toasted spices, sautéed greens, spicy chiles and fresh scallion & cilantro; it’s hardly a penalty to eat it straight from the bowl. But the recipe did make quite a lot of filling, and as I’d been eating solo for the last couple of weeks while the husband traveled for work, I started itching for something a little different. Something crispedy, something crunchedy, something… deep-fried.
Enter Spicy Indian Potato Balls: as simple as they can be, I took cold potato filling, rolled it into tiny balls, coated them in egg & seasoned panko breadcrumbs, and fried them to a golden brown. Served with a couple of Indian chutneys, these are fantastic: spicy, tangy, crispy, crunchy, salty, sweet – they hit all the notes and leave you hankering for more. And more. Until you find you’ve eaten the entire batch and now you have no choice but to stretch your engorged stomach out on the couch and watch the new season of Arrested Development.
Spicy Indian Potato Balls: don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Filling adapted (slightly) from Amazing Indian Dosa by Jamie Oliver. Coriander chutney cobbled together from various internet recipes.
Potato filling (Note: This makes roughly 4 cups of potato filling. It’s delicious to have on hand, but halve the recipe if you only want to make the fried potato balls).
- 2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed, rough skin peeled away and coarsely chopped (I used Yukon Gold, about half peeled)
- olive oil or ghee
- 1 inch length of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced (I used frozen)
- 1 dried red chile, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- large handful of radish greens (or other spicy green, like arugula, mustard, collards or kale)
- 4 scallions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
- handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (about ½ cup)
- juice from 1 medium lime (I used a splash of lemon juice, but I think it would be even better with lime)
Fried potato balls
- about 2 cups potato filling
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups panko or other fine breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- a few grinds freshly ground black pepper
- a dash or two of cayenne pepper
- oil or ghee for frying (I used coconut oil and lard; the coconut oil added a lovely flavor)
Fresh coriander chutney
- 1 medium bunch fresh cilantro (coriander), tender stems included
- 3 to 4 tbsp lime juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 small jalapeño pepper or other green chile
- ½ tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- Potato filling. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes, cover pot to return to a boil, then boil, partially covered, until tender enough to easily pierce with a fork, about 20 minutes. Strain away water and return potatoes to the pot.
- Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger, chiles, mustard, turmeric, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, fry for a few minutes until very fragrant. Add radish greens (and another splash of oil if necessary). Stir and sauté until nicely wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Scrape spice & vegetable mixture into the potatoes. Mash lightly with a fork. Stir in scallions, cilantro and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate to chill before making potato balls. Filling can be made up to 5 days in advance.
- Fried potato balls. Chill the potato filling in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to forming balls. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, combine panko, salt, coriander, pepper and cayenne and toss to mix. With your hands (or a tiny cookie scoop) form potato filling into small balls, about the size of a mounded teaspoon. Dip each ball into the egg then roll in panko until thoroughly covered. Remove to a clean plate. Repeat. Make the balls smaller than you think you should: they are best eaten hot, but are rather fragile when still hot, so it’s best to make them no bigger than pop-in-your-mouth size.
- In a medium saucepan, add oil to a depth of 2 inches. Bring to a temperature of 375 degrees F (just before it starts to smoke) then add several potato balls, taking care not to crowd the pan. If you are using a thermometer, try to keep the oil at 350 degrees F or above while frying: adding the potato balls will cool off the oil by about 25 degrees. Fry potato balls until a deep golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning once about half way through the cooking time. Remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon to a clean plate lined with paper. Raise the oil temperature back up to 375 F before proceeding with the next batch.
- Fresh coriander chutney. Combine cilantro (coriander), lime juice, garlic, jalapeño, salt, pepper and sugar in a blender or food processor. Blitz until a uniform paste. Add more lime juice or water if needed to thin the chutney. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve potato balls hot, with coriander chutney, Indian tomato chutney and fresh lime.
Yields about 4 cups of potato filling, 3 dozen potato balls and about ½ cup coriander chutney.
- Ghee would be the most traditional frying medium for an Indian-esque dish; but it’s not like panko screams “Indian food!” I did like the flavor that coconut oil added: or you could simply add some shredded coconut to the panko or to the potato filling. If I hadn’t run out, I probably would have gone with the less expensive safflower oil, with good hunk of coconut oil for flavor.
- I tried forming the balls two ways: the one described above, and with an egg mixed into the potato filling first. The cold potato filling without egg was firmer and more easily formed into balls, in my opinion, but either worked fine, and there was no real difference in panko adherence or crunch.
- I can never seem to keep pestos, or this cilantro chutney, a bright, vivid green: I did read that a little oil (a tablespoon or so) and a little sugar helps to keep it bright. But I’m skeptical as my pestos have plenty of oil and they never stay bright either. I even did a quick blanche/shock of the cilantro leaves: to no avail.
- I reallize that in this country we call fresh coriander “cilantro” and reserve the word coriander for the dried seeds. But since almost everyone who makes this dish is speaking UK english, “fresh coriander chutney” is much more typical. In the end, “cilantro chutney” just sounded wrong.
Mashed potato itself can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Fried potato balls are best eaten fresh. Chutney will keep refrigerated for 1 week, but will stay freshest frozen.