Indian Latkes

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  20 latkes
Prep Time:  30 minutes Cook Time:  35 minutes

Indian Latkes

This potato and pea chickpea fritter's filling is based loosely on the classic Aloo Mattar potato and pea dish of Northern India. I've taken it wider with some Madras curry powder, plenty of bright yellow fresh turmeric and other toasted spices. The coating is a crispy-crunchy twist on a falafel, with help from Asian rice flour. Although it's very different than other latkes, it's still fried in olive oil, contains potatoes and is also delicious.

Ingredients

Spice Mixture

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds (black, preferred)

1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Filling

4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup frozen petite peas (the smallest you can find), defrosted

¼ teaspoon tamarind paste

1-inch by ½-inch knob of turmeric, peeled and grated, or ½ teaspoon dried, ground turmeric

1-inch by ½-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated, or ½ teaspoon dried, ground turmeric

1 minced Thai bird chili, seeded, ribs removed, minced finely (see Kitchen Tips), optional

5 to 7 saffron threads, optional

 

Fritters

6 cups cooked chickpeas or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

½ cup rice flour

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons baking powder

12 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

¼ teaspoon ground toasted cardamom (see Kitchen Tips), optional

3 cups olive oil

Instructions

To make the spice mixture:

  1. Heat a medium-sized saucepan over high heat until it is very hot. Add the coriander and cumin seeds. Heat, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Watch carefully to ensure the spices do not burn. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Transfer the coriander and cumin to a spice grinder, mini-chopper or coffee grinder dedicated to spices. Add  the paprika, salt, and pepper and process until the spices are well ground, almost a fine dust. Split the mixture in half and set aside.

To make the filling:

  1. Place a large pot of heavily salted cold water on the stove. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook on a high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, or until a sharp knife can pierce them without much resistance. Drain but do NOT rinse. Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the peas, tamarind paste, turmeric, and ginger to the hot potatoes, and toss very gently to combine. The heat will melt the tamarind paste so it will incorporate better.
  3. Add the chilies and saffron, if using, and toss gently.
  4. Add half of the spice mixture and toss gently to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you prefer. Set aside.

To make the fritters:

  1. In the bowl of a large food processor combine the chickpeas, rice flour, cilantro, baking powder, garlic, cardamom, if using, and half of the spice mixture. Pulse to grind, stopping the machine and scrape down the side of the food processor bowl every few pulses. The dry ingredients should be completely incorporated and the chickpeas should be chopped very finely, but the mixture should not be a paste.
  2. Set up drying racks with paper towels on them, set up a series of paper plates lined with paper towels. (Do not put them right next to the stove to avoid a fire hazard, but keep them nearby.) Make sure you have a kitchen spider, slotted spoon, or other scooping and draining tool to remove the fritters from the pan.
  3. Heat 2½ cups of the olive oil in a large, wide saucepan set over high heat. Affix a kitchen thermometer to it (or use an instant-read thermometer). Heat over high heat until the oil reaches 375°F (see Kitchen Tip)
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of chickpea mixture in the palm of your hand. Use your opposite thumb to pat out a space for the filing. It should be able to hold about a teaspoon and half of filling. Place the filling in the center of the gully you’ve made and close the sides of the mixture around it. Gently pat it into a oblong or burger-like shape.
  5. Carefully slide the patties into the hot oil. (Don’t crowd the pan with more than 2 fritters at a time so that the temperature remains between 370°F and 385°F. Lower temperatures will produce greasy fritter and if it gets too hot, they will may burn). Fry for 1 minute on each side. The exterior will crisp rather quickly, so just be careful not to let the fritters burn. Transfer to the prepared paper plates to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.
  6. Serve with apple chutney, yogurt sauce, good quality jarred mango chutney, harissa, and/or good quality jarred Italian mostarda.

Kitchen Tips

  1. The chemicals in chili peppers that cause that wonderful feeling of heat on the tongue can cause a not-so-wonderful feeling if they get into your eyes—and can share the love with other foods on your menu. To avoid cross-contamination, avoid touching your face or eyes after cutting and trimming hot chilies. Change work surfaces and knives. Some cooks wear plastic gloves.
  2.  If you are using whole cardamom pods, you will need to extract the seeds before toasting: place the pods on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a large chef’s knife, (being careful not to have the blade face you), gently press on the pods. The seeds will start popping out. Gather up the tiny seeds, pour them into a frying pan or cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Toast for 10 to 20 seconds, or up to 1 minute, until fragrant. Watch carefully so the spices do not burn. Note that roasted ground spices are increasingly available in well-stocked supermarkets, and they are worth seeking out, as the roasting amplifies their flavor. If you can’t find them, however, buy whole seeds and use this quick recipe. Don’t try roasting ground spices; it makes a mess! Buy whole seeds, roast them, and when they have cooled a bit, grind them in a spice grinder, mini-food-processor or coffee grinder that is dedicated to spices.
  3. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can heat the oil over medium heat and carefully drop in a small piece (about an inch square) of bread. If it turns brown all over and floats to the surface in 60 seconds, the oil is about 350°F to 365°F. If it browns sooner, the temperature is higher: 20 seconds and it’s somewhere between 382°F and 390°F; 40 seconds and it’s between 365°F and 382°F.

 

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