Dosa-spiced Potato Cakes with Quick Cucumber Pickle
A couple of weeks ago one of my food heroes, Sheila Dillon, came to interview me for one of my favourite radio shows: Radio 4’s Food Programme. I am so used to Sheila’s gentle tone filling my kitchen that it was quite amazing (and surreal) to have her in my kitchen for real. The episode I’m featured in is on an absolute staple ingredient that has been often overlooked in recent years in favour of more exotic ingredients: the potato.
If it’s your bag you can listen live at 12.32 on Sunday 23rd April (and it will be on iPlayer to listen to again), and in the meantime, here’s the recipe for the Dosa Potato Cakes with Quick Cucumber Pickle that I cooked on the show.
The best breakfast I have ever eaten was a masala dosa in Fort Cochin, Kerala. This is how I like to work the deep, fragrant, southern Indian flavours into my day. It’s an anytime dish with big flavour hitters in the shape of curry leaves and black mustard seeds, which give the potato the warm subtle punch that is the deeply clever balance of southern Indian food. This is how I almost always use up my leftover mashed potato. Any root veg mash works well here but I find potato takes on the flavours best.
Mashing avocado with these spices is a revelation – I eat this on toast at least once a week. If curry leaves aren’t easy to get, you can just leave them out. However, curry leaves are wonderful, and if you haven’t come across them before, try to get your hands on some. They have a curious but delicious flavour, and add depth in a way that is difficult to explain, much like a truffle does. I buy a few packets whenever I see them – a lot of supermarkets stock them these days. Store them in a sandwich bag in the freezer and tumble a few out as you need them. They are addictive and also very good for you. They can be mixed with lime and a pinch of sugar in hot water to aid digestion.
FOR THE POTATO CAKES
olive or coconut oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
10 curry leaves
4 large potatoes, boiled, drained and coarsely mashed, or 4 big spoons of leftover mash
4 tablespoons cooked puy lentils
50g spinach, washed and dried
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE AVOCADO
2 ripe avocados, halved and destined
juice of 1⁄2 a lemon
FOR THE QUICK CUCUMBER PICKLE
1⁄2 a cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, bashed in a pestle and mortar
a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of agave syrup
grated zest and juice of 1⁄2 an unwaxed lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and fry the onion for about 5 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the mustard seeds and stand back while they pop. Scoop out a heaped tablespoon of the onion mixture and put to one side to cool.
With the pan still on the heat, add the turmeric and curry leaves and fry for another minute or so, then put the whole lot into a bowl to cool slightly.
Add the mashed potato and lentils to the onions, then season and mix well. Wilt the spinach in a hot pan with a little oil then add this to the potato mixture. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and shape them into 4 potato cakes. Put them into the fridge to chill while you do a couple of other little jobs.
In another bowl, mash the avocados with the lemon juice (you can use a potato masher here), then stir in the tablespoon of the onion you set aside. Mix, then season well.
To make your pickle, put the sliced cucumber into a bowl and add all the other pickle ingredients. Using your hands, scrunch the cucumber slices to get the flavours going.
Now put your frying pan back on the heat. Take the potato cakes out of the fridge and fry them gently and carefully in a little oil for about 2–3 minutes on each side, until warmed through and crispy brown.
Serve each dosa cake piled with the mustard seed, onion and mashed avocado and with a sprightly spoonful of pickle on the side.
Other ways to use your cucumber pickle:
- Sandwiched inside a veggie burger.
- Next to a bowl of dhal and rice.
- In a bagel with some cream cheese and grated lemon zest.
- In a cheese sandwich.
- Next to any curry.
- To make the best ever cucumber sandwiches.