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.


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

2 ripe avocados, halved and destined
juice of 1⁄2 a lemon

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.
Posted: 20.04.17 11 Comments


Posted by N at 5:40 on the 21.04.17

As an Indian foodie and cook this looks great! I might add a tiny bit of hot chili powder and maybe a little ground ginger to the cakes, but am looking forward to trying it.

Posted by Damian at 10:47 on the 24.04.17

Just listened to the potato episode of the food programme, and all the presenters convinced me that the spud isn’t humble at all. Thanks Anna !

Posted by Aoitombo at 3:18 on the 03.05.17

Would you mind also sharing the lemon and potato recipe which you also made in the sane programme? Thanks.

Posted by Anna at 8:08 on the 08.05.17

The potato lemon recipe is here: Hope you enjoy it

Posted by Corinne at 12:52 on the 05.05.17

We tried it yesterday and that was a great success! Very good.

Posted by Laura at 9:43 on the 20.09.17

Hi Anna,

I was wondering whether it would be possible to make the cakes the night before and keep them in the fridge until ready to fry them?

Thanks so much. Laura

Posted by SB_London at 1:50 on the 02.10.17

I finally got around to making this. Unfortunately what I ended up with was a slushy mess. How do you get the cakes to crisp up on the outside why frying?

Posted by Anna at 4:16 on the 13.11.17

Hello Saira,
Thanks for the comment on this. Sorry to hear they didn’t crisp up. It’s likely the variety of potato you’re using – I’d go for a floury variety as you don’t want anything too moist. Hope it works for you next time as they are one of my favourites. All the best AJ X

Posted by Gillian at 9:03 on the 20.10.18

Hello Anna – inspired by you to cook more veggies thought I’d try these. They turned out fairly well however I made a couple of mistakes. Can you tell me if you are supposed to cook add the mustard seeds to the onion? I did but my mustard seeds did not pop. Although I reserved a tbls of the onion mixture I added it all to the potato mixture puzzled why you instructed to reserve it until of course I read on!!!

One more question, do you tear the curry leaves or add them whole?

I also ended up with 6 fairy large cakes as supposed to 4. Obviously my potatoes were larger than large.

I also made your celeriac soup which was good (I think I just added too much apple) and the first time I have used celeriac – I think I like it!

Best wishes

Posted by Erin at 12:30 on the 08.07.19

Hi Anna. Mine turned out exactly like yours and they’re delicious!

Posted by Pam at 9:58 on the 18.06.20

Hi Anna
Cooked this recipe to go along with the dhal dish from your Modern Way to Eat cookery book; and it all was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed by my meat-eating husband. I’m going to replicate the whole feast for my vegan daughter when we are allowed to meet up ! I don’t think either recipes would be half as delicious without the fresh curry leaves, so I’m going to stock up on these when I can find them! ❤️

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