Aloo tikki are a classic Indian chaat , or ‘snack food’, typically served from street food carts. Subtly spiced, soft and creamy mashed potatoes are shaped and fried into crisp cakes and topped with a little dollop of cool yogurt and a fiery sweet chutney. They are a triumph of textures and really quite addictive. I’ve made medium-sized potato cakes that will take you about three generous bites to eat, but you could easily halve the size to make canapés for a party.
Add the potatoes to a pan of lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until just tender, about 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the oil to a frying pan and set over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds and allow to fry for a minute or so. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the spring onions, garlic and ginger, and season with salt and pepper, stir frying for a few minutes until the spring onions start to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Drain the potatoes well and tip back into the pan, allowing the steam to rise for a couple of minutes to make sure they are really dry. Mash well until smooth, then add the butter and beat until combined. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before stirring through the spring onion mixture, coriander and cornflour.
Take heaped tablespoons of the mixture and shape into balls with your hands, flattening each into a little burger shape. Lay on a plate and leave to go cold, then chill in the fridge for an hour – this really helps to get a lovely crisp outer shell on the aloo tikki when you fry them, so don’t be tempted to skip this step.
While they are chilling, make the date and tamarind chutney. Tip the dates into a small saucepan and pour over 125ml boiling water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes. Add the tamarind to a jug and pour over the remaining boiling water, breaking up the flesh with a fork and mixing to form a lumpy paste. Set aside for 30 minutes. Add the chilli and cumin to a small frying pan and toast for a couple of minutes. Tip into a spice mill or pestle and mortar and grind to a powder. Set aside.
Once both the dates and tamarind have finished soaking, hang a sieve over the saucepan and strain the tamarind on to the dates, discarding the pips and fibres. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes, after which time the dates should be really soft and plump. Whizz to a purée, either in the pan with a stick blender or in a small food processor, then return to the pan. Add the ground spices and the salt and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Scoop into a bowl and allow to go cold.
To cook the aloo tikki , add a good glug of oil to a large frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering hot, carefully add the aloo tikki , well spaced out, and allow to fry until really crisp and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn over with a fish slice or palette knife and cook for another 3–4 minutes or so. To serve, dollop a teaspoon of yogurt on top of each aloo tikki , and top that with a little of the chutney. Finally, sprinkle over a little coriander and eat while still hot and crisp.