Photo by the writer
Photo by the writer

Ask for a recipe for aloo cutlets [potato cutlets] at your own risk: everyone has their own way of making this delectable dish taught by their ammis and nanis. There are as many versions across regions as there are folktales and totkays. In fact, cutlets mean different things across the globe. Yes, all versions involve a mashed vegetable or meat encased in breadcrumbs and fried, but that’s where the similarities end.

The most famous cutlet is probably Chicken Kiev — one of Russia’s most popular exports to Pakistan — which reached its peak popularity in the late ’80s. And who hasn’t heard of Schnitzel? The Austrian dish of pounded thin meat coated in breadcrumbs is popular around the world. In Japan, one can find a similar version called Tonkatsu.

In the West, it seems, cutlets are mostly a carnivorous affair. In Iran, however, cutlets are a mix of vegetable and meat and closer to our own version of the dish. Over there, ask for a cutlet and you’ll probably be served a patty of ground beef with mashed potatoes, eggs, onions, spices and breadcrumbs — a sort of bun kebab with everything squished into one cutlet.

Of course, in India and Pakistan, the purely potato version of the cutlet, reigns supreme. Aloo qeemay ke cutlets [Potato cutlets with minced meat], a popular dish in the Memon, Kutchi and Gujarati communities, however, combine the best of both worlds: it’s a meat dish wrapped in a crispy potato shell.

Nothing will make you feel more at home than those deep-fried cutlets that combine the comfort of mashed potatoes with the flavour-burst of minced meat

Growing up, Aloo qeemay ke cutlets were a staple at my nani’s house – my nana loved these so much, a batch was always made every couple of days. And I totally understood why: they’re delicious, crunchy but soft, and very filling.

Unlike Aloo ke cutlets, which can sometimes have a muted taste, the minced meat filling adds a punch of flavour and texture. I’ve had these for breakfast, as an evening snack or for a quick lunch: these kebabs are a meal rolled into one. Their bun kebab cousins may have hogged all the glory but aloo qeemay ke cutlets are the culinary underdogs that will surprise you time and again.

Aloo Qeemay Ke Cutlets (Makes a dozen cutlets)

These cutlets make a great snack and are filling enough for a meal all on its own. They taste great served fresh or after they’ve been in the fridge overnight. Unfortunately, these can’t be frozen for long. While the cornflour helps the cutlets stay fresh in the freezer for a few days, these are best enjoyed when made fresh.

Looking for a gluten-free version of these cutlets? Skip the breadcrumbs and simply coat the patty in the egg mixture and fry.

Ingredients

For Filling

½ kg chicken qeema (minced meat)
½ teaspoon salt or as per taste
½ teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon zeera (cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon green chilli paste
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 small green chillies, finely chopped
½ cup coriander
¼ cup mint leaves

For potato patty

1 kg potatoes
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 tablespoon cornflour

For the coating

Breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper

Method

Heat a pan and add the minced chicken meat followed by all the seasonings such as garam masala, salt, cumin seeds etc. Then add the ginger-garlic paste and the green chilli paste. Stir thoroughly, making sure everything is mixed together well. Once the qeema is thoroughly cooked, set aside to cool.In a separate pan, boil the potatoes. When boiled, set aside to cool and then peel. Add the finely chopped onions and green chillies to the cooked and cooled chicken minced meat. Mix well. Then, add the finely chopped coriander and mint leaves and stir well. Mash the boiled potatoes and add salt, red chilli powder and cornflour. Mix well. Take a fistful of the mashed potatoes and flatten them into a thick disk. Press in the middle to make a pocket for the qeema filling. Add in a scoop or two of the minced chicken and then add a small ball of mashed potato on top and flatten it. Smooth the top of the potato patty. Repeat for the rest of the mixture. Add salt and pepper to two eggs and beat well. Pour breadcrumbs in a plate. Take the completed cutlets and coat them in the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Heat oil in a frying pan and deep-fry the cutlets till they are crispy and brown. Serve hot.

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 23rd, 2022

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