This recipe comes from my aunt from India; she’d always serve it as an appetizer when people came over for dinner, with ketchup, cricket game humming on the TV in the background. It also makes a great afternoon snack, or if you put it in a burger bun, a great sandwich. It relies on a kind of wacky shortcut you don’t often see in traditional Indian recipes: enriched white bread. I don’t know where she got this trick, but I know she lived in Ethiopia for a while, and was inspired by the Italian cuisine she encountered there. But while she dips the bread in water, I dip it in milk—a popular Italian-American nonna trick to get meatballs to stick together. Like aunt, like niece. —Nikkitha Bakshani
small Russet, Idaho, or Maris Piper potatoes, skin-on (322 grams)
plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
slices soft white bread (100 grams)
whole milk (about 3/4 cup)
small green chiles or 1 big one, finely chopped*
*If you don’t want to chop up chiles, feel free to swap with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, paprika, or other thin chile powder.
Cover the two potatoes, peels on, with cold water. Add the lemon rind and a big pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, bring down to a simmer and leave it like that, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Potatoes are ready when you can insert a butter knife straight through it, with very little resistance. You can also cut off a little piece and see if it mashes easily when you apply pressure with a fork. Drain and leave in colander to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, add milk and bread. Mix together until it’s mushy—there should be no milk left, it should all be absorbed. Dice potatoes into small chunks and add to the mixing bowl. Mix and mash together with a fork or whisk to incorporate. Then add chiles, cumin, coriander, and ½ tsp salt. Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated. (I prefer mine with visible chunks of potato, others like tikkis more mashed—you do you.)
Dab some oil on both your palms and your fingers, and with your hands, shape the potato mix into thick discs, like a burger patty. You should have six palm-sized pieces.
Prepare the oil for shallow-frying. Put oil in a nonstick skillet—there should be enough to cover the whole bottom and have a bit of height. Bring the pan to medium-high heat. Oil is ready for frying when, if you press a wooden spoon to the bottom of the pan, little bubbles should form around it. Using a spatula, place the potato tikkis in the pan three at a time, with lots of space around each. Fry for 3-4 minutes on one side, lifting to check whether the color is a deep golden. Once the color is to your liking, flip and repeat for the other side. Put aside on a paper-towel lined plate, and repeat this for the next 3. Serve with ketchup or chutney.