I’m in love with a weed called dill.
With it’s spray bouquet of yellow baby’s breath flowers, its feathery leaves, its versatile flavor that seems a perfect companion to potatoes and chutneys and fish and yogurts and cheeses alike.
Dill widely used in Kannadiga and Maharashtrian cuisines (where it’s called sabbasige soppu and suwa, respectively). So when I travel to these other realms, my dill [Hindi for “my heart”] is what I bring home. I think I love it all the more because dill isn’t native to Pondicherry and is scarce here; for all the broccolis and strawberries that arrive here from elsewhere, dill is fragile and doesn’t well withstand such journeys–it barely survives mine. Local shopkeepers will try to substitute fennel fronds for dill, so buyers beware. Rub leaves between your fingers to test for the scent of fennel, and know that real dill here is almost never available.
During Pondicherry’s few cooler growing months, dill reigns queen over our kitchen garden, allowed to grow wild and with free abandon like few other things are. Her leaves are carefully rationed, and, unlike all our severely curtailed basils, she’s allowed to bolt into blossom so we have seeds for the next planting cycles.
Dill goes into our dals, our rices, our khichdis, our parathas (along with potato) — and now into our cutlets.
Here’s how you make them.
There’s a panneer or cottage cheese filling, which I crumble and mix with minced onions, and crushed roasted cumin. That gets shaped into little balls or urundaigal as we say in Tamil, like so:
As much dill as you please gets mashed with boiled potatoes, asafoetida powder, turmeric powder, and salt. Then hand-formed into little patties, which encase the panneer/cottage cheese balls like so:
Then the little croquette gets flattened a little and rolled about in a breadcrumb-dukkah mixture like so:
Finished stuffing and shaping your potato croquettes? You’ll wind up with a series of these:
Which you’ll pan-fry until they look like these:
And sit back to savour with mint chutney (as pictured) or really just no chutney at all. Dill weed flavors are enough to see you through to the next one, and the next one. And maybe then just one more.
Yeh mera dil… [Here here, my heart…]
- 250g or 1 small packet of panneer or cottage cheese (well-drained).
- 1 red onion, minced
- 1 green chille, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin -- roasted and crushed.
- Pinch of salt
- 3-4 large potatoes, boiled well, cooled, and skins peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida or hing
- 1 small bunch dill leaves, thicker stalks removed, finely minced
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup dukkah
- Note: Can use only breadcrumbs if you don't have dukkah, but the difference in crustiness and taste is distinctly different as a result.
- A griddle to cook, and oil to grease the croquettes with.
- Mix together all ingredients for the panneer filling. Form into key-lime-sized balls and set aside.
- Mash together the ingredients for the potato mixture. Divide into balls -- one for each panneer filling ball you have set aside.
- Mix all the crust ingredients together, and lay on a plate.
- Take one potato ball in your hand and flatten into a small disk.
- Place a panneer ball in the middle and fold your fingers over so that the potato covers the panneer.
- Adjust until the panneer is fully encased, and then flatten into a thick disk
- Place the croquette onto the plate with the dukkah/breadcrumb mixture and press as much of the mixture onto the potato as will hold. Cover all sides.
- While you're repeating the process above for all the potato balls, heat a or a tava over a medium-low flame. Grease your griddle generously.
- Place as many croquettes/cutlets as you have ready onto the hot griddle and drizzle again with oil.
- Turn these gently after a couple of minutes, to brown the other side. Potato tends to be very soft and fragile when hot, so do this as carefully as you can.
- Turn again if you need to, drizzle a little more oil around each cutlet until both sides are golden brown.
- Allow to cool to just-slightly-warmer-than-room-temperature (the potato will firm up, too, in the process) before serving.