“Cutlets” – vegan/vegetarian
Travelling in India, you see these in a lot of restaurants and easy-food places. We even had them on the train for lunch – a choice of meat or vegetarian. The other passengers questioned us enthusiastically about our origins, travel plans, political opinions, and family aspirations while we tucked into our crunchy cutlets with tangy chutney. I think the veggie cutlets in India were thinner than my recipe, but basically the same idea: a protein (mashed beans), a sticky carbohydrate (mashed potato), a selection of vegetables (whatever you have in the fridge or left over from another meal but something with some crunch and texture is good), a fried juicy combination of onions and spices, and then made into patties and covered in breadcrumbs, and fried.
I have a confession: I make these quite often not from a recipe, I just throw them together. So when I came to make them for this blog and the photo, I did my usual. And they fell apart. They went to mush in the frying pan. They still tasted great and my family ate them up but I couldn’t use them to show you.
That spurred me to do some experimenting and reading up on what went wrong. I didn’t have enough binding property on that batch of cutlets, the mixture wouldn’t hold when fried. In many recipes, breadcrumbs are added – which absorb moisture and give more texture, so I tried that – it worked. I also tried adding some of the bean-water (known as aquafaba), a magic ingredient in vegan cooking. That worked too, even better than the breadcrumbs. I have read that bean-water should not be used in large quantities – there’s a reason you soak and then cook beans thoroughly and maybe you don’t want to indulge in the waste products of that process, but to use a small amount to give an extra firmness to the patty, I don’t see any harm – especially if you cook the beans yourself from dried rather than using a can.
They do freeze well, so I usually make a batch when I have the ingredients to hand and pop a few in the freezer for an easy lunch.
Serves 8 (or enough for 4 and then a batch to freeze) for a light meal
Timings – if using cooked beans – 30 minutes preparation and then an hour in the fridge to firm up. If using dried beans, you need to soak overnight and boil them for an hour.
Drain the beans and keep the cooking water. Mash the beans roughly with a fork, put into a large bowl. Add the mashed potato. Add the vegetables and then add the spicy onions from the frying pan. Add about 2 dessert spoons of bean water (go easy, texture should be reasonably firm and not sloppy) a squeeze of lemon, a splash of Henderson’s Relish, salt and pepper. Mix up well with your hands and taste a bit. Adjust the seasoning as needed – you want it fairly punchy. If you have them, you can also add chopped fresh herbs: coriander, parsley, chives.
Make patties of the mixture – about 1cm thick - and press them into breadcrumbs on a plate. Put them on a baking tray in the fridge covered with silver foil for an hour or so to firm up. At this stage, you can freeze the ones you aren’t using right now – wrap them each in greaseproof paper and slide them into a freezer bag. They will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Heat up a large heavy frying pan and use a generous slug of oil. Fry the patties on each side for a few minutes until golden and crispy. Just check the middles are done and give them a minute or two more if needed – everything is cooked already but you want it hot all through.
Serve with some mouth-puckering tamarind chutney or lime pickle.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.