Make sure you have everything you need ready and in place before you start shallow frying. Keep the batter and potato mixture to one side of the hob, and have to hand a spatula and a plate with kitchen paper on it. The batter, potato mixture and chutney can all be made a day in advance.
Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
Makes 8, to serve 4
For the vada
500g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric
Fine sea salt
For the batter
150g gram flour
⅓ tsp baking powder
For the chutney
100g coriander, washed and roughly chopped
50g unroasted and unsalted peanuts
1 green finger chilli, roughly chopped
¾-1 tsp salt
1½ tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
8 good-quality bread buns
First make the chutney. Throw everything but a small handful of the coriander into a blender, add a couple of tablespoons of water and blitz until just blended – you may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and/or add a little more water to get it nice and smooth. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, transfer to a small serving bowl and set aside.
Put the potatoes in a saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until a knife slips into the flesh easily – about 10-15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
In the same pan, heat two and a half tablespoons of oil over a medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds, garlic and chillies. Cook for two minutes, until the garlic is pale gold, then stir in the turmeric and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and take off the heat. Pour the hot spiced oil over the boiled potatoes and mash together really well – I use a fork. Set aside until the mixture is cool enough to handle.
For the batter, put the gram flour in a bowl with the baking powder and a third of a teaspoon of salt. Drizzle in 165ml water, mixing as you go, until the mixture is as thick as pouring custard.
Divide the potato mixture in half, split each half into four and roll into equal-sized balls, so that you end up with eight little balls roughly 4cm in diameter.
To cook the vada, put 3cm of oil in a small-ish saucepan at the back of the hob, and set over a low to medium heat. Test by dripping in a bit of batter: if it floats almost instantly, the oil is hot enough.
Dip the potato into the batter using a spoon, roll it around, then carefully drop it into the hot oil. The cooking time may vary, but leave to fry for a minute and a half, until the vada lifts easily with a spatula without breaking the batter, then turn upside down and fry for another minute and a half, until golden all over. Remove with the spatula and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining potato balls, then drizzle any leftover batter into the hot oil and cook until golden, so you end up with a small mountain of crisp bits.
To serve, place one or two vadas in a bread bun, or pav, drizzle over some of the green chutney, add a few bits of the crisp batter and some of the reserved coriander, and eat fresh, hot and quickly.