Snacks are a very important part of any Diwali card party tradition. It’s what sets the mood for a long night of conviviality and carousing, and must go superbly with uncleji’s whiskey. As kids, we used to flit in and out of the card table rooms, stealing Schezhuan fingers (deep-fried veggie kebabs with Indo-Chinese schezhuan sauce), Thread paneer, Cheese chilli balls and Aloo tikkis that were hot out of the oil.
Now that I’m all grown up, my own version of these snacks make an appearance on the table.They’re slightly updated and young, while still staying true to the Diwali drinking tradition. These shakarkand or Indian sweet potato croquettes are made by combining boiled sweet potato with cooked dalia/lapsi or broken wheat. Once formed, a filling of caramelised onions is stuffed into each of these and it’s deep-fried. It’s very important to use the medium variety of dalia/lapsi for these croquettes. This is ideally the one you would use to make Upma.
Shakarkand and Dalia Croquettes With Caramelised Onion Filling
Yield Makes 8-12
These healthy-ish sweet potato (shakarkand) and dalia fingers have a moreish caramelised onion filling inside which is finished with a smack of zingy sumac. You could replace the sumac with amchoor if you like. Serve with green chutney or raita.
Shakarkand or Indian sweet potato 500g
Dalia 300g medium to fine variety
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Cumin powder 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder 1/2 tbsp
Dried oregano 1 tbsp
Fresh coriander, chopped
Onion 1, chopped
Garlic 3 cloves
Salt and pepper
Onions 4, sliced lengthwise
Olive oil 3-4 tbsp
Butter 3 tsp (optional)
Sugar 1 tsp
Sumac 2 tbsp or an equal amount of amchoor or raw mango powder for a slightly different taste
Salt 1/ tbsp
Pepper 1/2 tbsp
Green chutney to serve (find my grandmother’s green chutney recipe here)
Start by cooking the dalia in boiling salted water in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Drain the dalia and set aside. Alternately, boil the dalia in boiling salted water for 30 minutes or till cooked completely. You will require approximately 700-750ml of water to do this. Preparing dalia is a lot like preparing rice, so follow your favourite rice cooking method.
Boil the sweet potato in water till fork tender. Alternately, you could pressure cook the sweet potatoes for 2-3 whistles or till done. If you want to work simultaneously, yet another method to cook the sweet potatoes is to roast them in aluminium foil till fork tender. Mash the potatoes and set aside.
In a bowl, add the cooked dalia, the sweet potato mash, the chopped onions, minced garlic, herbs, chilli and other spice powders. Mix well, mashing everything as you go along. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Make the onion filling by caramelising the onions slowly. Heat the oil and butter to a medium saucepan till shimmering and add to it the onions. Spread the onions evenly around the pan, agitating it every couple of minutes to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You may have to reduce the heat from medium to medium low if the onions are browning too quickly. Add a teaspoon of sugar and some salt about ten minutes into the process. Use your hands to introduce a bit of water to the onions as this will ensure the onions don’t dry out. Once the onions are a deep brown and beautifully caramelised. Add to this the sumac and pepper. Taste and adjust by adding some more.
Take a generous golf ball sized bit of the sweet potato and dalia kebab mixture in your hands and roll it into a ball. Then flatten the ball in the palm of your hand and add a small amount of the onion filling inside and close it on all sides shaping it like a long croquette. Do this for all the potato and onion mixture. Refrigerate till it is time to fry.
Heat the vegetable oil in a kadai you use for deep-frying and when hot enough, test by adding a minuscule amount of batter and seeing if it rises to the surface in 3-4 seconds. Add to this the fingers in batches, cooking them till golden. Drain the fingers onto paper towels and serve with green chutney or raita.