India's a food-obsessed nation at the best of times, and we take our snacks and street food very seriously
From the street, to the gymkhana clubs, to the home, there is an Indian snack to suit every occasion. Whether it's a potato chaat that fills a hole as you cross the city, or a meaty tandoori morsel to accompany your drink at the club, there is always an excuse for a tasty bite. In fact, in some circumstances snacks are vital - the main meal at Indian dinner parties is rarely served before 11pm, so you rely on snacks to line the stomach and help get you through the night. As soon as dinner is served, the drinking stops.
The British influence in India is evident in high tea parties, though we tend to go for pakoras and samosas rather than cucumber sandwiches and cakes. Some of my fondest memories of our obsession with snacking, however, come from when my grandfather used to take me to play golf with him in Delhi. We'd have to walk past the Annexe cafe to get from the fifth hole to the sixth, and never made the short trip without stopping for a quick refuel. We weren't any safer from temptation on more distant holes, either, because vendors armed with kathi rolls and beer patrolled the greens. The way snacks infiltrate every aspect of society shows the remarkable extent to which Indian life revolves around food.Mutton rolls
I've pinched this recipe from one of my friend's mothers, Auntie Vijaya. The mutton roll is a staple of Sri Lanka, and every household has its own recipe; this is my favourite. To make the mutton masala, grind four green cardamom pods, two cloves, a half-inch piece of cinnamon, a teaspoon of roasted fennel seed and a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg. Save what you don't use here in an airtight container and use within a week. These rolls go very well with a coriander mint chutney and, like most fried snacks, alcohol. For something a bit different, try toddy, an Asian palm wine. Makes eight.225g potato2 small onions, peeled and finely chopped1 tbsp crushed ginger1 tbsp crushed garlic225g boneless mutton, all fat trimmed off and the meat cut into very small cubes A pinch of salt1 tbsp curry leaves2 tbsp Sri Lankan chilli powder (from specialist Indian food shops; if you can't find any, normal chilli powder will do, though it's not quite the same)1 heaped tsp mutton masala (see recipe introduction) 8 spring roll pads 2 eggs, beatenBreadcrumbs
Peel the potatoes, chop into cubes and parboil. Drain and set aside.
Cook the onion in a little oil until soft, then stir in the garlic and ginger. Add the diced mutton, salt, curry leaves and chilli powder, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, adding a little water if necessary. Then add the parboiled potatoes and mutton masala, stir, and cook down until it is very dry.
Separate the spring roll pads, put some curry in each one, and roll up like a spring roll. Dip the parcels in beaten egg, then roll in breadcrumbs, to coat. Deep-fry until golden and crisp, and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.Potato chaat
This recipe originated in the kitchen of my restaurant Gymkhana
, but it wasn't initially for the diners: after long services, the staff would all be left craving a chaat (the word means "savoury snack"), and Sumer Pundir, one of the chefs, would make these for anyone who wanted one. They went down so well that we decided to make the recipe a bit more sophisticated and put them on the menu, and it is now one of our signature dishes. We use ratte potatoes at the restaurant, but for home new potatoes work just fine. Serves two - but I'd put money on you wanting more, so just multiply these quantities accordingly.120g new potatoes20g Greek yoghurt5g sugarOil, for frying50g cooked chickpeas 5g finely chopped ginger3g finely chopped green chilli20g finely chopped onion5g finely chopped coriander leaves, plus a few more to garnish20g imli sonth chutney (aka tamarind chutney - widely available)4g chat masala2g salt5g clarified butter (or ghee)20g sev
Bring a pan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the new potatoes and cook until soft. Drain and set aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk the yoghurt and sugar and set aside.
Flatten each potato with the palm of your hand, then cut into halves and deep-fry until crisp and golden.
In a large bowl, mix the fried potatoes with the chickpeas, and the chopped ginger, chilli onion and coriander. Using a spatula, stir in the tamarind chutney (save a little), the chat masala, salt and clarified butter.
Transfer to a flat serving bowl, top with more chutney, the sweetened yoghurt and the sev, scatter over a few coriander leaves and serve warm or at room temperature.Turmeric fried chipirones with samphire mango ginger
This dish champions turmeric, showing it off in both its fresh and powdered forms. It's a fantastic spice that provides a subtle, warming heat, but do use it cautiously: too much is overpowering. These fried baby squid make a great bar snack, because they go so well with a cold beer; the complete dish with the samphire salad makes an ideal starter for an Indian-themed dinner party. It's also a very easy dish to make. Mango ginger is an interesting ingredient: a root from the ginger family, it tastes more like mango when raw. If you can't get your hands on any, use normal ginger or galangal instead - either will work just fine here. Serves two to three.
For the squid180g baby chipirones, cleaned20g rice flour20g corn flour20g potato flour10g chopped ginger10g chopped garlic5g fennel seeds5g chilli flakes5g turmeric powder10g chopped fresh coriander leavesSalt, to taste
For the samphire salad5g cumin seeds50g fresh samphire10g fresh turmeric, cut into very thin julienne strips 10g fresh mango ginger, cut into very thin julienne strips 20ml olive oil5g chat masala5g chilli powderSalt, to taste
For the salad, roast the cumin seeds in a pan, then combine with all the other ingredients and set aside.
Toss the chipirones with all the ingredients listed above, to coat, and deep-fry at 180C until crisp. Serve hot with the salad.
• Karam Sethi is chef/owner of Trishna
, both in London.Karam Sethi's mutton rolls: 'The mutton roll is a staple of Sri Lanka.'
Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian. Food styling: Claire Ptak
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