Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Echoes From The Past--Dum Aloo or Masala Potatoes

I've been on an Indian food jag. Don't ask why. Food that is familiar, beloved, might be reason. After all, desserts have been banished from this house. At least for the month of January. So to compensate I stir and scrape, chop and cube industriously. The floor-to-ceiling shelf of cookbooks gets a workout. The upper shelves are crammed with many paperbacks dealing with a range of regional indian cuisines. They go from A for Andhra cooking to V for vegetarian cuisine. These food-splattered Indian publications, with literally paper-thin pages, are chockful of recipes both popular and obscure. Written by famous and not-so-famous home cooks, at a time when 'foodism' wasn't a phenomenon, these palm-sized books are a treasure trove. It's open sesame time!

I pick a North Indian dimunitive book. My interest veers towards veggies and in particular potatoes. I shouldn't be eating taters, but it's comfort we are talking about. Right?  And to me, potatoes equate comfort! A while ago I had dum aloo, or baby potatoes cooked in masala. I salivate over the thought of tiny Yukon Golds, fried crisp, bathed in a spice laden sauce. But the recipe calls for cashew up paste...a definite no-no. How do I go around that mine field? I remember Mum making teeny potatoes in gravy decades ago. Books are swept aside. I reach for my trusty old recipe file, filled with hand written recipes by Mum, Dad and my sister Prassy. Thirty years ago after I got married, they would send me informative epistles of life back in Bombay along with recipes I requested. It was usually a dish of Mums that I craved. And I dutifully arranged them in a paper file, one that needs a two-hole-punch. Today It is in quite a state of disrepair, food-stained and clearly falling apart. The tattered edges are held together by scotch tape. But I won't part with it as yet. Looking throughout the recipes is a walk down memory lane, especially with Dad's witty comments scribbled alongside ingredients!

I find what I'm looking for. An uncomplicated dum aloo without nuts. It calls for deep frying the potatoes. And to think I have put away my handy-dandy kadhai!!!! Good intentions fly out the window and out it comes. Shallow frying be damned. If that's what Mum says, then that's what I plan on doing!

Dum Aloo or Masala Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound small Yukon Gold Potatoes
Canola oil to deep fry potatoes
1 tablespoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 big Onions
3/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Yogurt
1 teaspoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup Cream
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 

Boil potatoes aand peel and air dry them.

Heat canola oil in a kadhai, wok or deep saucepan. You should have 3 inches of oil in the pan.

Add potatoes to hot oil carefully and fry till golden brown.

Drain on to a paper towel and keep aside.

Mix chile powder, garlic and ginger pastes, coriander and cumin powders in a bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onions.

Heat canola oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat.

Add chopped onion and sauté till onions are brown.

Add masala mix, lower heat a bit and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir often so masala doesn't stick to the pan.
At this point add the water and bring to a vigorous simmer.

Add yogurt a little at time, stirring well after each addition

Drop potatoes into gravy and season with kosher salt. Let potatoes simmer uncovered for 5 minutes letting the gravy thicken.

Sprinkle Garam masala in and mix well.

Just before you serve add cream and chopped cilantro.

Dum aloo goes well with both chapattis and rice.


If you cannot find baby potatoes, use regular Yukon Golds. Boil and quarter them before you fry. 

My favorite is Yukon Gold. It's the closest to the taste of Indian potatoes. Feel free to substitute any type.

Dum aloo taste best deep fried, but I have made them with plain boiled potatoes too.

You could omit the cream if it doesn't work for you.

The file lies wide open. Recipes written in ink smudge over time. Pages tear. The file comforts and saddens me. Perusing instructions I can hear Mum and Dad's voices. At first encouraging me, then applauding me and now reassuring me that all is well in the world.