Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bombay Potatoes

How can you go wrong with potatoes from Bombay? These small roundels aim to titillate and please the palate. I come across a recipe which seems to be a marriage of balti and South Indian cuisine. I go ahead with the wedding adding a flourish or two.

Boiled new potatoes are peeled and halved. Mustard and cumin seeds are spluttered in hot oil with curry leaves, dried red chiles and onions. Potatoes and a hefty dose of turmeric goes in. Turmeric is the  new superfood with restorative qualities. Quickly sauteed, and doused with fresh cilantro, this tasty side comes together in a Mumbai minute.

Serves 4

1 pound small New Potatoes
1 Onion
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
2 dried Red Chiles
10 Curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 Lime

Boil potatoes. Peel them. Halve large potatoes. Keep the small ones whole.

Cut onion into small dice.

Heat oil in a wok.

Break red chiles in half and add to hot oil.

Add curry leave and let them sizzle for a few seconds.

Cumin and mustard seeds and turmeric go in and splutter for  5-10 seconds.

Add chopped onions and saute till onions are light brown.

Add peeled potatoes and salt. Stir well. 

Saute over high heat for 5 minutes.

Scatter fresh cilantro over potatoes.

Squeeze juice of half a lime and serve as a side.

Marriages  abide or splutter. This one comes together in my sister's kitchen, will please for years to come. Even though she doesn't care for potatoes, Prassy gamely enjoys the fruits of my labors.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Onion Methi and Shrimp Fritters

Prassy's friend Radhika joins us for dinner. She leans towards a meatless meal so we plan a vegetarian table. Stuffed peppers, ghada, dahi vada, mango dal and some bhajias made with onion, methi or fenugreek leaves and shrimp. Mum would fry some for us as tea time snacks. I follow in her footsteps, making them often, especially on rainy days. There is something soul strengthening about chai and hot bhajias!! Prassy doesn't remember them! These golden brown, crisp mouthfuls of sweet onion, bitter methi leaves and briny shrimp are piquant. Once made, I'm sure her memories will come flooding back.

A lot of onions are thinly sliced. Besan or chickpea flour is added to the onions. Use your hands to scrunch onions and besan. This allows the moisture from the onions to leach out, creating liquid to bind the onions. A smidgen of salt helps it along. After a short while, finely chopped methi leaves are mixed in. Finely minced green chiles give the fritters a spicy boost. At this point the fritters can be fried as a tasty vegetarian treat. Adding masala marinated shrimp allows the fritters to rise to another dimension. Small shrimp are marinated in turmeric, chile powder and salt for an hour before they are added to the batter. Prassy's suggests we add rice flour to the batter. Rice flour makes everything crispy. I love her idea. The batter should be wet but not runny. Do not add water. If you scrunch the onions enough, the liquid released should bind the batter. 

Get ready to deep fry these bhajias. Gather a teaspoon of batter in your hand. Smoosh the batter so it holds together. Drop that nugget into hot oil. The bhajias should float in the hot oil, turn brown and crisp up in a minute or two. Flip them so they cook on all sides. Drain on paper and eat them piping hot!

Makes 25-30 small fritters

1 1/2 cup thinly sliced Onions
4 heaped tablespoons Besan or Chickpea Flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup Methi or Fenugreek leaves
2-3 tablespoons minced Green Chiles
1/2 cup small Shrimp
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Rice Flour
Canola Oil

Put sliced onions and chickpea flour in a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lightly crush the onions and besan till it is well mixed. 

Keep bowl aside. Stir well with a spoon every 15 minutes or so, for an hour. This allows the liquid released to help bind flour and onions.

Cut shrimp into bite size pieces. The shrimp I used were very small so I left them whole.

Marinate shrimp in turmeric, chile powder and salt for an hour. 

When you are ready to fry the bhajias, heat 2 cups canola oil in small kadhai or wok. The oil should be 3 inches deep to give the fritters room to bob and brown.

Mince the methi leaves finely.

Add methi leaves, minced green chiles, marinated shrimp and rice flour to onions. Use your hands to mix the batter.  

If you like your fritters without shrimp, leave it out. The fritters taste delectable without the shrimp.

Test the oil with a droplet of batter. It should pop up to the top of the oil immediately.

Take a teaspoon of batter in your fingers. Make sure you have some onion, methi and shrimp in each portion. 

Drop the formed batter carefully into hot oil.  Repeat the process frying up to 4-5 bhajias at one time. It is best not to crowd them. This way they cook fast and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to fry the bhajias. Fry them fora few minutes till golden brown.

Drain bhajias on paper. 

Eat them piping hot.

Fritters are crowdpleasers. Radhika enjoys the bhajias. Prassy recollects our mother's version. Mine is not quite like hers, a slight variation of the original. As we nibble and reminisce, Prassy and I marvel at our Mum's culinary heritage that endures and inspires us everyday.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon and Dill

My sister makes soup and quiche for dinner. I think some pasta will complement the meal. So we forage in the fridge. A little smoked salmon beckons. 

Most of the slices are made into open faced sandwiches. Since there is a smidgen left, a simple pasta makes the most sense. The sauce comes together in the same pan used to boil the pasta. I hand shred smoked salmon into the sauce. Several sprigs of dill add freshness. Salted and peppered, the pasta arrives in time with the quiche. A caveat though..the pasta should be eaten  as soon as you make it, especially if you like your pasta saucy. The longer it sits, the dryer it gets, as the pasta absorbs most of the sauce. Optimally, cook it, grab a fork and eat. On the other hand, you could eat it as a cold salad anytime you want.

Serves 2-3

4 oz Spaghetti or Fetuccini 
1/2 cup Cream
1/2 cup Pasta Water
1/4 cup Smoked Salmon
1/4 cup Dill
A pinch of Kosher Salt
Several Grinds of Black Pepper
Dill sprigs 

Heat 5 cups of water in a deep saucepan.

Salt the boiling water.

Break spaghetti in half and add to water. Cook 8-9 minutes till done. 

Save 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Drain pasta and return to saucepan.

When you are ready to serve, place the saucepan over a low flame. 

Add cream and saved pasta water to pasta. Stir often till pasta and sauce are heated.

Break smoked salmon into small pieces using your hands. Add them to the heated pasta.

Add 1/4 cup of dill into the pasta as well. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the pasta well.

Scoop pasta onto a platter, garnish with dill sprigs and serve hot. Or serve it at room temperature as a salad.


Our meal is a pleasant change after all the delicious Indian food that has been paraded in front of me. What's better is the candlelight we eat inadvertent atmospheric interlude by way of a power failure!