Regulars on Saffron Trail would have realised that I have been unfair to the global favourite - the potato by never having openly expressed my love for this humble vegetable. To clear a few things, I too like all others, love this vegetable dearly. My all time favourite home food is Urulaikizhangu Curry and Vengaaya saambaar with rice, which is potato roast and onion sambhar. This is my soul food. If I could choose my last supper, this would be it.
Potatoes are made in several ways in our Tamil brahmin household and none of them that I know use garlic as a spice. I am happy to share with you some simple authentic Tambram potato recipes.
The recipe source is my mom (Amma), who cooks mostly traditional food with the exception of a pav bhaji or pulao etc. to meet my sister's demands.
Urulaikizhangu Roast - This is had with a traditional Sambhar, rice, salad and fried appalam & vettal (rice flour crackers) whichforms the menu of a typical Sunday lunch in most of our households.
Amma says "Boil the potatoes. Peel, cube and dry marinate them for 10 minutes in turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and rice flour (for crispiness). Splutter mustard seeds in oil, and then roast the marinated potato cubes until roasted and crisp. A variation of this recipe is one in which sliced onions are stir fried in the oil before the potato cubes go in.
Among all traditional recipes, most tambrams would rate this as numero uno, including yours truly. By using a little more oil, this can be roasted to a golden brown perfection, but while making on a regular basis, not more than a tbsp of oil would be used for two servings.
Urulaikizhangu Podimaas - This is the other end of the spectrum of potato dishes. Neither crispy nor very spicy, this is a very flavourful recipe that used crumbled potatoes.
Amma says, "Boil the potatoes. Peel, crumble and salt them. Heat oil and pop some mustard seeds. Put chopped green chillies, ginger pieces, curry leaves, chana dal and udad dal into the oil and fry until the lentils are golden brown. Add the crumbled potatoes to the above, bring it all together by stirring well and in the end garnish with freshly grated coconut. "
No turmeric used in this dish, neither red chilli powder - the potatoes have their pale yellow colour and the aromatics turn this dish in another simple marvel. The fried lentils go ka-tak, ka-tak in your mouth like firecrackers and it is fun. May not be so much fun if they get stuck inside one of your cavities :) This dish goes well with yogurt based curries like Mor Kozhambu and rice.
Smashed potatoes in gravy as in Puri-Kizhangu - This is usually made as a tiffin ( a 4 o' clock meal) item. However, being a fried dish and quite heavy, my granny used to make this just 5-6 times a year. And needless to say, I have NEVER made puris in my life. Not because of the fried bit, but because I have never learnt the technique. Here, the potatoes are in a spiced gravy base thickened by chick pea flour and this is what the crispy Indian fried breads (puris) are dipped into. The flavour is mellow and the gravy is creamy.
Amma says - "Boil, peel and roughly crumble the potatoes into medium pieces. In oil, splutter mustard seeds, and then fry chopped ginger, green chillies, curry leaves, chana dal, udad dal with a pinch of asafoetida and some sliced onions. Once onions are done, add the crumbled potatoes, with enough water to make a gravy. When this comes to a boil, add the salt, turmeric powder and some chick pea flour dissolved in water to thicken the gravy slightly. Garnish with chopped coriander."
As I am talking to my mom, getting the exact method for this dish, my dad is asking me when I am going to make this for him. I am trying to evade this by saying ' It's only for my blog readers that I'm noting all this down' and he's trying to threaten me that he'll complain about this in the comments section :P,
Potato slices roast with skins - My mom usually makes this for dinner, when she is not in a mood to pressure cook and boil potatoes, or if she has forgotten to boil them in the morning pressure cooking session, along with rice and dal.
Amma says "Scrub and wash the potatoes. Halve them and slice into semicircles. Splutter some cumin seeds in hot oil, and then put in the sliced potatoes with some salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Srit everything together and sprinkle water to aid fast cooking. Cover the wok with a lid and stir the slices occasionally with a sprinkle of water and remove when done.
This one tastes best with rasam saadam (rasam-rice) dotted with some home-made ghee and a roasted appalam (papad). I'd call this perfect food while recuperating from an illness.
Some common tips while cooking with potato:
- Asafoetida (perungaayam) or hing is used in most potato dishes in our cuisine. Potato is known to cause bloating and hing is the best gas-buster there is. There are two ways to add hing to the recipe. Hing powder is either added to oil along with the tadka keeping a low flame so as not to burn this powder. Alternatively, a small piece of asafoetida is broken off the block and dissolved in some hot water and a few drops of this infused water in sprinkled in the dish while cooking.
- Most of our recipes call for boiled potatoes except for some like No.4 and potatoes are usually pressure cooked with their peels on, which are peeled off after the potatoes cool. Medium sized potatoes cook to perfection when pressure cooked for 3 whistles and then flame kept on sim for another 5 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you could boil them with their peels on for 10 minutes or so, a tester poked through them suggests that they are done.
That's a record for me, four recipes in one post. Finally this post was to be all about this fantastic, finger licking potato wedges I made today. But my love for our traditional cuisine and the guilt of not writing enough about it, completely overtook my mind and fingers and what you see is this. The potato wedges recipe will come by soon, now that my guilt pangs have been appeased.
Some interesting reads
- The madisar sari - the traditional nine-yard sari worn by Iyer women of yore. I wore one during my wedding too :)
- An Iyer wedding - the vedic ceremonies
I am glad that I have managed a worthwhile post for Lakshmi's event on Regional Cuisine of India, which starts with Tamil Cuisine this April.