Are your lights on? It’s Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights which started on the 7th this year. I recently had an opportunity to take these Indian spiced potatoes to a Diwali pot luck hosted by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance in honor of this annual fête. I am not going to lie – although I feel quite confident in the tastiness of this dish – it is a bit daunting to take my spin on classic Indian cuisine to a culinary celebration that includes many Indian professional women chefs. Cultural appropriation is a big thing these days and the culinary world is not exempt. I tried to slide my dish in unnoticed, but it’s lack of “nametag”, sparking a few “what IS this???” comments, and those cute little bell-clad picks that I snagged in Mumbai’s Crawford Market ruined any chance of fading in the background. Oh, and I used habanero flakes instead of plain ole red pepper flakes!! These Indian spiced potatoes are no shrinking violet. Apologies to native Indian chefs for any pirating of their cuisine. And for Pot Lucky fans, rest easy. I already had an Indian feast on the docket for early next year. More taste treats in this flavor palate are on their way soon!
Diwali is a highlight of the Hindu calendar, celebrated in the fall here in the northern hemisphere. It is a triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Sounds like something we could all use these days. “Light” has roots in most all world religions. While Diwali is celebrated for five days, the third day – today, as I write this – is the pinnacle, as it marks the darkest night in the Hindu calendar. Friends and family gather throughout the five days, and food is king.
I spent about a month in India ten years ago with a group from Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. We covered all things food along the entire west coast of the subcontinent, from Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai. While very enlightening and informative, with stops at so many wonderful spice markets, it is not where this recipe derives its inspiration. I came by this recipe, if not with cultural integrity, with honor. It was handed to me maybe 30 years ago by Louise Spicehandler. If you can’t get spiced potatoes, with cumin, coriander and cardamom from a spice handler, then from whom? While I NEVER LOSE ANYTHING, this tattered print copy is, shall we say, temporarily indisposed. I suspect the original might have been copied from the NY Times, but since I can’t currently locate it, I am not positive. Louise was a great source of recipes and encouragement in my pre-professional days, as I dipped a toe in the culinary stream. As usual, Louise meticulously noted her adjustments in the margins of this recipe, and I meticulously followed them, until I didn’t. I think the ginger and the fresh herbs are my own, but to be honest, I never make it the same way twice. What do I have on hand? That’s the way I like it!!
Indian Spiced Potatoes (Khatte Aloo)
Khatte Aloo, or sour (khatte) potatoes (aloo), are often made with diced, possibly boiled, big potatoes. I can’t resist the cute little mouth-poppable rounds that are now found easily in your supermarket thanks to The Little Potato Company. They are multi-colored, one-bite wonders, serving as a delivery system for a whole lotta spice. And, I like to roast the potatoes, coated in spices, to further release the spices’ aroma.
I have always used lemon juice, but I asked one of the Indian chefs at the pot luck, and she uses lemon and lime. That sounds amazing. However you chose to make them, don’t overthink it. Large & diced or whole & small; spiced then roasted or boiled then spiced; whatever choices you make, Indian spiced potatoes are a great dish to serve with a pick as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a side dish at an Indian feast. I have also served them skewered with brats and peppers, both grilled first, then assembled for serving and topped with a tomato.
This dish is so quick and easy you might have time to run out and get yourself a henna tattoo! Then don’t forget to light the candles. Enjoy!
Khatte Aloo (sour potatoes) traditionally are diced, possibly boiled, potatoes. I like to roast tiny multi-colored, one-bite wonders and dose them with a whole lotta spice! Taste buds…you have been warned!!!
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1/2 pounds small (large marbles) potatoes
Zest of one and juice of 1/2 lemon, juice reserved
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 425oF.
Pulse cumin, coriander, and cardamom about four pulses in a food processor or spice grinder until coarsely ground.
In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, lemon zest, and ginger. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat the potatoes. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, and pepper flakes, stirring until the potatoes are spice-crusted.
Transfer to a sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Roast for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.
Transfer to a serving dish, scraping up additional spices left behind. Drizzle warm potatoes with lemon juice.
Serve warm or at room temperature, as a vegetable side dish or as an hors d’oeuvre. Before serving, toss with chopped mint and cilantro.
You know a movement has had its awareness sufficiently raised when a blithe reference slips into a throw-away line on a sitcom. After two posts on food waste last week, imagine my squeals when I heard this from a waiter at a hip millennial launch party on a newish sitcom: “The bruschetta has been made with rescued tomatoes and date of expiration burrata”. I’m squealing. Really. Yipeeeeeeee!
Unfortunately summer bruschetta is the last thing on my cooking mind today. A girl can dream. But as I moped through the grocery looking for anything to lift the gloom of winter’s darkest days, I was thrilled to see fresh turmeric. I didn’t even know you could get this in a mainstream grocery – in the Midwest. It used to be relegated to special trips to Asian markets in big cities. Or more likely it could only be sourced dried and ground. Honestly, I was never a fan of turmeric when I only knew its dried self. I thought it tasted – well, yellow. It didn’t really register much on my palate. But while doing guest chef stints on culinary cruises in the Caribbean, I would gather up ever fresh market item that was a bit unique and had a story and introduce our passengers to these new world treats. I even spent one week being followed by the Food Network, and we hit the Grenada spice market hard.
Turmeric was just one of the many spices I found bears little resemblance to its dry spice counterpart. Mace was another. It makes sense that I love turmeric because it’s related to ginger – and I’m well documented as a “fiend for ginger”. Both are rhizomes, along with galangal, lotus, bamboo, and many more. They spread laterally (called creeping rootstalk) and send shoots up. Many have culinary uses.
Like ginger, turmeric when fresh has a pungent and aromatic taste that can be quite peppery (HOT!), especially when used in excess. It is a key player in many South Asian (Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian) dishes – both for flavor and color; you’ll find it in American food as a colorant that can range from subtle to supreme. Vanilla products like yogurt and pudding turn creamy, not stark white, and mustard turns bright yellow.
But turmeric’s real claim to fame is its medicinal properties. Like ginger, turmeric has powerful anti-nausea (turmeric tea, just boil it up), anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. If only this miracle worker could clean the bath!! (Nobody wants a yellow tub, I know, I know). It’s even being studied for treatment of IBS, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer. Rock stah!
So I grabbed a handful and headed home, determined to make a spicy vegan curry. It doesn’t have to be vegan or even vegetarian, but that is what I had on my mind. Tucking in for the night with a Buddha Bowl of Spicy Goodness.
Start by making a Yellow Curry Paste – this will make four times what you need and freezes well. You can add a lot of different ingredients or leave out some of these, but this is what I had on hand and so what I used. Roasting the aromatics and toasting the spices, while a bit more time-consuming, will elevate the taste and develop a real depth of flavor that you simply can’t get by just pureeing all the ingredients. It’s worth the commitment.
Many curry recipes are simple purees, but this one roasts the aromatics and toasts the spices. While a bit more time-consuming, this extra step develops depth of flavor that you simply can’t get with dump and whirl. It’s worth the commitment. And bonus – it freezes well!
5 pieces of turmeric
3heads of garlic
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (plus more to drizzle on aromatics)
2 Tablespoons ground coriander
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3 Tablespoons lemongrass paste (a tube usually found with herbs in produce section)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Preheat oven to 400oF.
Wrap the aromatics, each in their own foil pouch, and place on a sheet pan to roast. (20 minutes for the turmeric; 1 hour for the shallots and garlic)
Shallots – peeled, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil
Turmeric – well scrubbed, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil
Garlic – loose outer “paper” removed, tops of each head trimmed, placed in a foil pouch and drizzled with olive oil
In a small sauté pan, heat one Tablespoon olive oil and add all the spices. Sauté, stirring, for about two minutes until the spices start to release their aroma. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor.
Once the aromatics are cool enough to handle, transfer the shallots and turmeric to the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the processor, picking by hand any that linger behind. Discard the garlic “paper”.
Add the lemongrass paste and sea salt. Puree until desired consistency.
Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate or freeze.
This will last longer than if it were made with raw herbs or aromatics, and it also freezes well.
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour
Keywords: turmeric, curry
Now that you have that tasty curry, how about whipping up a Coconut Curry Buddha Bowl, filled with hearty and soul-warming sweet potatoes and earthy greens and topped with pumpkin seeds. It’s vegan and you can feel great about that for so many reasons.
Coconut Turmeric Curry with Winter Vegetable Buddha Bowl
Serving suggestion – rice or brown rice* (See note below)
Start the rice.
In a wok or deep skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the ginger for 2-3 minutes until soft.
Add the sweet potatoes, curry paste, coconut cream and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring periodically, for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and sauce is thickened.
Add the greens and stir until wilted.
Divide rice among bowls and top with sweet potato curry. Garnish with scallions, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
*Brown rice note: I really prefer brown rice but you’ve likely heard the bad news about arsenic. Because it is a whole grain, it has more potential for danger than white rice which has been stripped of its outer hull (and for that matter its nutritional value). Truth be told, I really don’t eat it very often – once a month or less – so I’m not that worried but I do take a couple precautions. Brown basmati from California, India and Pakistan are the best choices – about 1/3 less risk than other brown rices according to Consumer Reports. The other thing I do is rinse it several times, and then cook it like pasta in a 6:1 water ratio (instead of the normal 2:1) and drain the excess water. That will help wash away the evil-doers lurking in your lovely whole grain. My Grandmother always said “you’ve gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die”. I’m guessing she wasn’t talking about arsenic, but she did make it pass 90. Just sayin.