Friday, 16 March 2012

Aloo Dum Banarasi

Potatoes in cardamom and fennel spiced tomato gravy


Comfort is something which is everyone's need. And comfort can be in many things, like a soft bed and fluffy pillows, potato chips and a movie on the couch, a book, or any other thing. But comfort food, to me, is the ultimate comforter. No one can say 'no' to a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of cheesy pasta or... ok, let's stop here because my mind has already started craving! The other day, I was sad. And when I switched over my thoughts to dinner after hectic work and a sad heart, and I could not think of anything. And the more I thought of what to make for dinner, the more frustrated I was getting. I barged into the kitchen, half frustrated and half tired, and searched my pantry. I wanted to make something simple, yet comforting enough to take all the heaviness out of me.


Scanning eyes...pantry shelves...and then, my eyes caught the potatoes snug in their tray... and potatoes, to me, is comfort. I could go on and on about the virtues of the humble potato...from being a must in every house to the versatile nature in it to adapt to any style of cooking...and offering addictions in the form of chips, fries, roasts and all. I had to make Aloo Dum Banarasi which is Potatoes in cardamom and fennel spiced tomato gravy. It's a favourite in our house and one of the ultimate comfort foods for me. You have got to do this and you will thank me for adding one more into your collection of comfort foods.

As with all comfort foods, it has a tad more richness than other dishes but that can be adjusted depending on your preferences. The gravy does not overpower the taste of the potatoes in it, which in itself is flavoured with cardamom and honey but mind you it is not sweet. It has fennel seeds, ginger and all things good for your tasting senses.

Aloo Dum Banarasi- Potatoes in cardamom and fennel spiced tomato gravy

It might seem like a long list of ingredients, but do not get intimidated by that...go ahead...

Adapted from Tarla Dalal
4 medium to large size Potatoes or weight-equivalent baby potatoes
6 to 7 large Tomatoes
1.5 tsp Fennel seeds
10 to 12 cashew nuts (optional)
2.5 cm Ginger or 1 Tbsp grated Ginger
7 cloves Garlic
Oil 4 Tbsp
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Chilli powder
2 tsp Salt
4 Cardamom pods or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasuri Methi)
1 tsp Mustard seeds
A pinch of Asafoetida (optional)
A handful of Coriander leaves (chopped) 
1 Tbsp Cream (optional)
Oil for frying potatoes

Note: If you cannot find dried fenugreek leaves where you live, do not fret. Although this adds a unique touch to the dish in terms of flavour, you will still find comfort without it! Also, for the gravy, you can use equivalent amount of canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones.

Cut potatoes into large pieces (quartered or cubed). Fry the potatoes in hot oil for about 5 minutes. Drain them in paper towel and set aside. You can alternatively use the grill-microwave combination mode of a microwave oven, if you have such a model. It will take around 15 minutes in this method but uses only 2 Tbsp oil in this method. Just coat the potato cubes with oil and place the tray into the top rack of the oven for 15 minutes in that mode. 

For the gravy,
Immerse the tomatoes whole in very hot water for about 5 minutes. Then remove them and place them in cold water. Once they are able to be handled, peel them. With the help of a mixer-grinder or blender, make a puree of the tomatoes, cashew nuts (if using), fennel seeds, ginger and garlic cloves.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Once hot, add mustard seeds and once they splatter, and asafoetida (if using). In medium-high heat, pour in the puree. This needs real care for there are all the chances in the world for the puree to sizzle and splatter in the hot oil. But that's Indian cooking for you, with all the fireworks! Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes so that the puree cooks through well enough. The oil will start to separate from the puree. Add the cardamom seeds (only seeds and not the pods) or powder, salt, turmeric, chilli powder and then, the potatoes. Stir everything together. Then add the honey and dried fenugreek leaves (if using). Mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes in low-medium heat for the flavours to come through together. Remove from heat, mix in the cream (if using) and add the coriander leaves.

Serve alongside parathas or rotis.

And there you have it... comfort food to hug you after a day's hard work.

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