Simply spicy

Mallika Basu - Simply spicy

Posted 31st July 2007

gujarati-aloo-subzi.jpgBack home from a harsh day at work, I ripped my suit off and frantically started wrapping a saree around myself.

We were due to attend my brother-in-law’s best friend’s Gujarati wedding reception. On a Monday. In the depths of commuter countryside – Hertfordshire.

Going out on a Monday night is difficult at the best of times. Wearing a saree, earrings the size of rocks and gold stilettos was pushing it just that little bit too far.

Moan over, we dashed down the motorways to a Jain temple and community centre tucked away at the end of a country lane.

Hubby gasped with surprise as he spotted a sign forbidding “non vegetarian food, alcohol and smoking”. His life was temporarily over.

I, on the other hand, fidgeted nervously and shuffled along like a Geisha attracting glares from a 1000 aunties. I never did work out if it was the painstakingly hand-embroidered chiffon saree draped on my left arm or the bona fide white man on my right.

We queued for food. And boy was it worth it. A platter with little compartments held a host of vegetarian treats – kadhi, dhokla, khandvi – and two achingly glorious sweets.

Gujaratis are mostly vegetarians who avoid eggs, meat and fish. As Jains, they avoid using garlic and onions in their diets. Very strict Jains don’t even have potatoes or other root vegetables.

This wedding featured a delicious spicy potato curry. I ate mine in a jiffy and started attacking hubby’s portion, attracting glares from the uncles this time.

I decided to try and replicate it the following day. From my calculation, it used ginger and heeng, even a bit of sugar. And the result was surprisingly close to what we had eaten, but “not as spicy” according to hubby.

This time he enjoyed it with a pint.

The recipe serves 4:

350 gm small new potatoes, washed and halved

Pinch of asafoetida (heeng)

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

Half tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp chilli powder

Half inch ginger, pureed with 1 tbsp warm water

2 tbsp natural Greek yogurt

Quarter tsp sugar

2 tbsp sunflower oil

Half cup hot water

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pot over a high flame. When the oil is hot, add the heeng and the sugar.

As the sugar caramelises, add the pureed ginger and fry it stirring until its colour changes to a warm golden.

Then add the tomatoe puree and all the powders. Mix them well, frying the masala for five minutes until you can see the oil reappearing on the sides of the pot.

Now add the potatoes and stir vigorously incorporating the masala into them. As the potatoes start going translucent around the edges, spoon in the yogurt. Make sure you use a very thick yogurt or it will split.

Fry for about two minutes, mixing the masalas together. Then add the hot water, reduce the flame to a medium heat and cook covered, stirring regularly, until you can easily insert a fork into the potatoes.

This will take a good 20-30 minutes but the potatoes will taste much better than if you pre-cook them.

Serve them hot, with a vegetable pulao or rotis.

Comments are closed.