Happy Navratri! Today is the first day of the nine days that are spent in prayer, contemplation, and celebrating women.
Last year during Navratri, I wanted to make a different sweet each day as an offering to the Goddess. One of the days, when I didn’t know what to make and had some boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes in the fridge, I made this recipe which I found online. Usually only made from potatoes, I added sweet potatoes to the mix and the result was a super delicious halwa, which nobody could believe was made from potatoes!
This recipe is slightly heavier during the summer months because of the carb and starch content in the potatoes and so is apt for winters. Also, because it is heavy, you can make it if you are fasting as potatoes are the quintessential fasting vegetable.
3 medium-sized potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
1 medium-sized sweet potato, boiled, peeled, and mashed
½ cup milk
1/3 to ½ cup sugar according to taste
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
4 tbsp ghee
A generous pinch of saffron
2 tbsp chopped mixed nuts like cashews, almonds, and pistachios
1 tsp raisins
Take the saffron in a small bowl and add 1 tbsp warm milk to it let the saffron dissolve. You may need to stir it a bit or even cook it in the microwave in 30-second increments.
In a small pan, with 1 tsp ghee, fry the mixed nuts and raisins and keep aside. You can also dry roast them as I did to make the recipe slightly healthy. Keep aside.
Heat ghee in a pan and when the ghee heats up, add the mashed potatoes.
Sauté on low heat for about 5-6 minutes until the potatoes start to change in colour and start becoming golden brown.
Add in the milk, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron and mix well to combine. The sugar will start to melt and the mixture becomes watery. Make sure you stir well that there are no lumps in this mixture.
Stir continuously until the halwa turns dry again and the ghee starts oozing out.
Add half the chopped nuts and raisins and mix well.
Cook for another minute and switch off the flame.
Serve warm garnished with the remaining nuts and raisins.
This dish is best served warm, so if you are planning to make it ahead of time, just warm it in the microwave or the stove and serve.
These days we don’t eat rice on Sundays and so I am constantly on the look-out for recipes which we eat, mostly western dishes. One weekend, with an almost bare fridge, I decided to make a cauliflower and potato soup and decided to kick it up a notch by roasting the cauliflower first.
The soup was incredibly creamy and so filling. It also seemed to me to have a slight taste of mushroom soup and this was corroborated by BB & GG who loved it! I will be making this again and this will be added to my repertoire.
Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Soup
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and kept aside
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves
10-12 cashew nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsps Olive oil
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.
Line a large tray with either baking paper or aluminium foil and spread the chopped cauliflower in it. Drizzle about a tbsp of olive oil and then some salt and pepper and mix well. Pop it into the oven to roast for about 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflowers start to brown. Remove and keep aside.
Heat the balance oil and butter in a large saucepan and when warm, add the galic cloves. When the garlic starts to brown, add the cashew nuts and stir for a few minutes.
Then add the chopped onions and stir until the onions are translucent.
At that point, add the chopped potatoes, some salt and cook covered until the potatoes are done, stirring every few minutes.
Let everything cool down and then blend it to a smooth paste in a blender. This works best with a proper blender and an immersion blender may not make it as creamy as we want it to be.
Once it is smooth and creamy, bring this back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Season as needed with salt and pepper and serve hot with bread croutons.
A very simple dish which I usually whip up for lunch, this dry curry pairs potatoes with ajwain or carom seeds.
Used quite widely across the Indian subcontinent, ajwain is said to counter gas in the stomach. Many communities have traditional recipes of ajwain water when you have an upset stomach and for this reason I like to pair it with potatoes because these tuber vegetables can give you a bad case of stomach bloating.
This is a very easy recipe and from start to finish took me less than 30 minutes, including cutting the potatoes. Eat it with rice and some dal or with any Indian flatbread. It is also yummy paid with a chutney and filled in bread as a sandwich.
4 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp amchur powder
Salt to taste
Wash and scrub the potatoes well. If the skin is fairly thin, you need not peel it, otherwise peel the skin. Make thick slices and then sticks of the slices. Now make small and thin squares of the potatoes. Cut as thin as you like. The smaller the potato piece, the faster it will cook.
Heat the oil in a pan and when warm, add the cumin seeds and stir for a couple of seconds. Then add the ajwain and stir for a couple of seconds.
Now add the dry spice powders – asafoetida, turmeric powder and red chilli powder and stir. Add the amchur powder and salt and give it a good stir. Make sure the flame is low to medium so that you don’t burn the spices.
Next add the chopped potatoes and cook covered, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning once the potatoes are cooked. I like to make this dish a little crisp, but if you don’t like it crisp, you can remove it from the flame once it is cooked.
Another no onion, no garlic recipe, this time the classic aloo matar (potato and peas) curry reimagined without onions or garlic and made royal with the addition of some dry fruits and sesame seeds. It was super yummy and the addition of milk and yoghurt balanced the tartness of the tomatoes and also gives a slight sweetness to the recipe.
Shahi Aloo Matar
3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup frozen or fresh green peas
3 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 cup skimmed milk
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
6 cashew nuts
1 inch piece of cinnamon
3-4 cardamom pods
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/8 tsp asafoetida powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves to garnish
Peel and chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add 1 tsp cumin seeds and let them pop. Then add the fennel seeds. Next add the sesame seeds, cloves, cardamon, bay leaf and cinamon one at a time and stir for a few seconds before adding the next ingredient.
Next add the cashewnuts and almonds and stir till the nuts are slightly brown. Now add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and let the tomatoes cook and become mushy. Remove, let it cool completely and grind it to a smooth paste with the yoghurt.
Heat the balance oil and add the balance cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the asafoetida and turmeric powder and stir for 2 seconds.
Then add the chopped potatoes and let them cook for about 5 mins, or until they are half cooked.
At this point, add the frozen peas and salt and let the potatoes and peas cook till they are around 75-80% cooked. Remove from the flame and keep aside.
In a new pan, add the ground paste and stir well. Add the dry spice powders – chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder and cook covered till the oil leaves the sides of the pan and the raw smell disappears. This should take around 7-10 minutes.
Now add the cooked potaotes and peas to this paste and stir well. Add the milk and let it come to the consistency you need. You can also add some water or more milk if it is still thick. Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mix together. Check for seasoning and garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.
This goes very well with any Indian flatbread or even a jeera rice or pulao.
This quote, attributed to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the 17th century when he first visited Kashmir can be translated as, “If there is a heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”. The Mughal Emperor was so impressed by the beauty in Kashmir that he would often say, if one has not visited this beautiful paradise, they are missing out on something worthwhile.
When I made my Kashmiri Pulao, I wanted it to be accompanied by a gravy dish from the same region. But as I discovered, since vegetables are scarce in the region, it is difficult to find vegetarian dishes here. So I adapted a mutton dish which I found online and created a potato yakhni. This may not be absolutely 100% authentic, but I was impressed with the taste.
Yakhni essentially means a gravy based dish and is a light curry or broth which has to include two main ingredients other than the meat – yoghurt and saffron. Yakhni came to be known in Kashmir during the Mughal emperor Akbar’s rule. Yoghurt-based meat curries were part of Persian cuisine, and the Emperor introduced this style of cooking to his new state when he annexed it in 1586. Yakhni dishes are also seen in Greek and Turkish cuisines, but what sets the Kashmiri Yakhni apart is the absence of tomatoes. Certain recipes also avoid onions and garlic since the Kashmiri pundits didn’t use those ingredients in their cooking.
So after this short lesson on the Kashmiri cuisine, let’s go on to the dish!
1 kg potatoes, boiled, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
5 green cardamoms
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp warm milk
1 tsp dried ginger powder (saunth)
2 tsp fennel powder
2 dried red chillies
1 cup yoghurt
2 tbsp ghee
2 pinches saffron
Salt to taste
Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and keep aside.
Dissolve the saffron in the warm milk and stir a bit. Keep aside till needed.
Heat ghee in a deep bottomed pan. Add bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, whole red chilli and cook on low flame till the spices begin to crackle.
Now add the chopped potatoes, turmeric powder, salt and saute for about five minutes on a medium flame.
Whisk the yoghurt well and add it to the potatoes. Make sure your flame is on low so that the yoghurt does not curdle.
Mix together the fennel and ginger powders and add it to the gravy.
Then add the red chilli powder and cook till the mixture thickens slightly.
Next, add the dissolved saffron along with the milk and stir for a couple of minutes. Check for seasoning and remove from the gas.
Serve hot with Kashmiri Pulao.
If you want to make this with mutton, wash the mutton well and just replace the potatoes with the mutton.
To make fennel powder, simply grind 2 tbsp of fennel seeds into a fine powder. You can also find this readymade in Indian grocery stores. The same store will also have dried ginger powder available.