And so the vegetable drought continues…since pumpkin and taro root don’t count for my son. The rest of the family ate those while he got his meat dish. Since my mother makes it better, I’ll post the delicious matsch (spicy meatballs in gravy) recipe from Kashmir, once she cooks it under my all-seeing eyes.
We have this joke about my mother not telling us the entire recipe; she tends to leave out an innocuous ingredient and we keep wondering why our version can never match hers. Sometimes it is the magic in her hands, at other times…
Anyway, there is this simple potato curry that she would make which was a family favourite. But every time I would try to recreate it in my kitchen (after I got married and had to cook regular food instead of the fancy-shmancy cakes and stuff) it would never come out the same. Where I had potato pieces in watery gravy, hers would be these crumbly potato chunks in a creamy tomatoey gravy. I tried all tricks, sauté-ing the potatoes longer, letting them cook partially before adding the tomatoes, and much else. Always using a pressure cooker like her. It would come out delicious and was much appreciated by the ILs but the husband knew…it was not quite there.
All the while my mother insisted that there was no secret ingredient! Yeh, right!
Years went by and no breakthrough. Even I didn’t think my mother would hold back a secret ingredient for so long from her own daughter…then what could it be?
So, I tried a different approach. I tried to be my mother in the kitchen! My mother is super-fast in the kitchen. You would have to be, to cook for a family of five, 3 meals from scratch, every day, 7 days a week, and keep a full-time job teaching high-school teens! She is a brilliant cook, as most mothers are.
I tried to imagine how she would cook. Naturally, a pressure cooker is the tool of choice here. What else…if I know one thing, it is that she is quite impatient with the cutting and chopping…not for her the evenly cut vegetables. Put them ingredients in girl, and do it quick. Don’t waste time sauté-ing-shauteing.
So I heated some oil in the cooker. I did wait for it to get to smoking hot though, before adding the cumin and asafoetida. In went the potatoes, and the spices after that (coriander, saunf, saunth, chili powders, turmeric and salt, in that order – though I doubt my mother has any sort of order!). A quick stir, and in went the tomatoes, and another stir (half a stir, if you are my mother!). Don’t think “what next”, just dump some water in (2 cups, or thereabouts), another half stir. Put the lid on, and pressure cook for 8 min. or so.
And I waited with bated breath (believe you me). As I peeped into the pressure cooker…Yes, I had got it! Just like Mum’s!
Hopefully you planned ahead, and had your rice soaking a little bit before you turned the rice cooker on. By the time you finish laying the table your incredibly delicious potato curry and rice are ready to be served! Try beating this for a record – it can be ready, from start to finish, in under 20 min (not counting the rice soaking time, of course!). Sprinkle with lots of cilantro (this too has made an exit along with some other vegetables from the friendly-neighbourhood Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Shop) and smile smugly as they wonder at your super-woman abilities.
Tamatar Aloo (Potato Curry with Tomatoes)
6 medium floury potatoes (3/4″ dice)
2 tomatoes, rough chop (for authenticity)
1 T vegetable oil (preferably mustard oil)
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t asafoetida
2 t coriander powder
3 t saunf (fennel) powder
1/2 t saunth (dried ginger) powder
1 t chili powder (the hot kind)
2 t Kashmiri chili powder (is milder with good colour rendition)
salt to taste
2 cups water
Heat oil in the pressure cooker. Add cumin and asafoetida. Add the potatoes followed by the spices and salt followed by the chopped tomatoes followed by the water, in quick succession, with a stir in-between. Pressure cook for 8-10 min. Turn out into serving dish and garnish liberally with chopped cilantro. Serve on its own, with rice, or a bread of your choice. The husband thinks plain dahi (yogurt) is a must with this.
Adding green peas and/or green onions makes an equally delicious variation.