Simple Potato Curry from the fields of Western UP

potato agra

Cooking ‘fresh and local’ is what Barbara would like…from me in Delhi? While there is lots that grows in and around Delhi, I can never tell if what I am eating was grown locally or if it is from the giant portion that a burgeoning city like Delhi needs to import from neighbouring states? Delhi is no different from other large cities that are ‘parasitic’ in nature, eating and drawing blood from further and further into the suburbs and never giving back.

The ecological footprint of Delhi keeps growing with our ever increasing demands for water, power and every other resource. We should soon be getting water from the Tehri dam…should I include the environmental impacts of the dam into the calculations? All we do is take the life out of the river Yamuna, along the flood plains of which there is still agriculture in the city! Maybe not for long…if Sheila Dixit gives in to the land mafia eyeing this last ‘open space’/ ‘vacant land’, for more buildings

All I have in my yard is the kadi patta, some potted mint, and tulsi (holy basil). The Thai Basil succumbed this monsoon – too wet for it? Poor drainage, more likely. And I am (always) in the mood for (more) aloo.

And Agra, famous for the Taj, is also where my potatoes came from – just a couple of hours drive from Delhi – close enough to be classified as Delhi’s ‘backyard’, under these circumstances. The recipe is from there as well. A simple peasant dish, if you will, of gravied potatoes that relies on the more affordable onions and garlic (homegrown in most cases – in the villages, I mean) for spicing than on any of the other ‘fancy’ spices. These are ground, with a little turmeric, coriander and cayenne, on the sill-batta (sill=flat stone, batta= another word for stone – for pounding and grinding – a different north Indian take on the usual pestle and mortar) to prepare the wet masala. Coriander is amongst the cheapest of spices in India – cheaper garam masalas always have a higher proportion of this.

You cannot beat the sill-batta for its wet grinding prowess. The batta is used for smashing and pounding, and then for grinding with a flick of the wrist. A grinder can never approximate the cutneys off a sill.

If you ever pass by the jhuggi-jhompris (shanties) in our area in the evening, the smell of this masala is everywhere. An everyday tested and trusted recipe of the poor for a delicious dish with all the flavours of their fields back home.

Potato Curry from UP

Aloo ki Ras Bhaji (Curried Potatoes)

1 medium onion, fine chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled (mine was grown in Shakuntala’s home-garden in her village near Agra)
1/2 t turmeric
1 t coriander powder
1-2 t cayenne pepper
2 whole hot red chillies (optional)
1/2 t garam masala (optional)
1 T oil (preferably mustard oil)
1 t cumin
1/4 t asafoetida
7 medium sized Agra (floury) potatoes
salt and water

wet masala ingre

wet masala

Using little water grind the first 6 ingredients on the sill-batta. Okay, use your electric grinder, if you must. Include the whole chillies, if using, towards the end of the grinding process so that there are bigger specks to colour the curry.Heat oil in a pressure cooker (if you want to save time and energy, and contain the ‘footprint’!). Add cumin to the hot oil, let splutter. Add asafoetida. Now add the wet masala paste. Fry the masala till oil separates. Add the potatoes and the salt, and the garam masala, if using. Give it all a good stir. Two cups of water and another stir. Close the cooker lid and pressure cook for 5 min (or cover and cook till the potatoes are done and beginning to crumble). Once the pressure has subsided, stir a few times till the gravy incorporates the crumbling potatoes. If you like soupy gravy, leave as is. Sprinkle with loads of chopped cilantro and serve with your choice of bread, roti, parantha, whatever.

Lip-smacking comfort food. I am known to polish off a catori or two before it reaches the dining table. And this is my entry for The Spice is Right V: Fresh and Local, over at the thought-provoking Tigers and Strawberries by Barbara.

Potato Curry 004

43 thoughts on “Simple Potato Curry from the fields of Western UP

  1. Tina, Krithika – this potato curry is a new addition to my potato arsenal! Utterly basic in the ingredients yet so delicious. This is another ‘authentic’ recipe. Do try and tell me how it turns out. The first couple of times I tried it under Shakuntala’s (my friendly help) guidance -once with garam masala, once without. Both times delicious and definitely a keeper.

  2. I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog thusfar. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

  3. oneseptember – you made my day!

    Krithika – Aha! The Delhi connection. I could see from your posts…next time when you are visiting…party time!

  4. Hey Anita,

    Thanks for this recipe. I made it today. I added tomato as well though, is that a common thing to do?


    Hey Kanchana: I think tomatoes are great in this. But I know Shankuntala doesn’t use them in her version. First, she doesn’t like tomatoes. Second, tomatoes are usually much more expensive than other veggies here, so may not be common in the every-day cooking of the urban poor.

    1. Hey, if coriander powder, cayenne powder, cummin, garam masala, etc, is affordable, I wonder why not the tomato? I don’t think the above-mentioned spices are common in the “everyday cooking of the urban poor.” At least, in the Delhi I know!

      1. Ivar, if you will note, garam masala is optional in the recipe.
        The above recipe is as authentic as it comes! I have indicated which region this recipe is rooted in; spice mixes preferred will depend on the regional affiliations of the community. Why or why not an ingredient may be included or left out is the cook’s prerogative; this is how Shakultala cooks it for her family!

  5. How about a little tamarind paste? A squeeze of citrus juice? I look at this recipe and I have an overwhelming urge to balance the sweetness of the onions and chiles with just a touch of sourness, but then it would taste just like so many other dishes wouldn’t it? OK…I’ll be good and make it just as is. I like the ravishing colour. No tomatoes either? [sighs]
    When I used to fly often, on planes 🙂 , I preferred having the window seat so I could observe the ground below: mother earth in harnesses, her life-blood being sucked out by the tentacles of civilization. Amazing how much it looks like a giant circuit-board though isn’t it? And then, thoughts of how this could possibly be “undone”…and how does my own life contribute or detract from this system?
    Yamuna…I have a cookbook written by a woman named Yamuna Devi. If I recall correctly, she changed her birth name to this. Interesting to learn that it’s the name of a river!
    I’m sorry to hear of the demise of your Thai basil. Though I generally have a pot of it growing every year in my “garden of many pots”(I make hypertufa troughs/pots as a hobby), it is available all summer long in plenty at the local open markets here, as the city I live in has a fairly large population of Thai and Laotian immigrants who tend to be great gardeners. That fact is actually just one of the few saving graces of this city(culturally and gastronomicly), but that’s another story…but it would be enough to say that some of the best food to be had in this city isn’t in the restaurants, it’s in the little family-run grocery stores…
    Would you happen to know of any web-retailers who offer sill-battas? I have many mortars and pestles, but, alas, no sill-battas. If not, I believe I’ll have to add it as priority numero uno on my “when in India shopping list”. 🙂

    Hey Pel: You’re on the right track: first time as Shakutala says, to get the authentic peasant flavour. Next time, add some of those tomatoes (as I do, if she is not looking!) 🙂
    I assure you, sill-batta will be the last thing on your shopping list!
    Hyper-what troughs?? 🙂 And don’t get me started on the poor Yamuna! The river.
    And, if i have my facts right, aren’t you in the land of excellent cheese (and other dairy)?

  6. Your picture was stolen? Did you contact Yahoo about it?

    The picture was with Surya Gayathri’s lifted recipes. Both have been removed since. I saw it on the screenshots that had been taken earlier.

  7. Yes Anita…lots and lots of cheese…the denizens here find a way to incorporate it into everything they possibly can; if nothing else, then shredded and sprinkled on top!
    SO!!!I see evidence of tampering with tomatoes!!! How do you plead?


  8. Aloo ki Ras Bhaji, looks lip smacking and delicious. What is Agra potato? Great way of showing all the spices and the ingredients. Appreciate the way you have also shown the ground item in the mixie. Looks like a dish that would go well with pooris and parathas!!!

    Thank you Pritya, for your appreciative words. Yes, this will be great with pooris or paranthas.

  9. hi..
    my mom wasnt home and i had to try t… its cool tho i didnt know wr t look for the asafoetida
    thanks u saved me

    You are very welcome, Mike! Glad to have been of help…most of the recipes here are easy. So, maybe you can surptise your mom next time! 😉

  10. I tried this potato curry yesterday and the aroma wafting throuhout the house was absolutely divine! We had it with methi puri…a perrrrfect meal for a snowy weekend.

    😀 it is so gratifying when you can cook tasty with little effort. And how simple this recipe is – so quick to come together! I can imagine methi poori will be such a perfect ‘roti’ to serve it with!

  11. Hi,
    Iam commenting for the first time here.
    This is the first recipe i have tried out from your site, i was looking around for some easy breezy recipe for yesterday night… and i came back to tell you, its been simply delicious…superb…
    Thanks for this recipe…will definitely try out more from here…

    Hi Swathy. You’ll find most of the recipes here are the easy-breezy kind. Do tell me when you try some others.

    Thanks for your kind words.

  12. The potatoes were excellent. Thanks.
    I had been dreaming about some simple down-home potatoes and these hit the spot. Made some Masoor Dal to go. The mustard oil touch was right on as well. Interesting – I thought only Bong’s like myself were aficionados. Speaks to my ignorance, I guess.

    Mustard oil does add a wonderful subtle flavour – too bad some don’t appreciate it! Mustard oil is the cooking medium for most of North India: Punjab, Himachal, Kashmir, UP, Bihar, and then Eastwards to West Bengal!

  13. Anita, I love your aloo curry!…looks deliiicious!
    I absolutely love aloos.
    Your recepies make me want to try them immediately!
    And so simple too!

    They are my favourite vegetable too! Do try the aloo recipes here – they are all simple and lip-smacking good!

  14. Anita,
    Made this for Deepavali lunch with puris. Absolutely yummy. Succumbed to the ‘tomatoes!’ chorus and added one in the masala paste.
    Thanks much for another keeper of a recipe, and wish you a very happy Deepavali.

  15. Hello,

    I chanced upon your blog when I was looking for “authentic” Punjabi Choley recipes [of the darker variety]. I plan to try it out soon and will let you know on how it turns out.

    I must confess that I have added your page to my list of favorites and will keeping visiting your blog regularly.

    By the way – in the recipe on Aloo ras ki bhaji, what exactly do you mean by “cayenne pepper”. Please enlighten

    Cayenne pepper = lal mirch! 🙂

  16. I just HAD to let you know ..I tried this yesterday …( with out the cayenne powder and the garam masala powder – since I never use them )….and the result was amazing ..H keeps telling me that I never get the aloo-r dum right and guess what .. he said that it came very near to the one he ate aeons ago and loved …thank you …:)..

    psst..I actually err..polished off a couple of katories before it was sent to the table …:p

    🙂 Whatever works, Indrani!
    But, you HAVE to try the garam masala too (and I don’t mean in this recipe)!

  17. This is a good recipe.In Bengal we make the same aloo sabji .Generally it is served with loochi(refined flour poories).In this recipe I donot use garam masala.

    Thanks, Sreerupa. I have to make loochi… they are great with Kahva too – the sweet-salt-mustard oil flavour is part of nostalgia for me!

  18. I didn’t know what is kahva…….But your blog on tea has given me the answer………Anyway I’m a tea-aholic too(my father also)…In fact at this moment I’ve a cup of lemon tea in my hand………I make tea whenever my mom is not in the kitchen or not at home…she does not let us have tea because too much tea intake is not good for health……But I’m a tea addict ..I can’t help it……..I like flavored Darjeeling tea most…..I also like Punjabi tea .

  19. i cooked your recipe today . it tasted different and we all liked it….but was in different colour!!thank you very much

  20. I’m about to try the recipe, but I mostly wanted to let you know that I loved your comment about cities being parasitic. This is indeed their nature. If you’re not already familiar with it, you might like Derrick Jensen’s book “Endgame”.

  21. Thanks for this recipe. I’ve made it about three times now and I just plain LOVE it. No substitutions, no changes – it’s perfect the way it is. Simple, clean, bright flavours packaged in a warm comfort food curry.

    Will definitely try the rest of your recipes now!

  22. This is looking really great. My roommate Uvaraj prepared this and it was too good. This is the best curry !!!

    Handy during grad school (but I didn’t know this one then)! It is so easy and quick, even a beginner will feel encouraged!

  23. You get a kind of potato curry with Kachori and other items in UP.
    I this the same curry? if not, does anyone know that recipe?

  24. Dear Anita
    Just landed here after getting your reference at Preeti’s.
    I liked the recipe will try in a day or two..Let me see what great writing you have here
    Have a nice day

    So, was it worth your time? 🙂

  25. After a long time of me drooling over this recipe I prepared this today.
    This is was a very simple and very yummy recipe.
    We had it with thick rotis.


    Thanks for trying it Swarna, and writing back! Happy cooking!

  26. Anita, I tried this recipe today and it came out so well. William loves aloo sabzi but I rarely make it because I am not a big potato fan and I never had a good recipe to try. Well, I was craving spicy aloo today and decided to look for a recipe on your blog because I remember that you are an aloo fan. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe.

    By the way, I saw your pictures with Manisha on her blog and it was so endearing to see you two together. I have often had a good laugh over your friendly jabs at each other on the blogs.

    Also, I asked my mum to send me vari masala from Laxmi store but mine looks so red and unlike the picture you have posted…

    We are headed to Malawi next so if you are interested in safaris do come and pay us a visit.

    Best wishes!

  27. Oh its this curry. My maid Ayesha used to make this when I was in Delhi too. she was from Bangladesh and did it lil differently. I loved it so much with rotis and I often prepare this when pressed for time. I love it so much that have created a vegetarian version (without onion-garlic) for my brat days. lovely write up as always.

    Hmm, a jaini version…Thanks for reading, Sayantini.

  28. I have always loved this recipe of yours. Planning to make this for a party this weekend. So I googled the recipe and found your picture on this website:

    I will be following the recipe from your blog. 🙂


  29. anita, this curry is a weekly staple in my home – not necessarily with potatoes. we’ve made it with ground lamb, ground beef, broccoli, etc. j is still getting used to eating meat and this is one way he likes it. we sometimes add a bit of coconut and tamarind to the blender mix. makes it creamy and tangy. love it. thank you.

    – bee (jugalbandi and nutrivore)

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