I am breaking the journey through the Kashmir Himalayas to share with you a family favourite from the region. ‘Kashmiri’ dum aloo appears on the menu of Indian restaurants more often than it ought to. I don’t imply that it is not worth offering, but that what is offered is not the real McCoy, but an outright imposter. The only thing they have in common is the main ingredient, my favourite vegetable, the potato. You may well say, “What’s the big deal?” If Saveur (their tagline – Savor a World of Authentic Cuisine!) can invent their inauthentic versions why not Indian restaurants! Of course, one is free to try restaurant dum aloo, even like it, but there is nothing Kashmiri about it. All I want is for you, my readers, to make an informed choice.
I used to cook it only occasionally as it involves a bit of frying and uses more fat than my average everyday cooking. That meant cooking a larger batch since “who knows when I will cook it again,” which, consequently, involved consuming even larger quantities of oil. I decided to change that. Now I cook it at least once a month, enough just for two meals. I get my treat and there is no need to binge.
This month I have cooked it twice already. Vijay’s cousins were visiting on Dussehra and I decided to cook an all-Kashmiri lunch for them. I served dum olu and tchaman kaliya with taher and plain steamed rice. I cooked it again last Saturday for Ani, who is home for Divali. He was surprised that I didn’t have it on the blog already. I must amend another oversight – my rogan josh recipe.
Kashmiri dum olu/ dum aloo is prepared without any onion, tomato, ginger, or garlic. It is fairly easy and quick to prepare. For all the deep frying it involves, dum olu is not really all that oily. The amount of oil is in your hands and I make scarcely-oily (no oil floating on top) to moderately-oily versions. Moderately oily does look sinfully delicious (the recipe here). Moderation and mindfulness, always.
Kashmiri-style whole potatoes in a gravy
12 medium potatoes (or six large potatoes), boiled and peeled
(do not use small potatoes)
a pinch of strong hing
1-2 tejpatta (cassia leaf)
1T+ Kashmiri red chilli powder (it’s very mild!)
2T saunf (fennel) powder
1t saunth (dried ginger) powder
1/2t Kashmiri/Punjabi garam masala
2T dahi (yoghurt)
1/4 C oil (preferably, cold-pressed, extra virgin mustard oil)
Prick the potatoes all over with a fork/match-stick. If potatoes are large, cut them in half. Heat mustard oil to near smoking. Add potatoes to the hot oil. When they are golden on one side, turn them over. This takes a few minutes and you needn’t watch too closely. You can do other things [make a cup of tea, read the newspaper…] while the potatoes are frying. Turn them over only when they are done on that side instead of turning often. Fry in this manner till golden all around. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fried potatoes to a bowl/serving dish.
You need about 2-4 tablespoons of oil in the pan to prepare the gravy. Remove any extra oil. To the hot oil add hing, cloves, and tejpatta, in that order. Reduce the heat to low and add all the ground spices (except garam masala) to the oil and give a stir till they just sizzle. I measure out all the ground spices in a small bowl and keep them ready. The spices can burn easily so working quickly is critical at this point. Quickly add the yoghurt; this also helps cool the pan and prevents scorching. Stir till the spices are fragrant and the oil just beginning to separate. Add a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add salt and drop the prepared potatoes into this gravy. Cover the pan, and cook on a simmer for 20-30min, turning the potatoes once midway. Add more water if required – the gravy should be thick, not watery, with a little oil floating on top. Transfer to the serving dish and sprinkle with garam masala. Serve hot with steamed white rice, and a simple dal such as naniwali dal. I always serve it with my nani’s mung dal (in the picture).
I have some festive cooking planned for today. Shankarpali are done, more treats to make and eat over the next few days.
A HAPPY DIVALI to all! Let the festivities continue!