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Hot potato

Potato is king, whether it is the rich Dum Aloo Kashmiri in a cashew infested gravy, or the ubiquitous Aloo Palak, Aloo Shimla, Bharwan Aloo and other such exotica. Lalita Iyer on the power of aloo.

india Updated: Mar 12, 2009 14:28 IST
Lalita Iyer
Lalita Iyer
Hindustan Times

The humble south-indian never really abused the potato much. Okay, let me put it this way. We have only two official potato recipes. Okay, make that three: potato podimaas, potato kaara curry and potato ishtew.

To the rescue
The others, if you have had any in a good south Indian household, are bastardised versions of north indian dishes, or quick fillers for absent vegetables or just a south Indian trying to look cool.

Recipe corner

Potato kaara curry
½ kg potatoes, boiled, peeled and chopped into large pieces (you can even use baby potatoes and leave them whole) n 2 teaspoons sambar powder n Oil and mustard for tempering n Salt to taste

1. Heat one tablespoonful oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the boiled and chopped potatoes, salt, and sambar powder, and mix well.
2. Slow cook for twenty minutes, tossing occasionally, or till the potatoes turn slightly crisp.
Serve hot with rasam rice or daal rice.

Potato song
1/4 kg potatoes n3-4 large tomatoes n Chilli powder n Dhania powder n Jeera powder n Mustard seeds n Salt to taste.
1. Boil, peel and chop the potatoes to little bits.
2. In a pan, add oil and mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the chopped tomatoes, haldi, dhania powder, jeera powder and salt. Mix well and cover and cook for five to 10 minutes, adding water if necessary, till the tomatoes are reduced to a pulp.
3. Now add the potatoes, and more water and salt if required, and bring to boil.
Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve hot with rice or puris.

As for other communities, the potato is king, so to speak. It is celebrated, its virtues are extolled, it has pride of place in most dishes on the menu, whether it is the rich Dum Aloo Kashmiri in a cashew infested gravy, or the ubiquitous Aloo Palak, Aloo Shimla, Bharwan Aloo and other such exotica.

Comfort food
In my case, it is comfort food. Like it is for the husband, who has had a diplo-brat upbringing and has to have his fries with every meal. The first time I heard, I rolled my eyes in a “Wtf?” sort of way.

I soon discovered the power of frozen foods and now give them this day (or every other day) his daily fries whenever he makes suitably whiny sounds (or doesn’t make them, actually).

But my way to treat potatoes is never to do anything elaborate to them. Just something that is quick and low maintenance. Like a friend of mine taught me the power of the red chilli and garlic paste which is an instant masala to fry thinly sliced potatoes in, and tastes great.

When we were kids, dad had his own version of Dahi Batata, which he often made for us as a Saturday evening snack. He merely boiled and cooled the potatoes, chopped them to bits, adding chopped green chillies, coriander, chaat masala and lots of dahi to it. We greedily dug in, and it was over in no time.

Too hard to resist
The mother has been off potatoes since she was pronounced diabetic, and her craving for this tuber suddenly emerged out of nowhere. She is often caught gorging on potato based dishes at buffets, and it looks like we might have to appoint a mafia to report on her vada pav and other potato rendezvous.

As for me, my baby potatoes in thyme was always a winner at pot luck dinners or dinner dates where one didn’t want to work too hard, but still look good. All you had to do was parboil and peel the potatoes (the tricky part was to keep the surfaces clean and crater-free) and then slow sauté it in butter and thyme for close to half hour, when the cheeks would turn just the right shade of brown.

But my favourite was what my friend Dipti taught me. We used to call it potato song in our childhood and it goes well with crispy puris, or even hot rice. My already weak taste buds are tingling, so I will sign off right here, lest I start getting the cravings.