Recipe – Sour Potatoes

At my Mumbai home, everyone was out on work. I was relaxed, creative and home alone, yet again. Lazily I walked into my balcony and checked the potato and onion basket. There were about 8 small potatoes and a few onions that were beginning to look neglected.
Suddenly a 40 year old flash-back struck me! One evening during a family chat session my father, late Prem Sagar Sharma, narrated a simple recipe to us. I remember he called it Dahi Aloo. Living alone in his early working life, my father had to manage his own cooking. Thus preparing simple and quick dishes must have been a necessity for him. And that is how this potato recipe was; short and simple. In my parent’s home, I never cooked anything entirely on my own. My mother late Shakuntala Sharma, may not have allowed me to do so. She was a very uncomplicated, at the same time very competent cook herself…
Well, it is difficult to say, how this recipe stayed in my mind. But good it did; because along with it memory of my father also was revives. Main points in its favor were that it was simple to cook, did not need too many ingredients and did not take long. It should be done before anyone returned home. Also there was not much investment at risk. After all a few potatoes and a bowl of left over curds was all that I needed. I decided to go ahead and do some cooking.
Potatoes: 6-8 medium sized/ peeled and chopped thin in length
Onions: 2 medium sized/ chopped thinCurds: 1 ice-cream bowl sized full/
Grated garlic: 1 Tb spoon full
Green chilies: 2/ cut each into 4 parts for visibility
Oil: 2 Tb spoon full
Cumin seeds (Jeera): 1 Tb spoon full
Doing it:
After cutting the potatoes leave them in water to soak in a dish. Put a wok on fire and pour 2Tb spoon oil in it. After it is heated add Jeera (cumin seeds) and let it splutter until it turns light brown. Then add sliced onions, finely chopped green chillies, grated garlic. Sauté it little till it gets soft and onion loses its crispness; but garlic and cumin seeds should retain their aroma. Too much sautéing will kill it. Add the potatoes now and start turning them to mix everything well. After the potatoes get a uniform coat of the spices/masala, lower the fire and keep turning it with a spatula until potatoes look well marinated. It may take 3-4 min.
Add a bowl of water to Dahi and whip it a little with a spoon, to mix it. It may look a bit like Punjabi drink Lassi. Pour it into the wok. Now add salt to taste, stir until the mixture smoothens. Cover the wok and let it cook on the medium fire for first 3-4 min. When potatoes become a little softer; then turn the fire slowest for last few minutes.
Because this is supposed to be dry dish, keep checking it in case potatoes are getting stuck/burnt to the wok bottom. It should not take more than 12-15 min to cook. When potatoes are cooked well, turn the gas off, cover the wok and let it rest for a few minutes.
When it is ready, color of the dish should look whitish bland.
The steam from it should smell a little sour.
Depending upon the strength of the chilies it should be pungent to taste and carry a definite sour taste of Dahi broken down with heat.
According to seasons you get potatoes that cook faster, some don’t. So check them out by their look before hand. Amount of water mixed in Dahi will depend upon the quality of potatoes. Hard potatoes will need more water.
In another variation you could make this dish with thick gravy too. In that case please add some more water to the Dahi. You could also increase the quantity of Dahi to one and a half ice-cream bowl. You could replace garlic with 1Tb spoon of ginger. In this case use 1 green chili or none in place of 2, because ginger has its own hot taste. Taste of sour curdled curd is the main idea, so don’t let other stronger tastes override it.
When I last cooked this dish, I had used a bowl of left over curds. It had been lying in the refrigerator for the last 3 days and thus had turned a little sour already; just like those neglected potatoes. My children totally endorsed the way the dish turned out. My daughter’s colleagues at work tasted it and asked her for its recipe. Some time things do work out. So, don’t be anxious like, ‘hope it doesn’t taste bad’; be anxious ‘suppose it comes out great and everyone loves it’?

Recipe – Mint Raita

When I am home alone, mostly I read, watch TV, surf the net, write and sometimes (though not very often) try my hand in cooking. I like making some side dishes or add-ons to main course. After making some of them a few times I seem to have got a good hang of certain dishes. One of them; rather simple one, is called Raita. It is basically a curds (Dahi) dish. Last time I wrote a piece about this, it was on a day that I made Pudina Raita and got burnt. I only wrote about the incident of getting burnt in the process of making a dish that essentially is supposed to be cold. I was quite excited with my stupidity and foolishness in doing what I did; so I shared it with everyone. But slowly I got pretty creative and started making different kinds of Raita. And surprisingly, I started getting complimented too for them. So I decided that it is now safe for me upload these recipes on the net. Of course it is safe for the readers too. Let me put my white hat on. Ok, here it goes -Ingredients: Curds (dahi)- 500gms/ mint leafs- 50 gm/ Garlic flakes- 10/ freshly ground black pepper– to taste/ salt- to taste.

Chop mint leafs fine. Chop garlic fine. Put chopped mint and garlic in a small utensil. Add a large cup of water (not more than 200ml) in it and put it to boil. We are boiling them to basically get the mint leafs disinfected. It will also reduce the strong flavor of both, mint and garlic. Boil it on slow fire and keep it covered to retain the water from the steam. In 4-5 min, mint and garlic should turn soft. Cover it and let it cool to a comfortable temperature. After it has cooled put it in mixie just for half a minute. It would become smooth.

Now put Dahi in a large bowl. Add a little salt. Add black pepper preferably from a pepper grinding mill, because it retains the fresh taste of pepper. Now add the cooled mint and garlic in it and whip until it becomes homogenous. Taste it for salt. If you find it less then add some more and stir again. But it is better to keep the salt on the lower side and let others add it if they need.

If it has turned out to be smooth in feel and looks saturated light green color, with dots black pepper, I guess you have done it. Just in case the Dahi is too thick then you could add some more water before whipping it. Keep it in the refrigerator for at least an hour; two hours will be better.

Raita is a side dish of an Indian meal. It is had with Indian bread (roti) meals and also quite often with Dal and rice. Northern India, especially UP and Punjab are the lands where you can find a variety of Raitas.

You could follow the same process and make Raitas with spinach (palak) or Methi too. Use garlic for both; but you may not use black pepper for Methi. I like to play with flavors. I like the dish to be recognized as a ‘so and so’ dish with a clear hint of ‘something else’. Like mint Raita with a hint of black pepper. You could add a little ginger paste to the Palak Raita to get a hint of ginger flavor and not use pepper. Like that you could have various combinations; like this with that or next time something different. It is always good to have a clear flavor in a dish rather than mix many things and create confusion.

Raitas can also be made with cucumber (shredded fine), white pumpkin (shredded fine and boiled), onions (shredded), onions and cucumber, onions and ginger etc.

Delhi Darbar restaurant in Mumbai makes a very simple and interesting dish that is made with curds, onions, salt and sugar. Onions are chopped straight and fine, added to the curds along with sugar and salt to taste. It is stirred until the sugar is mixed smoothly. The sugar in fact is a variation here and is to be added just enough to be noticeable; without turning the dish too sweet. Also the mixture should be thick. So there has to be good amount of onions in it. Each mouthful should get a taste of curds with onions. It is more like a salad than Raita.