Last week, I made some eggplant rice (also known as vangi bhaath). It was pretty tasty and very different, but this post is not about that dish. It is about potatoes, cooked with a spice mix left over from that dish.
R had come over for an impromptu dinner a few days after I had cooked the vangi bhaath. To me, unplanned dinners with a friend or two are the best sort. Somehow the food is always tastier when cooked without pre-planning and performance anxiety. Don’t get me wrong. I like throwing dinner parties that involve a painfully long chain of back-and-forth emails to find a suitable date and time when everyone’s free and then, spending an entire day cooking that elaborate dinner and feeling so exhausted, tired and not at all hungry by the time you are done cooking that you almost feel like calling the whole thing off and going to bed, instead and having a left-overs party the next day. But I like the other kind better.
It was late in the day and for a change I had spent it working in the Department. After which, I had gone to the gym and by the time I got home, it was already dinner time. There was some yummy dal makhani in the fridge, so I wasn’t worried. but I also wanted to make a quick side dish for R since she likes to eat several small courses. The only problem was that I had no vegetables at home, except a potato. There was, however, a small amount of left-over spice mix from vangi bhaath, so I decided to try cooking the potatoes with it.
I don’t consider myself a great cook, but one thing I am really good at is making dry potatoes. So I knew it couldn’t be too bad. But I didn’t expect it to be so good. And neither did R. So, when we started eating dinner, we were both pleasantly surprised. R was so motivated that she went and bought two potatoes the very next day..ha ha! Since then, I have made this dish twice already. I don’t eat eggs, but I am sure it will also go wonderfully with a fried egg. So, without anymore chit-chatting, here’s the recipe. The only thing you need to know is the proportions for the spice mix. I am sure you can try this with several other vegetables e.g. green beans, carrots, cabbage. The quantities given below will make almost 1 cup of spice mix. You can store the left-overs in an airtight container in the fridge for almost a week.
Ingredients for spice mix
- Fresh grated coconut: 1/2 cup
- Whole coriander seeds : 2 tablespoons
- Whole Black Pepper : 1/2 tablespoon
- Fenugreek (Methi) seeds : 1/2 tablespoon
- Whole dry red chillies : 5-6
- Chana dal/Bengal Gram : 1 tablespoon
- Potatoes, 1 large
- Cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon
- Asafoetida (hing), a pinch
- Salt, to taste
- Oil, 1 tablespoon
- Cilantro leaves, 3-4 sprigs
- Dry roast the ingredients for the spice mix (except coconut) in a heavy-bottomed skillet. You should do this on a very low flame and keep stirring constantly. Once the spices start giving out a beautiful aroma and are lightly toasted, add the coconut and continue stirring till the white flakes turns a little golden. Take the mix out of the pan and set aside. Once cool enough, grind into a coarse powder.
- Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 inch-thick cubes.
- Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and add cumin seeds. Let them sizzle and turn dark brown. Add the asafoetida next.
- Add the potatoes and sauté them for 2 minutes.
- Sprinkle the spice mix over the potatoes. Use as much or as little as you like. I used around 2 tablespoons for one large potato.
- Add salt and cook covered until the potatoes are done. If they look too dry and are sticking to the pan, you can sprinkle some water. I find a little stickiness desirable since it gives potatoes that beautiful crust on the outside.
- Sprinkle a lot of fresh chopped cilantro leaves and eat!