Zeera-Alu (Fried Potatoes with Cumin)

Zeera-Alu
This recipe is a variation on one I posted last year for sweet potatoes with cumin. I said of that one at the time that it might have been the simplest recipe I’d yet posted. This one is both a bit more and a bit less involved. A bit less because it has even fewer ingredients; a bit more because it has one extra, fussier step: it calls for the potatoes to be first boiled and then peeled and fried. For this reason this is unlikely to be a recipe you might make on a weeknight (when two pots for one dish might be one pot too many) but it makes a mean side dish for when you have more time to cook. It’s great right out of the pan and it’s also quite good when it’s cooled—so it’s also a good option for picnics and potlucks. The recipe calls for small, waxy potatoes but would work just as well with larger potatoes cut in half or thirds (just make sure they’re not too starchy). 

Ingredients

This is in case you don't know what potatoes look like.

This is in case you don’t know what potatoes look like.

  • Potatoes, 1 lb, ideally small, round ones, boiled and peeled
  • 2-5 dried hot red chillies
  • Cumin seeds, 1 tblspn
  • Turmeric powder, 1/4 tspn
  • Hing/Asafoetida, 1/8 tspn (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and when almost smoking add the dried red chillies and the cumin seeds.
  2. Stir vigorously till the cumin seeds split.
  3. Add the hing (if using) and stir for another 10-15 seconds.
  4. Add the boiled potatoes to the pan, stir to coat with the cumin.
  5. Add the turmeric and salt and toss to coat the potatoes evenly.
  6. Stir-fry over high heat for 5 minutes or so, letting the potatoes develop a crispy crust, but taking care not to let the dried chillies scorch.
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature with rice or parathas with dal.

Notes

  1. You don’t want to use very starchy potatoes and you don’t want the potatoes to become waterlogged when you boil them. I usually cover them in cold water in a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then boil over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Spray with cold water to cool them down enough to peel them comfortably but don’t soak them.
  2. I use mustard oil but any oil that can be safely gotten pretty hot is fine—you really want to get a nice crust on the potatoes.
  3. The hing adds a nice, savoury depth but don’t worry too much if you don’t have any.
  4. If the red chillies get very dark at the first step, take them out of the pan before you add the potatoes and add them back in at the end. They’ll still flavour the oil and add some colour to the finished dish, but that way you won’t have the taste of burned peppers throwing things off balance.

Zeera-Alu

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