Alu Sabzi


This is the kind of dish you will never find served at a fancy Indian restaurant or for that matter at a dinner party in an Indian home. It also gives the lie to the kind of overheated food writing you sometimes see in the US in which an Indian/Indian-origin chef or writer tells you that every single component of every Indian dish, every spice is intentionally selected to create a very particular set of layered flavours. That kind of thing has its time and place but this here is a recipe whose most crucial component may be a blender. It is quick and easy and it is very tasty. I’m sorry if that disappoints but this is—more often than not—the kind of quick and easy cooking that happens in a lot of Indian homes on a daily basis. It comes together in a hurry and all but cooks itself. Which is not to say that it’s not tasty because it is. And you can adapt it in all kinds of ways to make it your own. Think of it as an approach not a strict recipe. Who knows, you might even like it enough to serve it at a dinner party.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs potatoes, cut into chunks
  • The following whole garam masala: 1 large tez patta/dried bay leaf, 1 large piece cinnamon, 3-5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 fat clove of garlic
  • As much ginger as garlic
  • 1-1.5 cups of diced tomato
  • 1/2 tspn haldi
  • 1 tspn hot chilli powder (or mild if you prefer)
  • The following given just a whirl or two in a spice grinder (see the note below): 3/4 tspn dhania/coriander seed, 3/4 tspn jeera/cumin seed, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seed
  • 1-2 cups water
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • 1 pinch garam masala
  • 1 tspn chopped dhania/cilantro for garnish

Preparation

  1. Put everything from the onion through the very coarsely ground spices into a small blender jar together and puree comprehensively. Keep aside.
  2. Heat a few tblspns of oil over medium heat in a karhai or wok and send the whole tez patta and the cinnamon for a swim in it.
  3. As soon as the tez patta begins to darken and the cinnamon begins to unfurl add the contents of the blender jar to the karhai along with the salt. Saute, stirring constantly till the oil begins to separate.
  4. Add the potatoes, mix in thoroughly.
  5. Add the water, mix in thoroughly, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done.
  6. Uncover and reduce the gravy, stirring often, till it reaches your preferred consistency and the potatoes are done.
  7. Taste and adjust salt if needed, add the garam masala and let it simmer for another minute.
  8. Garnish with the dhania and serve with chapatis or rice with dal.

Notes

  1. I don’t bother peeling potatoes for a dish like this but knock yourself out if you’d like to.
  2. I like to grind the spices for this only enough that some of it is just cracked while some of it is very coarsely powdered. I like that effect in a dish like this. But don’t worry too much about it if you end up grinding the whole to a coarse or fine powder.
  3. I know some of the proportions are vague. Like I said, it’s really an approach not a recipe. How much potato, how much onion, how much tomato, the exact spices or their proportion—these are all up to you.
  4. I usually make this on the mild side but the last time I accidentally used a very hot chilli powder and it was rather good that way.
  5. I also make it on the thick but pourable side but I still recommend starting out with more water and reducing it as needed.
  6. The thing that is important, no matter what you do, is to saute the puree till the oil separates—it should become a thick sludge in the pan. If you’re in too much of a hurry you’ll end up with that raw/metallic onion flavour. If you scorch the sludge in the process, don’t sweat it: just add a pinch of sugar with the water.
  7. This is great with rice and dal but eating it with chapatis is where it’s at. Hot chapatis, this sabzi, some pickle and a bowl of dal (maybe this one)–what else could you possibly need?


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