Masala Alu with Dried Cranberries


I guess you could call this a Thanksgiving recipe. I confess freely that I originally added cranberries to this dish only to troll my friend Aparna who has a hatred of all things cranberry-related that can only be due to some kind of unexamined trauma. She stopped talking to me for weeks when I made oats pongal with dried cranberries. I can only hope that she will get help and some day make her way to eating this dish which is very tasty indeed.

In making this I was trying to recover the faint taste memories of a similar dish that a gent I worked with briefly in my advertising days in Delhi in the early 1990s used to bring to work in his lunchbox. His family had an old-school cook and his lunches were always very good—the rest of us pillaged them mercilessly. Anyway, I have no idea if I actually managed to replicate any part of the dish except the colour—I suspect the original had yogurt in it as well—but this is very good and very different from the usual dum-alu that you may associate with North Indian potato dishes. Give it a go. And you probably still have enough time to make it as a Thanksgiving side today.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs potatoes—either very small potatoes left whole or large Yukon potatoes, cut into mid-sized chunks.
  • The following whole garam masala: 1 small stick cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 pods green cardamom.
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced.
  • 1 tspn freshly grated ginger.
  • 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • The following ground to a fine powder: 1 tspn fennel seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn white sesame seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorns, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds.
  • 1 tblspn jaggery or dark brown sugar.
  • 1 cup water, fresh off the boil.
  • 1 handful dried cranberries.
  • Salt.
  • Neutral oil of choice.

Preparation

  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons  of oil over medium heat in a pan that can hold all the potatoes in one layer.
  2. When the oil shimmers add the potatoes and saute, stirring every once in a while till browned and half-cooked. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  3. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and when hot add the whole garam masala and saute for a minute or so.
  4. Add the onion and salt, lower the heat to medium-low and saute, stirring often till the onions have softened and turned light brown.
  5. Add the ginger and saute till the raw aroma is gone.
  6. Add the haldi and the ground spices and mix in.
  7. Return the potatoes to the pan, add the jaggery , mix to combine and saute for another minute or two.
  8. Add the water, bring to a high simmer, cover the pan and cook till the potatoes are almost completely done.
  9. Uncover, add the dried cranberries, mix in and cook till the potatoes are done but not close to falling apart.
  10. Taste and adjust for salt and serve with chapatis/tortillas and dal or alongside a roasted turkey.

Notes

  1. Please excuse the random weight for potatoes in this recipe. It’s exactly how much I had in the pantry when I tested the recipe again prior to writing it down.
  2. I first made this with tiny round potatoes, leaving them whole and unpeeled. If you can find similar potatoes or even small fingerlings that would be optimal. But it’s also very good with larger Yukon Gold or similar cut into chunks (peeled or unpeeled).
  3. For a different kind of heat you could add a few dried red chillies with the whole garam masala and leave the peppercorns out of the ground masala.
  4. However, you do it, you have to be careful not to burn the masala. After returning the potatoes to the pan and stirring to coat them with the masala you have to be careful nothing sticks to the pan before you add water.
  5. The cranberries work here in general in the same way that amchur (dried mango powder) would in a dish like this. But the tart-sweet fruitiness of the cranberries is really nice. I really need to add them to more dishes. Hmmm maybe an onion-cranberry sambar for Aparna?


 

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