Last weekend my husband Matthew made his favourite spicy Indian potato dish to take to a potluck dinner for the World Voices singing group. It was very popular and people requested the recipe.
The potatoes are cooked with whole spices and coconut oil, which gives a wonderful depth to the flavour.
Matthew usually fries the potatoes in lard, but he made a vegetarian version on this occasion because Christoph, our host (and the musical director of World Voices), doesn’t eat meat. You could use ordinary vegetable oil if that’s all you have.
Above: World Voices singing in Jeanette's Tamahere garden. Christoph at right, Matthew at left with ukulele.
This recipe comes from An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey. Madhur has several spiced potato recipes, but this one is our favourite. It includes whole spices and it’s easy and quick to make if you have all the ingredients to hand.
See the note at the end for where to buy the spices and coconut oil.
Above: Some of Richard Cato's superb Anuschka potatoes, waiting to be eaten.
2 kg potatoes – Richard Cato’s Anuschkas are ideal. He sells them regularly at the Hamilton and Cambridge farmers’ markets.
10 tablespoons coconut oil, lard or vegetable oil (this is Madhur’s original quantity. Matthew says using lots is necessary for the flavour).
1/8 tsp ground asafoetida
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
12 whole fenugreek seeds
3 whole dried chili peppers
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Boil the potatoes. Leave them to cool for four hours. (This recipe works really well with leftover potatoes.) If you’re in a hurry you can make this dish with hot potatoes, but letting them cool makes a big difference to the result. Cut potatoes into small pieces, approx 2.5cm cubes. (Madhur Jaffrey suggests peeling the potatoes, but we don’t bother.)
In a wok or cast-iron frying pan heat the oil over medium heat.
When oil is very hot, add the asafoetida first, then 5 seconds later the fennel and cumin seeds, then the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in quick succession. As they begin to change colour and pop (about 10 seconds) add the whole red peppers.
As soon as the red peppers swell and darken (a few seconds), add the potatoes, turmeric and salt. Keep on medium heat and fry, turning gently so as not to break the potatoes. Fry for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are browned unevenly.
Squeeze lemon juice over the potatoes and mix in, and check the salt.
Remove the chili peppers before serving, unless you love whole chili.
Where to buy the ingredients
All of these spices can be found at bulk stores. We buy ours at Bin Inn Hamilton East. Most supermarkets don’t stock whole spices.
Asafoetida is also called Hing powder. It comes in a little yellow jar with a red lid and it’s very pungent. You only need a tiny amount, but it is a really important x-factor.
Trade Aid sell Fairtrade organic dried chili peppers, turmeric and black mustard seeds. They also sell excellent coconut oil. Their Hamilton shop is in Worley Place, near Garden Place, across from the mall.