Spending a month with An Invitation to Indian Cooking has reaffirmed my love of Madhur Jaffrey. I feel strongly that anyone who likes Indian food should find a copy, as should anyone interested in charming but unpretentious stories about food and the writing of friendly recipes that work.
Last week I tried two new dishes: sookhe aloo (“dry” potatoes), a deliciously familiar variation on other Indian dishes I have tasted, and karhi, a thick porridge of chickpea flour and buttermilk that I thought would be either a hit or very weird.
I’m still making up my mind about the karhi experiment. I think I like the tangy, daffodil-yellow porridge, but I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to pull off the fried chickpea-flour dumplings that should have been floating in it (deep frying is not a technique I have mastered). I’m curious about karhi: does anybody out there still make this at home? (Jaffrey says her family enjoyed it on Sunday evenings.) Is it served at restaurants in New York? I’m not going to share the recipe, since the sookhe aloo was a hit pure and simple.
Dry potatoes! The spicing was marvelous, but I’m quite sure their delectability owed something to the shocking amount of oil used as well. Although they were meant to be stuffing for samosas, they were so compulsively edible on their own (and the prospect of making samosas was so daunting) that we decided not to mess with perfection.
The book says this serves 6-8, and I suppose it would as a tiny side dish. The two of us ate it with another vegetable and rice, and it made enough only for that dinner and a small lunch the next day (4 servings). Since childhood I have believed that everything good about the potato is in its jacket and so I did not bother to peel. This created some minor sticking problems, and I can see how peeling would yield an even more delightfully decadent dish, but I will probably still skip that step the next time I make this.
- 7 medium-sized potatoes, boiled in their jackets and cooled, preferably at least 4 hours in advance (I used about 1 3/4 pounds potatoes)
- 10 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
- 12 whole fenugreek seeds
- 3 whole dried hot red peppers
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Just before you start, peel the boiled potatoes and dice them into pieces about 1 inch by 1/2 inch.
In a wok or a 10-12 inch pot, heat the oil over medium flame. When very hot, put in the fennel and cumin seeds, and then the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. As they begin to change color and pop (about 10 seconds), add the red peppers. As soon as the red peppers swell and darken, add the diced potatoes, turmeric, and salt. Keep on medium heat and fry, turning gently so as not to break the potatoes. Fry for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are unevenly browned. Squeeze lemon juice over potatoes and taste for salt.