Saturday, 9 February 2013

Mumbai Aloo

 I have always loved Indian food ever since a school friend of mine invited me to her house for dinner when I was seven, her family were Hindu, and strictly vegetarian. Most children of that age are usually fussy with most foods especially vegetables but not me, tasting true Indian home cooked food for the first time sparked a long love affair with the cuisine, one that I will never want to end. I have always been a meat eater, but if I had to give up meat for good I could do so, as long as I could live on authentic Indian food. I think that Indians are true spice magicians, the complex task of spicing a dish correctly can only be classed as a science, one that I have great admiration for and one that will forever entice me to experiment myself. 
 In 2007 I backpacked through out India, a place that I had always longed to visit, for the culture, diversity but mainly for the food. When you travel, certain places are branded in your mind, experiences such as the people you meet, the music you hear or the food you taste can have such a lasting impression on you that you will forever yearn to go back, Mumbai was that place. It was dirty, smoggy, overcrowded, intense and I loved every second of it. I originally wanted to visit Mumbai because I became captivated with a novel I had read whilst travelling from Delhi to Kerala called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, it tells the story of his escape from prison to Mumbai to start a new life, one particular place that is mentioned in his book is the Leopold cafe, one that has become popular with backpackers since because of his book. After my pilgrimage to the Leopold cafe I found a little underground restaurant, one that accommodated the money, or lack there of that I had. I ordered a simple Aloo curry with a chapati, something so simple but yet so delicious, I have never forgotten that curry served with whole raw red onions as a side, nothing could have made that meal any better. I know that in the UK we have an extremely mediocre version called Bombay Potatoes, which I feel are a total injustice to what the dish is about, so I have spent many years perfecting the dish that I tasted in Colaba Mumbai.

You will need:
700g of peeled and halved if they are large new potatoes (they hold their shape well)
75g of ghee (an indian clarified butter)
300g of white grated onion
30 curry leaves
1 teaspoon of onion seed
3 whole green birdseye chillies 
2 large green chillies
1 tsp of turmeric
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
2 tsp of cumin powder
1/2 tsp of cumin seed
1/2 garam masala
1/2 tsp of asafoetida
5 cloves
5 green cardamon pods
75g of garlic
75g of ginger
2 tbsp of salt
2 tbsp of sugar
1 1/2 tsp of mango powder
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
400ml of water of vegetable stock
250g of natural yogurt
25g of chopped fresh coriander 

In a large cast iron pan or sauce pan melt the ghee and add the onion seed and curry leaves, when the seed begin to pop add the grated onion and cook for 15-20 minutes until the onions are browned and caramelised. Meanwhile in a pestle and mortar crush the garlic,large green chillies and ginger with the sugar and salt until you have a paste. Add the spices to the onions when the onions are browned, that is chilli powder, asafoetida, cumin powder, cumin seed, garam masala, turmeric, mango powder, cloves and cardamon pods, cook the spices until it has mixed with the onions to create a paste, add the paste from the pestle and mortar to the saucepan and cook for five minutes until the rawness has been cooked out of the garlic. Add the peeled and halved potatoes, tinned tomatoes and stock, add the whole birds eye chillies for flavour, and allow to cook with the lid off until the sauce is thick and reduced and the potatoes are knife point tender, this should take 25-30 mins depending on the size of the potatoes. To finished stir through the natural yogurt and fresh coriander, it may need a little more seasoning to finish. Serve with a fried egg and an indian salad.

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