Friday, 22 May 2015

Aloo gajjar

Aloo gajjar (which actually just means potato-carrots, but sounds more glamorous) is a staple side dish for almost every curry I make - humble ingredients, quick, yummy and spicy, and been in my repertoire for long enough to feel like comfort food. It even predates the Balti Bible curries, as a quick bit of cookbook archaeology shows:

"To my baby HOT & SPICY sister, I hope you enjoy COOKING with this book.
[Circle with wavy lines] Mexican the morning after eating chilli bean stew.
Christmas 95.

Christmas 95: so I'd just come back to South Africa from my gap year in England, in which I'd been thrust into cooking in a care-work job in the most wonderful old house, and fallen in love with Oxford, and in Oxford, and had all manner of sea-changes, and was still a couple of years away from learning to cook spices with the Bhakti Yoga society, but it seems spices were already firmly on the menu. I like finding threads of consistency across the years, when so much else has changed.

Bizarrely, though, I only really use one recipe from this book - I don't know why I do that, find a recipe in a book that I love and be so delighted that - what, I never think of making any of the others? Decide that the cook who chose this fabulous dish is not to be trusted on any of their other choices? I have a few books like that. Even more bizarrely, for a dish I've made so many times, I get the recipe out every time. I can walk out of a film reciting most of the dialogue, and tell a student about a conversation we had three years ago and what date and time of day we had it; I have vast swathes of poetry and song lyrics tucked away in my mind; I cook almost everything without even glancing at a recipe, and yet the five-hundredth time I'm making aloo gajjar, I still pull out the recipe. No idea why. Next time I shall force myself to make it from memory.

Download the recipe

The cast! Starring: 3 carrots and 4 medium potatoes, with a supporting cast of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chilli powder, ground turmeric, a lemon for the juice, and a goodly handful of coriander. Plus, of course, ghee. (Or oil. If you're still unconverted. You heathen you.)

Chop the carrots into chunks about a centimetre thick  (that's half an inch, imperialists), or a bit less - they should end up about the same size as the cubes of potato.

And chop the potato into cubes about half an inch (that's a centimetre, Metricisits), likewise. If you chop the potatoes in advance, keep them all closed up as they are here: they turn brown when they're exposed to air.

Ignore the onion at the front, that's crept in from another dish,  you're looking at the potatoes and the carrots, all nicely chopped and ready to go.

Melt about three tablespoons of ghee (or oil) in a pot - you want a wide base, but you also need to be able to put the lid on.

You need 1 teaspoon each of coriander seeds and cumin,...

... into the hot ghee, and stirred round a bit. The cumin seeds should crackle some.

Add the potatoes, stir them in, and let them fry for 3-4 minutes - stir them once or twice, while they do, but as little as possible, because you don't want them to collapse and break down. If you're using ghee instead of oil, this is one of those points where it'll really impress you, as the potatoes stick much less than with oil.

While they're frying, I can chop up that coriander leaf, for the end.

Once they're a little browned and crispy looking, like here, throw the carrots in,...

... and stir them in well. 

Sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of chilli powder and a quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric.

The carrots also want a bit of water to help them cook, so sprinkle some over:

Not too much, or again, it makes the veg collapse to a mush. I'd guess I'm sprinkling about 2 tablespoons in.

Cover it and turn the heat down to medium-low (that's the lowest setting for this oven ring, because it's the hottest ring). Leave it for 8-10 minutes. It's hard to believe that the potatoes can possibly cook in that time, but they can, and do. Maybe stir it once during that time, but again, avoid too much stirring so you don't end up with mash.

Squeeze the juice out of your lemon, so that when it's ready...

You can pour over the lemon juice and sprinkle in the coriander.

Stir it gently, and voila!

Sharing the spotlight here with a balti madras, sag, and rice.

That aloo gajjar made 1 litre, total, which was 250ml to serve 2 the night I made it, plus 3 sets of 250ml to go in the freezer, as per curry cascade principles.

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