Sometimes the most ordinary of foods can be made extraordinary simply by pairing them with the right ingredients. For this delicious potato dish, I took a lot of inspiration from my mother-in-law’s cooking and the tasty foods I ate while in West Bengal.
I paired the potatoes with dried red chilies and copious amounts of mustard oil. Mustard oil is the *star* of this dish, and the pungent flavor really compliments the potatoes perfectly!
If you’re unfamiliar with mustard oil, it’s okay. It’s not an oil we often use here in the States and it isn’t usually found on the shelves of your neighborhood supermarket, although I have seen it at Walmart in their “ethnic” section. To locate a bottle you may have to stop by an Indian market or order online. Just be sure you’re ordering PURE mustard oil. It should cost around $3 to $4 dollars for 16.9 oz.
Now that I’ve told you where to buy the oil, I should probably warn you that it can definitely be an acquired taste. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I really began to enjoy the flavor. Now, believe it or not, I occasionally find myself craving the taste and the smell of mustard oil.
One whiff and I’m instantly transported back to Kolkata… Oh, how I miss India!
This Potato dish is so simple to make. In fact, I’m not even sure if I can call it a recipe. It takes little to no time to make and tastes amazing paired with a simple omelet or even stuffed in a warmed up tortilla–or as Baba would say, Mexican Chapatis.
To make this dish, I diced up three good-size potatoes. I used russet potatoes and peeled them before dicing. Usually I prefer red potatoes and I would leave the skin on. Use what you have laying around the house and feel free to experiment! No potatoes? That’s okay. Use cauliflower!
Once your potatoes are chopped, tip a tablespoon or two of mustard oil into the pan and toss in a couple dried red chilies and some kalonji (otherwise known as nigella seeds or black onion seeds). Once the oil gets hot–when it just begins to smoke and the kalonji begin to pop–add the potatoes and a little turmeric.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me tell you a little about the kalonji seeds.
Kalonji seeds have a mildly pungent flavor and are sometimes referred to as “black cumin.” They’ve been described as tasting like a combination of black pepper, oregano and onions. Personally, I love to toss a couple teaspoons of the seeds into dough when I’m making bread or pizza dough.
At this point, your dish should look something like this:
Stir everything so that the potatoes are evenly coated with both the turmeric and the kalonji seeds. Keep stirring and frying being sure not to let the potatoes burn.
Once the potatoes begin to turn a little brown and crispy I usually toss in a little water and put the lid on the pan. This helps the potatoes cook a little faster. I’m impatient!
See how easy that was? Simple!
Aloo Sabzi (sabzi simply means: vegetable side-dish) Recipe:
- 2 or 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled (if desired) and diced
- 1-2 tbsp. pure mustard oil
- 1 tsp. kalonji seeds (nigella seeds)
- 3-4 dried red chilies
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric powder
- 1/8 c. chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 1/8 c. chopped scallions (green onions)
- 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. water
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat oil in a medium sized pan. Add kalonji seeds and dried red chilies.
- Once the oil becomes hot and the kalonji begin to pop, toss in the diced potatoes and the ground turmeric powder. Stir everything really well so that the turmeric coats the potatoes evenly. Let cook in the oil, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown.
- Add a little water to the pan (around 1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cover the potatoes. Let cook until the potatoes soften completely–about 8 minutes, or so.
- Remove the lid and tip in the chopped coriander and chopped scallions. Stir to mix and then cook until the water evaporates and the curry becomes dry.
- Season with salt and black pepper. Enjoy!