Monday, July 16, 2007

Pommes de terre

Apples of the earth. That's what potatoes are called in French. Well, that isn't a definition that works for me, seeing as I hate apples. Maybe I should start calling apples papates des arbres and that way they will suddenly become more interesting?

I'm a potatoes gal. I can have them almost any which way, except raw. I remember when my mother had set me to the task of copying out recipes from a book years ago - I came across stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers and stuffed eggplants but nary a mention of stuffed potatoes. I was so hurt on behalf of my beloved tuber that I made up a recipe on the spot and put it into the notebook. My mother has never tried it and so I still don't know whether they would taste poisonous or yummy, but my bet would lean towards deliciousity.

Similar to eggplants, potatoes too are incredibly malleable and lend themselves to all kinds of cuisine, all cooking methods, spices and recipes with equal gusto. This summer when we were on holiday, we lugged along a packet of instant vegit aloo mash, since we were planning on self-catering some of the time. I came up with my own take on the common tikki, and it was a total hit.

Garlicky tikki


1 cup aloo vegit mash

enough water ( as per instructions on the pack)

4-5 large pods of garlic, finely minced


chilli powder

jeera powder

stale bread, crumbled

Reconstitute the dehydrated potato flakes into aloo mash. Avoid excess water - put it in sparingly - so the mash isn't soggy.

Add the garlic, salt, chilli and jeera powder and mix well.

Slowly add the bread crumbs, mixing constantly until you get a mixture that hold together well.

Make the mix into 1.5 inc by 1.5 inch in diameter cutlets, about 1 cm in thickness

Pour some oil onto a frying pan, making sure the frying pan is dry first, and stir the oil about so the inside pan is well coated with the oil.

Wait until the oil is hot and slowly drop in the cutlets.

Cook them on a medium high flame, resisting the temptation to turn them over frequently, until the outsides are brown and crisp looking. make sure both sides are done, and to use less oil, pour a shallow layer into the frying pan and flick it at the tikkis while they are cooking, using the flat side of the spatula, so the sides are crisp as well.

Serve with ketchup or mint or dhania chutney.

This makes a great starter or heavy snack with cocktails. It also tastes good with a simple meal like moong dal and rice.

Another yummy potato dish which I usually serve up for breakfast on lazy Sunday mornings in winter is potato pancakes. These are filling, simple to make and taste superb.

3-4 medium potatoes, grated fine
1 onion, minced fine
chilli powder or pepper
Salt to taste

Mix the ingredients together.
Put oil, or better yet, a dollop of butter, on to heat in a frying pan.
When it's nice and hot, turn the flame to medium.
Spread a thin layer of the potato-onion mix quickly onto the whole surface of the frying pan (about 2 mm thick)
Cook while pressing down with the wooden spatula's flat side, helping the potato's natually gooey liquids to ooze out and bind the pancake together.
Once the bottom of the pancake is nicely browned, flip it over and cook the other side till well done.
Serve hot with onion jam, ketchup, chutney or aachar, whatever you fancy.

Usually potato pancakes are quite thick but I like to make them thin and crisp - they are lighter and taste better to me. I couldn't find a photo of thin potato pancakes and it isn't winter so you'll just have to try them yourself and see how they look.

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