Monday, May 17, 2010

Achari Dum Alu( Potatoes steamed in a sauce of pickling spices)

'Achar' is the hindi word for pickle, 'Dum' means steam, so this is just a simple vegetable dish of potatoes steam cooked in a spicy gravy using pickling spices. The pickling spices here are not your salt and vinegar kind, but Indian pickling spices. Dum Alu was a favourite growing up, since it traditionally uses tiny baby potatoes which are simmered in a spicy and tangy sauce. What child doesn't love potatoes, and this was yet another way to eat the spud. Nowadays, I use any kind of potato available even in a medium size, just cut it in half or quarters, depending on how big it is. As the tators slowly cook in sauce, they absorb all the spices. I use a ready made spice mix made by shan called Achar Gosht mix - check This is readily available in any Indian or Asian grocery store for around a dollar.

This mix can be directly used in any stir fry or simple vegetable saute. For this dish, I made a masala paste with onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, cilantro etc.(read ahead) and added the Achari spice mix instead of garam masala to give it a different twist. Yogurt or tamarind can be used alternately as a sour component and so can amchur or dry mango powder. The use of tamarind or mango will allow this dish to be vegan. Cilantro may or may not be used as a part of the ground paste, depending on your taste. This is excellent served with hot steamed rice or rotis.
I served this with rice crepes, or 'Tandulachi DhirDi' which is a traditional Maharashtrian recipe, mostly from the coastal parts. It is a simple batter consisting of rice flour, salt, pinch of sugar and water, and then used to make a thin crepe. A piece of the crepe is broken off and dipped in the sauce, where it absorbs all the delicious gravy and then takes off for your mouth :)
The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -
6-7 medium potatoes

2 medium onions

4-5 garlic cloves

1 inch piece of ginger

2 green chillies - jalapeno or serano seeded

1 Tbsp dry grated coconut

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 Tbsp tamarind paste or juice of golf ball sized tamarind


Shan Achari Spice Mix

Method -
1) Roughly chop the onion and peppers. Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok or use spray. Fry the onions, chillies, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and coconut one by one until lightly browned and set aside to cool. Take care not to burn the coconut and sesame seeds.

2) Using a blender or food processor, make a thick paste of the above without using too much liquid. You can add the cilantro leaves at this point if desired.

3) Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok or sauce pan and add a little hing and turmeric to temper. Add the masala paste and fry on low heat till well cooked. You may need to keep
adding a little water to avoid sticking. Continue frying the paste for 12-15 mins at least.

4) Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes such that one piece is the size of a golf ball.

5) If using fresh tamarind, soak one or two small pieces in a little water and extract the juice by kneading the pulp lightly.

6) Add water to the spice paste to make a thick sauce or gravy. Add the Achari spice mix, about 2 spoonfuls according to desired spiciness. This is a pretty potent mix, so it is better to start by adding a small quantity and then adding more at the end. Add the tamarind paste or juice.

7) Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover the pot. Let the potatoes cook slowly in the simmering sauce.

8) Check every five minutes or so to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot and stir to avoid burning or sticking. Once the potatoes seem to be done or almost cooked, taste for salt and spiciness. The spice mix contains salt so please consider that before adding more salt. Adjust seasonings like salt, spice mix etc. and also add a pinch of sugar to balance the tartness.

9) Add fresh chopped cilantro to garnish and serve hot, once the potatoes are fork tender.

10) As the sauce settles, it will thicken and also have a slight sheen to it due to the oil from the sesame seeds and coconut used in the paste.

This only gets better with time, and will taste fabulous the next day too, as the potatoes absorb more spices over time.

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