Wednesday, January 5, 2011

BaTaTyacha Rassa - Potatoes in a tomato curry

'BaTaTa'( buh'Ta'Tah) in marathi means potato, that humble vegetable that none of us can really ever have enough of. 'BaTaTyacha' literally means 'of potato', 'Rassa' means gravy or curry, so this means potato gravy.

This dish is ubiquitous in all homes and perhaps the go-to dish when either you are out of vegetables, or need something in a jiffy, or want to pacify a fussy kid ( young or old). This curry with hot steaming rice is a perfect lunch or dinner when you are at a lose end and want something comforting and simple.

Now that I have waxed enough over this wonder, lets get down to the basics. There are some ways of doing this, and depending on regional and cultural differences, each family recipe could be slightly different. Like in our own home, I prefer a thick tomatoey version using boiled potatoes, while the older ones prefer starting with raw potatoes that cook in a watery stock.

Tomatoes seem to be very economical nowadays and we are getting the local or 'gavran' version, which are big on taste. Adding a few or more peas easily turns this into Alu Matar, another favourite. Roasted peanut powder or 'DaNyacha KooT' adds thickness and some nutty rich flavour.

So without any further introductions, this quick and easy recipe follows. And if this is a carbfest, who cares? My tummy's happy and so am I.

Ingredients -

5-6 medium potatoes
1 green chili pepper optional
1-2 medium onions
3-4 fresh tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp goDa masala or garam masala
1 tsp each cumin coriander powder
green peas handful
1 TBsp Peanut powder
oil and salt
Mustard seeds or cumin seeds
Cayenne pepper

Method -
1) Boil the potatoes, preferably in a pressure cooker, or microwave until cooked. Peel and chop them roughly and set aside.
2) Chop the onions and tomatoes, and the green chili if using.

3) For the peanut powder - this is something that is widely used in Marathi homes, and there is almost always a jar of this powder ready to be used in vegetables, salads etc. To make this in a jiffy, dry roast some peanuts - about 1-2 Tbsp in a pan until they are toasty and give out an aroma. Let cool for some time, and then either powder in a 1) spice grinder or 2) mortar and pestle or 3) place in a ziplock bag and beat with a rolling pin or some heavy weight, until coarsely powdered.

4) The process of preparing this dish starts with the 'tempering', the initial sequence that is followed generally while making most Indian style vegetables.
- heat 1 Tbsp oil of choice ( clear oil such as vegetable or canola)
- once the oil is hot, add mustard/cumin seeds, Hing or asfoetida(optional), turmeric

5) Immediately add the onions. There should not be a lag between the above step and adding stuff to the pan, otherwise the oil will burn. Fry onion till tranlucent.

6) Add the green chili if using and then add tomatoes. Fry the tomatoes till they are cooked and give out juices. A rough paste should be formed by this time.

7) Add the cooked potatoes and stir it all together. Now add 2-3 cups of water and mix everything. Adjust so that you have the desired thickness. Please note that this sauce or curry will thicken slightly as it cooks, plus the starchy potatoes and the peanuts will add to the thickness.

8) Now add all the masalas or spices needed. Add salt, pinch of sugar, the goda/garam masala or the cumin or coriander powder. These are all optional and you can use any or all of these. The 'goDa masala' is a traditional spice mix used in marathi cooking and is slightly different from the Garam Masala. If you don't have these, you can either just use cumin powder and that will work fine, or a readymade curry powder if you have it.

9) Add the powdered peanuts at this point.

10) Bring everything to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes till the gravy is thick enough.

11) Add frozen peas a few minutes before switching off the heat.

12) Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with steamed rice or with rotis - Naan or pita bread will also work fine here.
This is a simple recipe that does not use too much oil or any dairy etc. So how do you like your potatoes??

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