Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bamaniya Bataka/ Potato curry

If you didn't know this about me already, then let me tell you again- I LOVE Gujarati Food!

Have you ever had a chance of checking out a Gujarati Thali?

A gujarati thali is a lunch or dinner plate that serves a big variety of vegetarian dishes in one meal. All the recipes are traditional recipes influenced by the Gujarati flavours that have been passed down since generations. The 'Thali' combines 4-5 types of vegetables and curries, 2-3 types of rotis and breads, sweet and spicy, hot and cold, snacks, rice, lentils and sprouts and desserts, and some sides like chutneys, salads, pickles, poppadums all in one. Whew! Slightly out of breath there! Its like a buffet they bring to your plate and one of my favourite meals of all times. Now if you have ever had a chance to eat this food, this potato curry is an integral part of the assemble. Infact a Gujarati Thaal is incomplete without the Bamaniya bataka. Bataka means potato btw.

These potatoes are a staple at my home. They just happen to be my dad's favourite food ever! Every weekend whenever I ask him if I should make something special, he almost always tells me he wants to eat what he likes to call -gujarati aloo. Since we have truckloads of recipes in India for potato curry, the moment he says gujarati Aloo, I know what he wants me to make. The other times it is his other favourite- Chhole Bhature or Punjabi chickpea curry.

For the uninitiated, the taste of this potato curry is a balance of spicy, tangy and slightly sweet aka ridiculously good! Even as I write, the thought of these is making me salivate. Traditionally it is supposed to be eaten with puri/ fried flatbread but for sake of our health we eat it with Roti. 

A shoutout to all the gujju food lovers out there, you know what I mean when I say - once in awhile though, puri + bataka + aam ras= Happy Us! Am I right or am I Right?!  

Lets get cookin' then shall we?! 

Serves: 6

Time taken: 30-40 mins

Complexity: **

You'll need

2-3 tbsp Peanut oil
1 1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
8-10 Curry leaves
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 whole green chili, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2-3 dried red chilies
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground coriander powder
4 Potatoes, peeled, cut into 1" cubes
1 tomato, diced
1/2 tsp red chili powder (add more if you like it hot)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
3-4 cups water
2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp Jaggery
Salt to taste
Coriander to garnish
Pinch of love


The cast of ingredients sans the tamarind paste and jaggery 

First, scrub the potatoes clean, peel the potatoes to cube them in 1" pieces  and set them aside. In a deep pan, add in the peanut oil on medium heat. 

When the oil starts to shimmer, add in the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter for a second

Then add in the cumin seeds and let them turn golden

Next add in the curry leaves

In quick succession add in the minced ginger and thinly sliced green chilies. Inhale deeply to experience the fragrance of these tempering spices/ herbs. 

Add in the asafoetida

And break in a couple of red chilies, seeds and all

I then placed in the bay leaves. 

Add in ground coriander powder and mix it all together. If required turn the heat to a medium low so nothing burns or sticks to the pan. 

Bring in the hero of your dish- the potatoes and add them to the tempering. 

Mix everything so the potatoes are well coated with all those delicious flavours. Saute this for about 3-4 minutes. 

Next add in a diced tomato. 

Mix that in as well for a couple of minutes

Add in the red chili powder and the turmeric powder

I then added 3 1/2 cups of water to this. The amount of water will depend on the size of your potatoes and the consistency of the gravy that you want. Also when the potatoes cook, the water level comes down and the gravy thickens because of the starch in the potatoes. So keep that in mind. We can always add some water later, so don't fret about it too much. 

Cover this with a lid to allow the potatoes to soften and cook for about 15-20 minutes. 

In 20 minutes, the take off the lid. See how the water level has reduced. The oil has come up. I always poke the potatoes with a fork or the back of my spoon. They should fall apart. Mash a couple of those potato cubes in the curry. It adds a good texture to the curry and thickens it up. 

Now is the time to add in the salt. I added in a couple of teaspoons of table salt. Remember, potatoes need salt.  

I also strained in my tamarind paste. If we'd have added this earlier, the potatoes would have taken infinitely longer to cook. For the paste, I took tamarind and soaked it in half a cup of water. If you get a ready paste, that would be awesome. Or if you don't have tamarind by any chance, you can add raw mango powder or even 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice to get your curry nice and tangy. The tamarind though adds an authentic as well as a deep earthy sourness that can't be exactly replicated. 

Add in the jaggery too. The jaggery comes in a big lump and we have to break it into pieces to be able to use it. I added in about 2 tbsp of jaggery to balance out the flavours. Let the curry simmer for about 5 more minutes to let all the flavours come together. Taste and adjust for seasoning after 5 mins. 

Throw in a few coriander leaves and stir it in. And the Bamaniya Bataka are done! 

Those gorgeous potatoes floating in that perfectly balanced curry... with the puri, its a dance of flavours on my tongue! 

Did I tell you it makes for a perfect weekend brunch?! Weekend, because after I eat it, I always want to nap. 

Lip smacking indeed! 

Take in the flavours of the wonderful Gujarati cuisine my friends, Indulge! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Upma/ Semolina Porridge

Let me start by sharing my first memory of eating Upma.  Before I do, I'll ask you to step into the shoes of a child who is 10-11 years old cause that is how old I think I was at the time. I was at someone's house and was quite 'hangry' as they now call it. It was evening time and my mom had forcibly taken me to this aunty's place instead of allowing me to play with friends. And well, instead of luring me with cakes or chocolates or pastries, this aunty had the audacity to keep something healthy as a snack! I mean come on! Where did she come from? Didn't she know children like chips and colas and all that junk food!! I was almost screaming in my head and grumbling inaudibly. And then the worst part came, I was given a bowlful of this porridge with vegetables. Ugh! What a gloopy mess it was and I was expected to clean it off to show my respect for the food served and to the hosts as well. 

So after that day, I could never stand the sight of Upma. Quite understandably, wouldn't you agree?! 

Incidentally, Upma just happens to be my mom's favourite breakfast dish/ daytime snack. She says that because it is quick and easy to make, light on the stomach and very healthy she prefers the homey comfort it provides. So fast forwarding to the present, about a fortnight back, mom had a flu and a fever along with it. Ofcourse I wanted her to have something comforting and quick and something that would nourish her when she was feeling ill. I first made her Tamatar ka Shorba (Indian style Tomato soup) which is one of her most favourite soups of all times cause it gave her warmth and the ginger in the soup helped open up her sinuses and relieved her cough for a bit. Along with the soup she asked me to make this Upma for her. Despite of not liking it one bit, I marched to the kitchen to make it and cutting the story short, mom loved it, ate it, got well. While Ma was relishing the upma while she was unwell, it made me want to give it another try too. Don't know what it was about it. I just wanted to. Maybe I was too tired to fix anything for myself so I just grabbed a bowl of it for me too and within 5 minutes, gobbled it all up. 

Man it was yummm!!! I don't know what happened. I can't explain why or how, but I just fell in love with it. And since that day, I have made and eaten it 3 more times within the fortnight. 

Now that you know how my love for Upma came to being, lets get cookin', shall we?! 

Serves: 4

Time taken: 30 mins

Complexity: **

You'll need  

1 1/2 cup roasted sooji (semolina)
2-3 tbsp flavourless oil
1 tbsp chana dal (split bengal gram- soaked overnight and drained)
1 tbsp urad dal (skinned black gram- soaked overnight and drained)
8-10 peanuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp black mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 whole green chili, thinly sliced
1" pc of ginger, finely minced
2 whole red chilies (remove seeds, optional)
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced finely
2/3 cup peas
salt to taste 
3 cups of water + 1/2 cup more if required
Coriander leaves to garnish
Pinch of love


If you don't have roasted suji on hand, just take the suji and dry roast it in a pan for atleast 10 minutes while stirring constantly on a medium low heat. The suji should emit a nutty aroma when cooked and should turn almost beige in colour. Set this aside for the time being. 

Gather your tempering ingredients. Having them mis-en-place which is french for ready to cook ensures that you don't forget to add anything. 

Next, in a medium sized pan, add the oil. Traditionally people use ghee in Upma but I skimped out as I wanted to keep it lighter. 

To begin tempering, I began by adding both the dals to the oil along with the peanuts. I don't bother skinning the peanuts. Don't worry, they won't harm you. 

Roast this in the oil for about 3-4 minutes till you get a whiff of that oil getting nutty and everything turning slightly golden. 

Now turn the heat to a medium and add in the black mustard seeds

The Curry leaves

the cumin seeds,

the thinly sliced green chili, and the minced ginger. 

Stir them all together and allow the mustard and cumin to crackle and splutter. Add the red chilies at this time too. 

After about 30 seconds, add in the chopped red onion and saute till the onion turns translucent. 

This should take a couple of minutes. Just keep moving them around in the pan. 

Next throw in the diced carrot. 

And the peas. Let the veggies cook for about 3-4 minutes till they soften a little but not all the way through. 

At this point, dump in the roasted suji. 

Add the salt and mix it all together. 

Add the water in a slow stream while stirring constantly. 

Don't worry if it looks all watery right now. Its going to be fine, I promise. 

In a minute or so, as you keep stirring, you'll notice the suji soaking up all the water. Its in a semi solid state now. I then added in the fresh herbalicious green coriander leaves and within a minute the upma was the exact consistency I wanted. 

If you now think it looks dry, you can choose to add some more water. I didn't need to do any of that. 

Turned out perfect! Ready to serve. 

The texture takes a little time to get used to, but its a porridge afterall. And it tastes amazingly delicious. That slight hint of heat with that earthy ginger-y flavour and that fresh coriander, the veggies running through it- simplicity at its best I'd say! 

Give it a go. Its going to change your life. Did mine! Brought me closer to my Ma- one spoonful at a time. Indulge!