Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oven cooked Baby potatoes in Tomato gravy

Arguably, some of the best chefs in the world are men, but I know very few men who cook regularly. Among Indian men, it is practically a rarity, and even rarer are those who are actually interested in cooking. So much for all the fights for parity, the daily cooking grind is most often borne by women. I don't want to turn this post into one with shades of feminism, but instead acknowledge a friend, who is among the few men who enjoy not just cooking and eating, but also discerning and discussing all about it. He has several superb recipes, and now I have his permission to blog a few of them which are among my favorites. You are in for a treat. Here's to men who cook!

From my own experience, this is a great dish to make for large gathering for several reasons. First of all, it scales up very easily. The dish can be put together slightly ahead of time, and the cooking can be finished in the last one hour. By finishing the cooking of the potatoes in the oven, one gains space on the stove top, which is very useful when cooking several things together. If not, that time could be used to clear up the counter or do something else. To top it all, it looks gorgeous, tastes delicious, and is a perfect accompaniment to almost any type of meal.

In this recipe I used the list of ingredients from the base recipe, but modified the technique a couple of ways and even made it more elaborate. Usually people simplify recipes, but here, I added steps. I blanch and peel the tomatoes before pureeing, whereas the original recipe just calls for blending the onion, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes all together. Feel free to do that, but I like the texture of the gravy to be smooth and silky, so I don't mind the extra effort.

Baby potatoes in tomato gravy

Oven cooked baby potatoes in tomato gravy

about 15 baby potatoes (see notes)
2-3 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
1 medium onion
2-3 ripe medium tomatoes (I like lots of gravy in this, so I use 3)
1-2 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves
1 stick cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2-3/4 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of sugar (optional)
pinch of garam masala powder(optional)
chopped cilantro for garnish

To make tomato puree

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the water, each for about a minute, and take them out using a slotted spoon. When cool, peel the tomatoes and puree them.

Other prep work

Wash and scrub the potatoes.

Process ginger and garlic to a paste, and chop the onion very fine. You can do that in a mini-processor or chopper.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

The first part on the stove top

Heat the oil in a large saute pan, and add the cloves and cinnamon. As soon as they become fragrant, or as the bark starts to uncurl, add the onion, ginger, garlic, and sauté it together until it starts to change color to golden. Add the tomato puree, salt, sugar, turmeric and chili powder, and saute until the tomatoes start to soften.

Add the potatoes, mix thoroughly, and put everything into a baking dish. Add about 1/2 cup or more of water into the pan to get bits of gravy out, and pour it into the dish.

Finishing the cooking in the oven

Cover the dish with an oven proof lid or a piece of foil with a few slits, and place it in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover the dish and pierce one of the potatoes with a fork to check if it is tender. If not, let it cook for another 10 minutes or until done.

Sprinkle garam masala and chopped cilantro.


* I like to use the most teeny tiny new potatoes I can find; usually not more than 1-1/2 inches in diameter. I have used regular as well as red new potatoes and they are both equally good.

* I like to use true cinnamon in this recipe, not cassia bark, which is commonly used in many Indian recipes

* You can add 1 tsp of cumin seeds along with the cloves and cinnamon if you like

* It has never taken me more than 40-45 minutes for the potatoes to cook in the oven, but potatoes and ovens could differ, so please check to see if they are done.

* I don't always add garam masala, and it tastes just as good without it.

This dish is naturally vegan and goes to Suganya's Vegan Ventures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back, and yet not back

Yawning at 10am

4pm stomach growls

Need to take a nap at 6pm

Up at 2am

Sleepless at 5am

All the signs of jet lag, after the long and tiring flights from India, that play havoc with me each time I return. Each time I hope it will be better this time, mind over body, and all that, but no. I succumb. Over the last few days this has slowly diminished, but I am not yet back to cooking anything exciting or new.

So I forced myself out on the weekend to the farmers market, to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement all the rice and dal eating, and it was raining persimmons! Perfectly sweet for eating out of hand, and a good antidote to that dwindling bag of baakarwadis.

Persimmons in India

Amarphal, aka persimmons in India

In the meanwhile, I am happy to report that persimmons are available in India too. Not necessarily in speciality stores, but even at the regular corner fruitwallah. He called it 'Amarphal', and carried both the Hachiya and Fuyu varieties, though he didn't call them as such. He even knew about that paper-y feeling of Hachiyas. That was a pleasant surprise for me, because growing up I don't recall eating them. He said it came from Kashmir, but look, the sticker on it says 'Kinnaur', which is in Himachal Pradesh.


The corner fruit stand where I often stopped by had a great selection of seasonal fruits, including persimmons and fresh figs. My favorite things there were sitaphal and chickoos, both of which I cannot get here.
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