When Yamuna Devi studied Vedic Cooking, she studied with Srila Prabhupada for 3 months. She tells that in the study of vegetables, they spent weeks on potatoes, exploring basic methods of cooking, learning how to control the taste and appearance of a dish without diminishing its nutritive value.
When I was in India recently I heard one visitor bemoaning the fact that there seemed to be so few vegetables in Indian food. Of course that is not true, but if you eat in restaurants only, it may appear that way. There is a wealth of vegetables – many more than we are used to here – including countless varieties of greens and innumerous salad style dishes. India produces one of the largest assortments of vegetables, fruits and legumes in the world. You only have to visit any market to see how this is true.
Sauce-free Indian curries like this one are really just slightly-more-elaborate vegetable sautés—toast spices in some fat, add in your vegetables, and finish with salt and sometimes a touch of sugar to season the simple, healthful spicy glaze that now coats the vegetables. Simple, but deceivingly flavour-packed and delicious.
Have a look at our Subzi recipes here. You may also want to try Arai Puli Kuzhambu (Potatoes in Tangy Gravy), Potato and Sweet Potato Vindaloo, Doodh Wale Aloo (Milkman Potatoes), Aloo Palak (Potatoes and Spinach), and Nachi’s Sweet Potato and Eggplant Madras Curry.
The method of cutting the vegetables produces different flavours. Whether the tadka is added to the vegetables or the vegetables added to the tadka changes the flavours. The amount of time the tadka is cooked changes the flavours – it is more potent if you cook it fast or long. Heat and timing alter the flavours. Seasonings alter the flavours.
So you can see that, with one vegetable and very few changes in the spices, you can create innumerable dishes. India truly is the cradle of the art of cooking vegetables.
Today I am cooking potatoes, but the same method is suitable for yams, peas, snow peas, asparagus, okra, eggplants, cabbage, young carrots, capsicums and spinach.
The general approach is to cut the vegetable uniformly – dice, julienne or slice, and briskly saute with spices in ghee in an open pan over a high heat until they are partially cooked and slightly browned (except for spinach). Then the heat is lowered and they are allowed to cook slowly until tender crisp.
This is a great all-season dish.
Potato Subzi | Dry Potato Curry
source: adapted from Lord Krishna’s Kitchen by Yamuta Devi
prep time: 5 mins
cooking time: 20 – 25 mins
serves 2 – 4 depending on how you use it
3 medium all purpose potatoes
3 Tblspn ghee
2 dried red chillies or according to taste
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 tspn grated ginger
2 branches curry leaves, about 16 – 20 leaves
0.5 tspn turmeric
0.5 coriander powder
2 Tblspns chopped green coriander
Cut the potatoes into 1.5 cm dice. Heat the ghee in a kadhai or heavy pan over moderate heat. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the red chillies and cumin seeds, then after a moment, add the ginger and asafoetida. Stir around and add half of the curry leaves.
Then add the potatoes, and saute until they are partially cooked and slightly browned. Keep stirring or shaking the pan periodically so that they brown evenly.
Reduce the heat and add the turmeric and coriander powder. Toss to mix. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring once or twice, for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
Uncover and add the garam masala and the remaining curry leaves and stir, then add the green coriander leaves and mix.
Curry leaves are added at different stages, as they have different tastes if sauteed in the tadka and if added near the end of cooking.
An alternative is to add 2 – 4 Tblspns of water or stock after adding the spices and coriander. Cover well to finish cooking.
Coriander powder and asafoetida are optional and can be left out.
If you want a crisp crust on the vegetables, turn up the heat before adding the garam masala, add a little more ghee and quickly brown them, tossing them gently.
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