It’s a conspiracy. No doubt about it. A conspiracy I tell you.
The fact of the matter is that London-based Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar is being thwarted in all of his attempts to meet me.
First, it was the January snow that scuppered travel from the UK and resulted in the cancellation of Atul’s one day course at the Dublin Cookery School, which I was due to attend. Then it was the preponderance of volcanic ash in the airspace hereabouts that meant he was unable to travel for the rescheduled date this weekend.
Much admired for his masterful use of spices, I had really hoped, by now, to be in a position to reveal Atul’s thoughts on the subject of spices for spuds, but there are forces at work that have determined otherwise. Perhaps it is the case that Atul is simply not ready to meet me yet – it’s a naturally big step in any chef’s career – but I rather fancy he can handle it.
And so, while I wait to hear of a new date for my tuition in the ways of Indian spicing, I content myself with using Atul’s rather wonderful book, Indian Essence, as my spicy guide. These potatoes with cashew nuts are a great example of where that can lead.
Potatoes Cooked With Cashew Nuts (Aloo Dum)
This is slightly modified from a recipe in Atul Kochhar’s Indian Essence.
The recipe as given in the book is for potatoes cooked with melon seeds. However, not having any melon seeds, I used the suggested alternative of cashew nuts. I have also reduced the amount of oil used and skipped the initial frying of the potatoes. There are a couple of other minor tweaks, based on the ingredients I had to hand, but the essence of this wonderfully aromatic sauce remains.
- 2 tblsp cashew nuts
- vegetable oil for frying (I used grapeseed oil)
- 2 medium onions, about 300g, thinly sliced
- 500-600g baby new potatoes or any waxy variety of potato
- 375g natural yoghurt
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1.5 tsp chopped ginger root
- 0.5 tsp ground cumin
- 0.5 tsp ground coriander
- 0.25 cayenne pepper
- 125 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 5cm cinnamon stick
- 0.5 tsp fennel seeds
- Seeds from 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander plus extra for garnish
You’ll also need:
- A blender or food processor for blending parts of the sauce plus a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Soak the cashew nuts in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain and blend to a paste using a blender or mini food processor.
- Place a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add about 2 tblsp of oil. Add the onions and stir and fry until softened and starting to brown, around 10-15 minutes. Remove and leave to drain and cool on a paper towel.
- Meanwhile, scrub and peel the potatoes. If using baby new potatoes, you can leave them whole. For larger potatoes, cut into slices around 1cm thick.
- In a blender or food processor, blend the fried onions and yoghurt until smooth.
- Heat another tblsp of oil in the frying pan and add the garlic and ginger. Stir and fry over a medium heat until golden brown, around 3-4 minutes.
- Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne to the pan, stir briefly, then add the yoghurt and onion mix and the cashew nut paste. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
- Add the potatoes, water and salt, bring back to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Meanwhile, toast the cinnamon, fennel and cardamom in a small heavy frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then grind to a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- When the potatoes are cooked through, add the toasted spice powder and chopped coriander and stir to mix.
- You could serve this, garnished with additional fresh coriander, alongside other Indian dishes and breads. I also fancy that this could be used to accompany a simple piece of steamed white fish or chicken.
- You could certainly cook other veg or meat in this sauce along with the spuds – chicken, I think, would work well, or chunks of juicy paneer along with some green beans or peas perhaps.
- Serves 2-3 as side-dish.