A Book & A Dish

December 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm 9 comments

Mustard seed, cayene pepper, and ground turmic 

I’m so fortunate to have good friends that know me well.  There are many “for instance” moments I could tell you about, but I’ll just share one in particular this time.  Fred, of homemade dulce de leche fame, reciprocated my gift to him with the most wonderful of cookbooks.  I swear the guy can read my mind sometimes…or maybe he just reads the blog more than he lets on…  In any case, not long after I’d got done lamenting about how many spices are required by most Indian culinary undertakings, he gives me 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, an Indian cookbook cleverly centered around just five spices, all readily available, and full of mouthwatering dishes.  Not only is Inidian food fittingly my most favorite cuisine, but also this handy guide is full of beautiful pictures!  You see, I’ve also been known to grumble about how I hate cookbooks that don’t have enough pictures.  This one is spot on the money in every way!

Locally grown young red potatoes

Author Ruta Kahate has an easy conversational tone to both her intro and her recipes that demystifies what might otherwise be an intimidating cuisine.  Using just coriander, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper, and ground turmeric (although she occasionally slips in a few others like ginger, hot peppers and cilantro, which probably technically sidestep a “spice” classification), she puts forth quite a spread.  I really think I’m going to use every single one of the vegetable dishes in some form or another since many of them call for the very things we grow at the farm – cauliflower, okra, eggplant, peas, spring onions, and many others. 

Onion and mustard seeds

Unable to resist trying out a recipe the very day after I received it, my first venture into this book was a potato dish since that was the only locally grown vegetable in my kitchen at the time.  And lucky for me, I already had all five spices used in the book in my spice box (only three were required for this particular recipe though).  I was also intrigued by the name – Railway Potatoes – and the story behind them.  I obviously enjoy recipes with family heritage, and this dish was one that Ruta’s mother made to take with them on long train trips to visit family in far flung regions of India.  It stands to reason that these potatoes might not be known elsewhere as Railway Potatoes, but I like that she has chosen to pay homage to her family’s traditions in her cookbook in such a manner. 

A bite of railway potatoes

It’s of little consequence what anyone else calls them, since I’ll just be calling them “Oh so good!” 

Adapted from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes

1 ½ lbs. small red potatoes
1 large onion
4 T. peanut oil
½ t. mustard seeds
½ t. ground turmeric
2 t. salt
½ t. cayenne

Quarter the potatoes and then cut into 1/8 inch thick slices.  Thinly slice onion. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat.  Have a lid or piece of foil handy to act as a splatter guard. Keeping them separate, measure out each of the spices. 

When oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan to avoid spattering.  As soon as the seeds stop sputtering (about 30 seconds), add the turmeric and give one quick stir.  Immediately add the onions and potatoes.  Stir and add the cayenne and salt.  Stir to cover everything really well and turn done heat to medium.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking.  Serve immediately.  

(serves 4) 

Railway Potatoes - spicy indian fried potatoes

Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , .

Fad or Fab? Comfort Food, Of A Sorts

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gintoino  |  December 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Indian food is also a favorite of mine, so I will try this one.
    Remember my pomegranates? Well I finally decided myself and did pomegranate jam (jelly?). I was too lazy to juice the fruit…and now I have pomegranate jelly with seeds ;-)… it still tastes very wonderful, and what a color!
    And by the way…I’m also having my first experience in the “bread making business”. I’ts in the oven as I write this…I will let you know how it went.

  • 2. Nicole  |  December 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    That’s really cool – I might have to go look for that book!

  • 3. Jennie  |  December 27, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Gintoino – Excellent news! I’d love to try that pomegranate jam…in fact, I just bought my plane ticket for Lisbon today! I’ll be there the end of February…can you hold some jam for me until then?? 😉 More on my trip a little later.

    I can’t wait to hear how your bread turns out!!

  • 4. Jennie  |  December 27, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Nicole – Definitely a great book and highly recommended!

  • 5. Christina  |  December 27, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Jennie!

    I’m so glad I found this site. I’m always looking for sites that intersect homegrown/locally grown produce and good cooking.

    Don’t you just love the popping mustard seeds? That’s one of my favorite steps of Indian cookery.

    Have a happy New Year’s!

  • 6. Jennie  |  December 27, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks, Christina! Glad you’re enjoying SFTF. Yep, it’s fun popping the mustard seeds in recipes like these, although I have to admit I was a bit terrified the first time I ever put them in hot oil. 🙂 Reminds me of the “jumping” beans my brother and I used to get as kids… Anyway, yes, happy new year to you too! 🙂

  • 7. Hurry That Curry « Straight from the Farm  |  December 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    […] it’s safe to say I’m on a another “kick”, thanks to the cookbook, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, that I told you about last week.  I can’t help myself since the colorful photos are deliciously alluring and the recipes are […]

  • 8. Joel  |  April 1, 2008 at 6:51 am

    So, I tagged these away on del.icio.us when you posted them. Then I never got around to making them. I finally deleted them a few months ago. Yesterday, on my way back from the gym, they popped into my mind. Now they’re popping into my mouth! Yum! I tossed in a sprinklin’ of red pepper flakes for more heat.

  • 9. Dianne  |  June 12, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve just found this wonderful blog and I too am excited to find Indian food and and emphasis on quality, local ingredients and many Indian home-style foods. Ahhhhh. I thank you.

    I have been slowly teaching myself about and using Indian spices and recipes and my own creations with the spices and I feel so happy and nourished with Indian Food – I’m also studying a little bit about Ayurvedic cooking.

    I have a question about the popping mustard seeds. My mustard seeds don’t really seem to “pop”; they sizzle and dance but don’t really pop. I’m wondering if I keep my oil temp. too low because I am cautious about wrecking the nutritional elements of the oils, since I’ve been told that oils are altered negatively before they get to the actual smoking point. Or are they popping and I just I just don’t call it that???? Also do you know a source for cold pressed mustard oil?

    So happy to have someone to ask, and please you for doing this wonderful nourishing. and delightful service


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