A Book & A Dish
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!
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.
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.
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.