There’s nothing more comforting than meltingly-soft potatoes enveloped in creamy, spicy-sweet sauce – even when it’s dinner for one at the Modha residence.
Nobody likes cooking for one, do they? For me, it’s a tedious task knowing I’m the only one who will get to sample my efforts. I’m a feeder – I come from a long line of feeders who taught one another to feed others until they could eat no more. Like my mum, I’ll make dinner by the bucket load regardless of whether I’m feeding one mouth or ten. It’s most definitely in our blood.
I understand this is the case for lots of Indian girls who are told from a young age that finding the perfect husband involves filling his belly with spicy food, carbs and sugar. Either it’s the way to a heart or the way to heart problems – I forget which one.
That’s not to say I started cooking to find a fella. Hell, I started cooking because I was an eight-year old chubster with a penchant for pasta. It just so happened that the future Mr K.O (yes, I got engaged!) loves eating as much as I do. In fact, Kashmiri Dum Aloo was one of the first dishes we shared together in my favourite Indian restaurant. And anyone who knows how to feed me, the Feeder, is a keeper.
Enough about me, more about the food
This dish should be slow-cooked with a lid on. An old school trick to stop any steam escaping is to seal the lid with a ring of wheat flour dough. This type of cooking is known as dum cooking. Dum simply means ‘warm breath’ to connote the steam inside the pot. Once cooked, the dough seal is broken and the beautiful aromas are released – of course, the bread is eaten along with the curry. However, if you don’t fancy doing that, you can use a cartouche to lock in any moisture. A cartouche is just a round lid made of greaseproof paper that’s placed directly on top of the food in the pot to slow down the reduction of moisture in cooking.
The balance of spices in this dish will depend on your taste and varies from recipe to recipe. My version mainly uses dried red Kashmiri chillies, ground fennel seeds, ground ginger and green and black cardamom. This deep combination of spices is balanced by the use of tomato purée and either single cream or yoghurt. Don’t hold back on seasoning this with plenty of salt and sugar – they truly bring the spices to life.
450g new potatoes (I used Jersey Royals), leave the skin on
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp concentrated tomato purée
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
300ml single cream or whisked plain yoghurt
2 tsp honey
Oil to deep fry the potatoes
For the spices:
½ tsp green cardamom seeds, ground
2 tsp fennel seeds, ground, plus 1 extra tsp for adding at the end
4 dried red Kashmiri chillies, ground (don’t bother soaking them)
½ tsp black cardamom seeds, ground
½ tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Chopped coriander, ground fennel and Kashmiri chilli flakes to garnish
1. Wash and soak the potatoes in cold, salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
2. Heat enough oil to deep fry the potatoes in a large wok to around 180°C. Fry the potatoes until golden all over. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through at this point. Drain on a piece of kitchen paper and set aside.
3. In a large casserole dish, Dutch oven or pan with a tight-fitting lid, gently heat 1 tbsp oil. Add all of the ground spices, concentrated tomato purée, fresh ginger and garlic. Cook on a medium/low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring all the time. If you find it’s sticking, add a little hot water and continue to cook until the water has evaporated away and the spices are aromatic.
4. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, 270ml hot water, salt and sugar. Stir. Add the potatoes and mix again.
5. Make a cartouche or cut a round of greaseproof paper to the size of the inside of your pan. Sit it directly on top of the curry and put a lid on top of the pan.
6. Turn the heat down to the lowest it can go and cook for at least 30 minutes or until the potatoes are meltingly tender.
7. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the lid and cartouche. Turn the heat off and allow the curry to cool for 10 minutes. Add the honey and cream or yoghurt, stirring quickly and all the time until it’s fully combined. Stir in the extra 1 tsp ground fennel seeds.
8. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander, ground fennel and Kashmiri chilli flakes.
I like to serve this with Saffron Golden Sella Basmati Rice (I'll post a recipe soon!) and either Peshwari Naan or chapattis.
This is great if you’re planning on satisfying and impressing lots of hungry tummies, or in need of comfort when cooking for one (scoff any leftovers the next day).
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