Garam Masala Tuesdays: Jeera Aloo
Today, cooking is the last thing on my mind.
But today, is also Tuesday. One of the two days of the week that V does not eat non-vegetarian food.
Staying where we do, to-go options are slim, and vegetarian to-go options are next to none. The only things that count are pizza and really cheesy mexican food. V is not fond of really cheesy things and I did not care for pizza.
So, I had to think of something easy that I could make that would fill and satisfy V and my stomachs.
Jeera aloo came to the rescue.
Every part of the world has a potato dish that is the go-to favorite of its natives. Potatoes or aloo are like the king of vegetables and can be mixed with any vegetable or meats and prepared. They taste great any way they are prepared, be it roasted, baked, fried (french fries, yum!). And the best part is that they are available throughout the year at a very reasonable price.
The dish that I decided to share today for GMT is made by combining cumin with potatoes, called jeera aloo.
I guess how mashed potatoes are for Americans, jeera aloo is for Indians. Comfort food at its best!
Jeera is the Indian name for cumin.
Did you know that cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper?
Cumin is heavily used in Indian cuisine for its distinctive flavor. You will find it in every Indian kitchen. I keep it in my masala dabba and use it for most of my Indian preparations.
Cumin’s distinctive flavor and strong, warm aroma is due to its essential oil content. Cumin is famous for its medicinal qualities and digestive properties. It reduces superficial inflammation and pain. As potato creates heaviness in the stomach, cumin helps in digesting the food and normalizes the digestive system, making the dish perfectly balanced for the stomach. The cumin in this dish also adds a nuttiness to the potatoes that make them to die for.
During college days, or whenever I was traveling alone my mom would pack jeera aloo and poori with some pickle for me to have on my journey. Yes, trains in India serve food, and so do the many railway stall owners, but like all children traveling alone, our parents always scared us with the doubtfulness of the hygiene of that food, and the perils of taking any food from strangers- there had been cases of people getting drugged and robbed.
Of course if the journey was long, extending to the next day I would order a railways’ made ‘non vegetarian’ breakfast consisting of toast, butter, jam and a quintessentially Indian masala omelette made with bits if green chillies and tomatoes. But, this would only be the case if I had nibbled on every remaining piece of the jeera aloo that my mom had packed.
Sometimes, though, I would deliberatley save a portion of the poori aloo to take back to the hostel, so that I could savour mom’s home cooked meal a little more. Probably because this is that kind of dish, or the whole home-sick feeling added to the experience, it would actually taste better the next day.
This dish is also frequently made during the vrat (or fasting) days in India, especially during navratri.
During the fast, jeera aloo is eaten with buckwheat flour pooris. Otherwise, normally you have it with wheat flour pooris or chapatis or parathas. Also the salt in the dish is replaced by rock salt, since regular salt can not be consumed during the time you are fasting.
Being such a popular dish, there are several variations to this dish, and you will find various recipes online. In the south of India, this dish is prepared by adding mustard seeds and curry leaves to the cumin. Some people add garlic and ginger as well as tomatoes and onions. Dried fenugreek leaves and green chillies can also be added. I sometimes add green chillies to it, but since I did not have any on hand, this time I left them out.
The recipe I share is the one I like the most. Simple yet delicious. This is one such dish where you need no other vegetables, just a little spice with the roasted cumin left to shine in the dish.
JEERA ALOO (POTATOES FRIED IN CUMIN)
A nice Indian-style twist on potatoes, jeera aloo is an easy, no-fuss dish that comes together quite quickly if you have boiled potatoes on hand. You can also pressure cook the potatoes in case you are in a hurry, but I generally just boil them in a saucepan as I am yet to figure out the timings of it being done in the pressure cooker.
This side dish is best enjoyed with pooris. But, pooris scream fried food and instead you can serve it with plain paranthas or roti (Indian whole wheat tortillas).
Leftover jeera aloo can be used rolled up in a wheat tortilla/roti/parantha with some chopped tomato and salad and a sprinkle of lemon juice. A great breakfast on the go.
- 5 potatoes, boiled for 20-25 minutes, until a fork pierces through (you want them to be soft but not too soft that they crumble when chopped into small pieces)
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- pinch garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp aamchoor (dried mango powder)
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
- salt, to taste ( if fasting, use rock salt)
- 1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
- 2-3 green chillies, chopped (optional, but preferable)
- Peel the potatoes and cut into medium sized cubes.
- Heat oil in a pan.
- Add the cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the potatoes (and green chillies) and fry for a minute.
- Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, chaat masala/aamchoor powder and mix well.
- Add salt and fry till potatoes are crispy brown. The trick is not to stir too frequently, so that a crust can develop.
- Add the chopped coriander and sprinkle some toasted cumin powder. Mix and remove from heat.
- Serve with flatbread of your choice.