Updated: 09/05/2017 4:04 PM | Print Story |  Email

Chunky Potatoes with Buttermilk

Chef and cookbook author Raghavan Iyer is known around the world for his passion of cooking with Indian flavors. The Mumbai native is a resident of Minneapolis and stopped by the Twin Cities Live kitchen to share a recipe for Chunky Potatoes with Buttermilk.  

Raghavan's latest cookbook is all about potatoes. It's available on Amazon and electronically on Kindle. Click here to purchase.

Chunky Potatoes with Buttermilk
Aloo chaas
 
Serves 4
 
4 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
8 medium-size cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes, and submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
 
1. Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set the bowl aside until they are reconstituted, about 15 minutes. Then remove the softened chiles, reserving the spicy water. Coarsely chop the chiles, making sure you do not remove the seeds.
2. Pile the cilantro, salt, garlic, and chiles in a mortar. Pound the ingredients to a pulpy, red-speckled, pungent mass with the pestle, using a spatula to contain the mixture in the center for a concentrated pounding.
3. Drain the potatoes. 
4. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pounded paste and stir-fry until the flecks of garlic are honey-brown and the chiles are throat-constricting pungent, 1 to 2 minutes. (Make sure to use adequate ventilation.)
5. Add the potatoes and turmeric, and stir-fry to coat the tubers with the yellow spice, about 1 minute.
6. Pour in the reserved chile water and heat to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
7. While the potatoes are cooking, whisk the buttermilk and cream together in a small bowl. 
8. When the potatoes are tender, add the buttermilk blend and stir once or twice. Continue to simmer the curry, uncovered, to warm the buttermilk, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.
 
 
Tip:
The cream provides fat, which in turn prevents the buttermilk from curdling when it is heated. The combination mellows the pungent chiles, balancing out the curry. A great example of a chain reaction that helps one and all. 
 
 
Truck Stop Beans
  
Makes 4 cups
Vegan and gluten-free
 
1 medium-size green bell pepper, stem discarded, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic
3 pieces (each about the size and thickness of a 25-cent coin) fresh ginger (no need to peel the skin)
2 fresh green Serrano chiles, stems discarded
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon Raghavan’s Blend (recipe follows) or store-purchased Madras curry powder
2 cans (16 ounces each) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned stewed tomatoes (including juices)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
 
1. Plunk the bell pepper, garlic, ginger, and chiles into a food processor’s bowl.  Pulse the chunky vegetables into a minced submission making sure not to run the blades incessantly or it will create a watery, pulpy mess not suitable for browning in oil.
2. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once the oil appears to shimmer scrape the minced pepper medley into the hot oil and stir-fry to brown it around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Make sure you exhaust the hood to address the pungent aromas that are sure to emanate from the pan.
3. Sprinkle and stir in the spice blend, the heat just right in the pan to cook the spices without burning them, 10 to 15 seconds.  Dump in the drained beans, tomatoes, and salt.  Pour in 1 cup water and stir the legume curry, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits of spices and pepper.  Bring it to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to come together and the sauce to thicken, about 15 minutes.
4. Serve warm.
 
Tips:
As they do in the roadside diners in India in the northwest, toss this curry with white steamed rice, a drizzle of ghee, and finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems.  A bowlful of plain yogurt and a stack of lentil wafers, called papads (or poppadums) with fiery pickles make it extra special and bring you home to India.
Any cooked beans will work as alternatives to the red kidney beans but will impart their own distinct taste and texture to the mix.  
Have some leftover? Think the hearty American classic chili.  I warm it up with a generous handful of shredded cheeses and serve it with tortilla chips as a snack.  Ladle some over Cornbread with mustard greens for a savory breakfast wake-up call to your sleeping tastebuds. 
Raghavan’s blend
 
Having authored an authoritative book on Indian curries and having expounded on the benefits of tailoring blends for individual recipes, I hesitate to offer a panacea blend for all flavors Indian.  It’s like asking someone to bottle the magic of Indian cuisine in a convenient bottle –after all the British did it over 400 years ago when they had their cooks in India create the phenomenon called curry powder.  A sprinkle of that store-purchased ubiquitous mixture to pepper your ho-hum meals seems like the easy way out of freshly grinding your own, but I offer you this version of mine for a bolder, zestier, more vibrant taste experience that may very well knock your socks off.  All you need is a spice grinder (a coffee grinder reserved for spices is the answer) and a few neighborhood, grocery store-purchased ingredients for this mellifluous medley that packs a mean punch to every recipe it touches.  And yes, if you don’t have two minutes to put this together, by all means use a store-purchased Madras-style curry powder as an alternative (yes, I am opinionated, can you tell?)
 
Recipes that use this blend often instruct you to add it when you are stir-frying something.  Sprinkling the mélange directly in hot oil or in a preheated naked skillet yields burnt flavors and unappealing aromas.  The cushion that the vegetables provide is essential to safeguard the blend from burning on contact.  This is not a masala (blend) that you can add as a finishing mix since the spices need to cook for a smoother quality.   
 
Makes 3/4 cup
Vegan; Gluten-free
 
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons black or yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
12 to 15 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de arbol), stems discarded
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
 
1. Place all the ingredients, except the turmeric, in a spice grinder (like a coffee grinder), and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. Stir in the turmeric (which will yellow the blend with its characteristic sunny bright disposition).
2. Store the blend in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to three months.  (In my opinion, refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavors.)
 
Tips:
Grinding whole spices prior to use are the best way to showcase their sensual fragrances and tastes.  The aromatic oils within emerge when freshly ground, providing a greater depth in flavors.  A spice grinder, essentially a coffee grinder, works well for pulverizing amounts greater than one to two teaspoons of whole spices.  If you double or triple the batch, a blender does a nice job of crushing them all at once.  Narrower the base of the blender jar, better the grind.  Wide-mouthed jars are best reserved for shakes and blended cocktails.
If you cannot procure whole red chiles, use 2 teaspoons ground red pepper (cayenne) instead.  For a less potent blend, you can use sweet paprika for half the amount of chiles (i.e., 1 teaspoon paprika plus 1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne).)