Saturday, March 29, 2014

Another Nepali Special: Sesame Potato Salad

Here's what may be the most common way to serve potatoes in Nepal: sesame potato salad. The sesame seed is Nature's densest nutritional treasure, so this is not only tasty but very nourishing. And a lot less fattening than potato salad drowning in mayonnaise!

Nepali Sesame Potato Salad

Serves 6
4 medium potatoes (any you might use for potato salad)
½ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. chili powder
2 ½ lemons, juice only
2 tbsp. cooking oil (mustard, canola, corn, safflower)
2-3 green chilies, stemmed and seeded (how many depends on your heat tolerance)
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tbsp. salt
optional: pinch of lemon verbena leaves
½ cup water
¼ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain. Cube into bite sized pieces.

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a small nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Cool and grind.  Mix with the lemon juice and salt and stir into the potatoes.
Dice the chilies.
In a small wok or frying pan heat the oil. Add the chilies and fry until they are soft. Stir in the fenugreek seeds and fry until they turn dark brown. Stir in the chili powder, lemon verbena and tumeric and remove from heat.  Pour over the potatoes and stir in the water to blend everything evenly.
 Chop the cilantro leaves and add as garnish to serve.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Good Old Potato: Some Like it Hot, which is very Tasty!

I've just returned from another cooking foray in Nepal where just about every meal includes potatoes spiced and sauteed one tasty way or another. So here on the tenuous cusp of Spring when fresh vegetables are still in short supply are a few ways to make those tiresome potatoes lively and desirable.

One of the famed local specialties in Kathmandu is potatoes with bamboo shoots and black-eyed peas. It's an ingenious energy booster: a root, a shoot and a seed--all Mother Nature's energy storage tanks. If you can find bamboo shoots in, say, a Chinese grocery, it's easy to prepare this. For 4 you need about 4-5 medium boiling potatoes, a can of black-eyed peas, 1/4 lb bamboo shoots, a small red onion, 2 garlic cloves mashed, 1/2" piece fresh peeled ginger root mashed, 2 dried Arbol or other red chilies chopped, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2-1 tsp (your taste for heat) chili powder, about 1 cup tomatoes, salt and optionally a few dried mushrooms.  Boil, peel and cut the potatoes into bite size pieces. Heat corn or soy or canola oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion until lightly brown. Add the potatoes, drained beans and turmeric, stirring to blend. Everything should have the turmeric's yellow hue.

 Saute 2-3 minutes on med/low heat and then add everything else plus 1- 1 1/2 cup water (just enough to cover everything. Cover and cook on low heat about 8 minutes. Add bamboo shoots and a pinch of curry powder or better yet garam masala if you have it. Chop fresh cilantro leaves and add to the pot. Cover and heat through to serve.

I was totally taken with Nepali fries, which simply spice up the usual with chili powder and cumin. In other words, you peel and julienne large potatoes into "French fries."  Put in the fridge so they get cold. Now 2/3 fill a deep saucepan with peanut oil (highest smoking point) and when it's hot enough to make a fleck of water sizzle, put in the cold potatoes--stand back. Fry until golden brown and crisp. Remove, drain and put in a bowl with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and coat the hot potatoes with the spices to serve. (One of my cooking teacher/hostesses told me to coat the potatoes with chili powder before frying and then to crush a dried chili or two on them just before serving.)

Then there was this ubiquitous fried potato dish called Aloo Tareko (literally spicy potatoes): Boil about a lb of long potatoes, cool, peel and cut into jardiniere shape (thin half moon). Heat corn, mustard or canola oil in a saute pan. Add 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds and fry until they're black. Add a small chopped red onion and minced green chili, blending them in. Once the onion is soft and translucent, add the cut potatoes along with maybe 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Saute 2-3 minutes. Then add salt, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/8-1/4 tsp chili powder to your taste for heat, two mashed garlic cloves and 1/2" piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated. Cook until everything is heated through. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves to serve.