Born and brought up in Madurai, Shravan loved roaming around the town in his cycle looking out for popular roadside eateries and cafes, selling mouth-watering delicacies. He spent his pocket money on food. Even though his parents were great cooks, his amma’s special varutha chicken and podi masala been varthudu were his two favourites.
Shravan tells me that his favourite breakfast is cooked rice soaked overnight in water with buttermilk and mango pickle. He was always on the lookout for new dishes and travel any distance to try new dishes as long as it was spicy and Indian. He says that European or American food has no appeal and it is just about the presentation with little taste.
One vegetable he cannot resist is potatoes. He loves potatoes in any form. I have made a dish with potatoes and am dedicating the dish to Shravan. The ingredients I used are now grown in India though originally may have come from Persia or West Asia, be it walnuts or almonds. Indian almonds grow throughout the warmer regions in the country, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
The tree also grows in West Bengal and other warmer regions in the North. There are different names for walnuts in different parts of India. The most common vernacular name for walnut in the north is hot, it is called doon/dun in Kashmir and khod in parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The greens which are ground into a chutney before stuffing the potato originate from the Sanskrit word chaatni meaning to lick. This is a flavour bomb. One of the popular stories of its origin dates back to the 17th century when Mughal emperor Shah Jahan fell ill. Legend has it that as part of the treatment, the emperor’s hakims had advised him to eat something spicy and full of flavour, yet very easy to digest.
This led to the discovery of chaatni that is made fresh, often with raw ingredients like mint, cumin, coriander, flax seeds, garlic, dry ginger, etc. Chutney, although served in small quantities, are packed with micronutrients, that are believed to aid in digestion, as advised by Shah Jahan’s hakims. Chutney is the oldest known dish probably invented by our hunting ancestors. Using berries, nuts, greens and any edible material crushed in a stone mortar.
Potatoes and paneer are a gift from the Portuguese who invaded us. Today, I am sharing the recipe of a potato dish I made especially for Shravan.
Stuffed Potato Recipe:
Preparation Time: 1 Hour
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 12 pax
Calories per serve: 200 per serving
Ingredients for making Stuffed Potato:
Big potatoes: 6
Shallots: 10 peeled and Chopped
Fresh Coriander leaves: 1/2 cup full
Fresh mint leaves: 1/2 cup full
Fresh mint leaves: 1/2 cup full
Paneer: granted 1/4 cup
Cashew nuts: 6
Green Chillies: 3
Red Chillies: 4
Cumin: 1/2 tsp
Garlic pods: 3
Garam Masala: 1/2 tsp
Palak: 1/2 cup
Drumstick leaves: 1/2 cup
Coriander powder: 1/2 tsp
Limejuice/amchur powder: 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Sesame/coconut oil: 2 tbsps
Pepper powder: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
* Peel potatoes and cut them into halves. Scoop the center and make a nice cup. Keep aside the grated potato peels
* Take a streamer, rub salt and turmeric on the potatoes and stream until tender
* Take a frying pan, pour 1/2 tbps of oil and saute cashew nuts, walnuts, cumin, pepper, garlic, red chillies and shallots. Once it is sauteed, add the greens - green chillies, palak, drumstick leaves, mint and coriander. Saute well.
* Once it is cool, grind it by adding salt, coriander powder, garam masala and turmeic.
* Add the grated paneer to the Chaatni mixture. Add lime juice or amchur powder and mix well.
* Take each potato piece and stuff it tightly
* When done, place a non-stick pan on gas, pour remaining oil and place each of potato side-wise, so the filling stays in place. When one side is brown turn on the other side.
* Cook on the low flame, so potatoes nicely browns
* Serve hot with homemade buns or jeera pulao