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Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Skinny Version of Aloo Mattar

I must confess that I haven't had chips, aka fries, in a very, very long time. Don't get me wrong, I adore potatoes, and especially new, baby potatoes, but the idea of immersing them in a bath of oil reminds me of the words of a respected Romanian doctor & dietician who once said: "fried potatoes are not...potatoes!" :// basically, I rarely fry potatoes, even though I love them so much that I'd give my kingdom for some golden crusted chips :)
A great way to cheat fries/chips is to boil them first and then to roast them in the oven in spices and seeds. I always make my Bombay potatoes in this barbaric fashion. 

Indian style potatoes are top on my list of sheer indulgences and the next dish is a new skinny take on a classic Punjabi culinary delight- 

Aloo Mattar (Potatoes with Green Peas)

This is one of the easiest dishes you can think of and it makes the most of the cheapest and most available ingredients of the season: baby potatoes and sweet peas

Type of cuisine: Indian/Punjabi/Vegetarian/Low-fat

Cooking time: 50 min (approx)

The Spices

(dry) curry leaves

1 cinnamon stick

freshly ground cinnamon

 mustard seeds

onion seeds

coriander seeds

cumin seeds

garam masala


mild (or medium) curry powder

a small cube of peeled and diced ginger root

2-3 cloves of garlic


1 peeled and diced ripe tomato

2 shots of green garlic

2 tbs of olive oil


Boil the baby potatoes and the sweet peas separately in dry curry leaves and salty water. I use Camargue salt (fleur de sel) with crushed curry leaves. It's a great way to indirectly flavour and season Indian dishes.  Drain and set aside. 

In the meantime, skin and chop the tomato, dice the ginger & the garlic cloves, and crush the spices (onion seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon).

Break the spices in a little olive oil: first fry the cinnamon stick, the garlic cloves and the ginger. Add the rest of the spices & cover. They tend to pop, stick to your hood and burn your skin (it's painful). :( Once they break and release their flavours, add the diced juicy tomato.

Place the potatoes in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle some extra crushed curry leaves, turmeric, garam masala, cinnamon and curry powder and toss. Add the sweet peas and the mixture of spices, top with the green garlic shots and roast for 30 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius

tiny pea pod stranded on a potato island :)

As you may have noticed, for this recipe I didn't suggest any specific quantities regarding the spices, but generally, less is more. I believe it's better if they did't overpower the dish. Use your discretion, relish and sample, adjust the spices to your taste. 

A classic Aloo Mattar usually uses frozen peas and the potatoes are first fried in spices then simmered together with the peas, which makes it so much creamier. *thumbs up*
By using a different technique, I managed to cut down the middleman (i.e. compromise on the frying part) and keep the spices alive. After 30 minutes in the oven, the potatoes were deliciously crusty and the peas were simply .... sweet. 

If you ever feel like visiting Romania, a great place to tick would be the village of Horezu, in Co. Vilcea. Although I have never spent more than an hour in the town itself and I couldn't recommend any places to stay overnight or eat, I warmly recommend it for the great specialized shopping and the beautiful green nature. Horezu is famous in the area and in Romania for the quality of the pottery and the mastery of traditional crafts.
So on our way to western Europe, driving through Horezu proved to be a great opportunity to buy clay cooking pots for myself, my mother, and for some friends in Germany.  

Cooking in a covered clay pot is certainly healthier, tastier, and it brings us back to square one.  Ou sont les neiges d'antan?




  1. Great advice and timely too. Today Harvard doctors damned potatoes and the fried version as a culprit, of many, in western diets.I have a bag of spring potatoes in the kitchen and will attempt this soon.

  2. I totally agree. It's always better to play it safe and it's fantastic when we can have our old-school favourite dishes/ bar the fat, the butter, and the oil. I must admit, I am obsessed with lean, low-fat cuisine. It doesn't have to be tasteless, right? :)