South Asian cuisine is rich with numerous cultures contributing to a vast array of specialized regional recipes. Kashmir, the northernmost part of India and Pakistan, also a politically troubled region enmeshed in separatist conflict is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. However, Kashmiri culture or Kashmiriyat is centuries old and goes beyond modern day state boundaries. While Kashmiris are divided on the question of regional autonomy and national identity, they remain a peaceful and culturally rich people.
To celebrate Kashmir’s culture is to support the return of peace and prosperity to the valley. The ongoing violence in the region needs to be repelled with love. And the misconceptions that many non-Kashmiris have can only be cleared if they take the time to explore Kashmir. This is my humble attempt at making a dent through food. if a man’s heart can be reached through food, so can that of a hyper-nationalist.
Without much further ado, I present to you, Dum Aloo or Dum Oluv (as the Kashmiris call it)
Potato in all its Glory
For a recipe that serves 4
- Baby potatoes- 16-20
- Fresh Yogurt- 1 cup
- Dried and ground Kashmiri chili peppers- 15-20 in number (About 3-4 teaspoons of Kashmiri chili powder will also do)
- Garam Masala- 1 heaped tablespoon (You can buy from the market or make your own)
- Saunf/Fennel seeds- 2 heaped tablespoons
- Onions- 2 large, finely chopped
- shallots- 2, finely chopped
- garlic- 6-8 cloves, finely chopped
- cinnamon powder- 1/2 teaspoon
- Ghee/Clarified butter- 1 teaspoon
- Mustard oil- 1/2 cup
- honey- 1 tablespoon
- Ginger powder- 1 teaspoon
- Hing/Asafoetida- 1 teaspoon
- Cashew nuts- 1/4 cup
- milk- 1/4 cup
- Coriander/Cilantro leaves- chopped, 2 teaspoons
- Salt- To taste
- Soak the potatoes in water for half an hour. Peel them.
- Heat the mustard oil in a wok, till the color of the oil lightens and there is no pungent smell
- Fry the potatoes on a low-medium flame till golden-brown. Set aside on paper towels to get rid of extra oil
- Fry the onions, shallots and garlic in a clean pan, with the ghee. Add the honey and allow the onions and shallots to caramelize
- Add the fennel seeds, ginger powder, cinnamon powder, half the garam masala and half the chili peppers/powder to the caramelized onions. Don’t let the spices burn. Always keep the flame of the burner low or medium
- Let the onion-shallot mixture cool. Meanwhile, whip the yogurt to a smooth, silky consistency with no lumps.
- Grind the now manageable onion-shallot mixture to a coarse texture. You could also leave it the way it is, if you used finely chopped ingredients as indicated above
- On a low flame, combine the onion-shallot mixture with the silky smooth yogurt slowly, with constant stirring
- As the color of the gravy turns like that of the sunset, grind the cashew nuts with the milk to a fine, pasty consistency.
- Add the potatoes to the simmering gravy. Don’t add them all at once; otherwise, the hot gravy could splash onto your hands and face
- Add the hing, the remaining garam masala, and the remaining chili peppers/powder
- Add the salt. Mix everything in. Bring to a boil
- Add the cashew nut paste and stir again.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves.
- Serve hot with steamed rice
Traditionally, Dum Aloo has been served as a celebratory dish by both, Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims. People outside Kashmir have made variations to the dish which would be considered sacrilege by Kashmiris (like simply adding the potatoes to a tomato-onion-cream gravy.) Dum aloo is not a potato version of butter chicken and if you’re a true foodie, you would do well to remember that.
Try out the recipe and let me know how it turned out for you ! Happy Cooking.