Potato in a Thin, Spicy Gravy

Aloor jhol is a very  simple, completely vegetarian recipe, and is one of the dishes my grandmother loves to eat. In my case, its slightly different. When I have sniffles and a bad fever, I want many things that I generally crave, but rarely have the time or energy to get up and cook for myself. But then, there is the Aloor Jhol, which I wangled out of R’s mother because when my grandmother had it for the first time, she actually smiled, and it is simple, and cooked under half an hour, if you have things ready. So, I decided to make a big truckload of it, and then consumed half a big bowl, just like that, while watching The Big Bang Theory episodes on my computer. It actually took me one and half episodes to make this, so I am assuming that’s 30 minutes in your book, since an episode is 20 minutes’ worth.

To make Aloor Jhol, I use about 500 gm. whole medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled. I wash them thoroughly, prick them with a fork, cut them in quarters, so that they cook quickly, then either cover them with water and place them inside a microwave safe bowl and micro on high for 10 minutes, or put them in a pressure cooker, and then when the pressure is full, drop heat, simmer for 5 minutes, and then turn of the cooker, letting the pressure go down naturally, and the lid open by itself. You can, of course do this part over the stove top, but well, for a cranky big baby like me, that was too much time. Once done, remove, and mash mildly with the back of a spoon or a spatula – there should be plenty of chunks. Do not throw away the water – that’s the material for the gravy.

Meanwhile, make a paste of an inch of ginger and 2-4 whole green chillies. The heat depends on your taste buds, that is, if you are a wuss, add one. If you think yourself to be a bit of a tiger, add sixty two. Also, make a paste of 2-3 tomatoes, so that the result is about 1/2 cup’s worth. Don’t add water to the tomato while blending if possible.

Indian potato curry

Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil. Add a large pinch of hing (optional), a large pinch of paanch phoran (substitute this with a mixture of cumin and fennel seeds if you don’t have that in hand), a couple of bay leaves, and 2-3 whole red chillies. Let this mixture heat and splutter slightly. Drop in the ginger and chillies, and give it a couple of halfhearted stirs, before introducing the tomato. At this point, I turn the heat down to a simmer, and then leave the kitchen premises for 5-6 minutes, or until the tomato does not smell raw any more. Throw in about half a handful of cilantro stems and leaves, chopped, and stir for a minute or so.

Take a bowl, and add a teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder. Add to it half teaspoon dry mango powder (optional), and half a teaspoon crushed black pepper. Don’t miss out on the black pepper, it gives the dish a lovely peppery glow. Add some water and make a paste, and add it to the tomato mixture. Cook till the water evaporates mostly, add the potatoes with at least one cup of the liquid in which the potato was cooking. You can up the ante, or reduce it, as per your wish. Also, if you think the heat is STILL not enough, add more green chillies or pasted green chillies now. Let the potato cook in the gravy for 10 minutes, then give it a hearty stir, add salt, and remove from heat. Just before removing, add another half handful of cilantro, because you really cannot ignore the cilantro here.

aloor jhol 

I have eaten aloor jhol solo, with luchi, puri, paratha, rotis, steamed rice, pulao – you name it. I have to say, nothing beats a bowl of this in front of you when you have sniffles – the kick from the spices is just what my taste buds need to recover from all the antibiotics and other medication. I would like to say, you are free to experiment here – you can use other vegetables instead of potatoes, or make this dish with two-three vegetables, and that turns out to be absolutely fine too! I have done this with a combination of potato and peas, potato and squash, as well as potato and raw papaya, and all of them turned out pretty neat. 

Written by Poorna Banerjee

Leave a Comment