Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nepalese potato salad

Viewed from the kitchen table, the bright red flowers of the scarlet runner beans stand out against their climbing foliage. An impossibly cheerful shade of red, and a gorgeous thing to wake to. I have of late been consciously sitting myself right here looking out over the fledgling garden at breakfast. A book, my journal, a favourite pen and a pot of fragrant green tea my dining companions; a bowl of muesli with home-made rice milk and blueberries or a slice of these wonderful breakfast bars are regulars on the menu.

Breakfasting is something new, something of a work in progress. A slower, gentler beginning to the day. Still, my anxious nature, twitchy legs and fingers struggle to stay still for the full half hour. This solitary meal is good, I tell my legs, good for the soul. My organised parents (she a tidy virgo, he an earthy capricorn) set the breakfast table, properly, each night before they go to bed. For years this ritual has baffled me, their leonine, misfit daughter. Breakfast, mine, has always been scoffed hurriedly, flying out the door. Why someone who spends a large amount of time thinking about the importance of eating well would ignore a meal so intrinsic to well-being is quite baffling. So, I’m learning to give myself time to wake, think and organize the day over a little nourishing breakfast. And slowly, slowly, the early morning chatter in my head is beginning to quiet, just a little.

Reading books over breakfast (as opposed to reading emails) is becoming an integral part of the self-prescribed therapy that chatter requires. A neat pile of books now sits on a corner of the kitchen table, a version, I guess, of my parent’s table-setting ritual. Writing in her exquisite, enviable style, Marion Halligan’s memory of a warm weather Christmas lunch – a huge platter of fresh, glistening prawns eaten with thin slices of dense black bread, lemons and lashings of butter, washed down with cold, cold white wine - read over this morning’s breakfast got me thinking. Not of Christmas food, though there will be some of that in the weeks to come. Rather it’s made me aware of a need in December for things that, like a generous, elegant, festive platter of prawns, can be prepared with a minimum of fuss. ‘Do I really need another potato salad recipe?’, I hear you ask. I think so highly of this delicious Nepalese street food that you may feel, as I have discovered, that yes, you do.

A spoonful of leftovers, raided at the entirely inappropriate time of 7am one Saturday morning, confirmed Madhur Jaffrey’s instruction to make it well ahead of time. It’s good after two hours, but better after twelve and will keep for up to 3 days. It’s a brilliant, multi-seasonal, make-ahead potato salad. God, it’s good. I serve it with pan-fried fillets of silver-skinned garfish, dredged in rice flour, made by grinding black rice to a powder, a tablespoon at a time, in a spice grinder - a sensational combination.

Nepalese potato salad (Aloo Achaar) for 4

Adapted, slightly, from this book.

This quantity can be doubled, tripled, even quadrupled easily. Four chillies may seem like a lot (it is) but the heat mellows a little on standing. Feel free to use one small green capsicum (pepper) in their place. Lots of vitamin E from the sesame seeds and vitamin C from the chillies.

6 medium-sized waxy potatoes (Desiree or Nicola are good)
4 tablespoons of sesame seeds
Juice of 4 lemons
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2-4 green chillies (see above), finely minced
4 tablespoons of macadamia or sesame oil (NOT the dark, toasted stuff)
Pinch of asafoetida powder
10 fenugreek seeds
1 bunch of coriander (cilantro), chopped

Place the potatoes in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until tender all the way through when speared with a skewer.

Meanwhile toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan, tossing constantly, until they are golden. Watch them like a hawk – they burn in the blink of an eye. Cool on a plate then grind to a powder, either in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

Combine the ground sesame seeds, lemon juice, salt and chillies in a large ceramic bowl. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of the oil with a fork until creamy and well amalgamated.

If you have a gas stove, warm the remaining tablespoon of oil in a metal ladle directly over a low flame. If you don’t have gas, a small saucepan over a high heat works just as well, if not a little less dramatically. When the oil is hot (moments) tip in the asafoetida and fenugreek seeds and as soon as the fenugreek seeds darken, remove from the heat and whisk into the sesame seed emulsion. Add the chopped coriander, mix well and set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, peel them while they are still hot, using a tea towel to protect your hand. Dice the potatoes into 2 cm (¾ inch) chunks. There’s no need to be too precise here. Toss, gently, in the sesame dressing while still hot. Cool, cover and refrigerate until serving. Best eaten at room temperature.

Can you believe that the year is almost over?

I don't know where it went...


Mansi Desai said...

this looks good, almost like potato for the year, yup! it indeed went away really fast!

Sophie said...

This sounds good Lucy - I like this style of potato salad so much more than the mayonnaise type (and yours has the advantage of getting better with age).

p.s I have just been out and bought the ingredients to make Cassie's breakfast bars - they seem to be taking on a life of their own!

Figs Olives Wine said...

How lovely Lucy! My breakfast is always munched over my laptop, but you're inspiring me to pay a bit more attention to the ritual in the future! I wonder if those runner bean blossoms & leaves are edible? I love fava bean blossoms & leaves - so nutty and delicious.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Lucy, I really like this salad - it's always great to learn new ways with potatoes.

winedeb said...

You mention taking your time in the morning. I was the same for many years, up at 5 am, tea, out for a brisk walk, shower, bowl of ceral and out the door. It would be 8:30 am and I felt like half of the day was over. But now, like you, I try to keep my busy fingers off the computer while I am having my morning tea and oatmeal. I start my day out with tea and a book. At least for a half hour, then off we go! I now cherish that "quiet time" in the morning. Does something for the soul.
Potato Salad - so many varieties and yours sounds and looks yummy. I love potato salad. I like the way you get to choose your potatoes! At our market they just give the basic names, like Yukon Gold, Idaho Potato, etc. I have seen blue potatoes lurking in a small bin that I must try soon! Maybe do some plate art!

Shayne said...

oh you had me all the way to the cilantro, I must have the anti cilantro gene becaue it tastes like soap to me. Very bitter soap. I may try it with parsley though becaue it looks very good.

My daughter has a doll that she LOVES. A friend of mine made it for her for her 3rd bithday and she named that doll Lucy.

Wendy said...

Love the sound of this. Is it from the World Vegetarian book? It's another of mu favourites. Haven't even scratched the surface of it.
Terribly impressed that you are tackling breakfast. It's a meal I totally ignore. I always eat it, don't get me wrong, but on a week day it is either cereal in front of the computer or toast in front of my registration class.

Suganya said...

I admire your parents' patience. You always play with light in yr photos, don't you?

Susan said...

I have a new breakfast ritual, too, now. It's called hauling my bones out for a run first thing in the morning. I would much, much, much rather ponder the wonders of this potato salad. Too hot, the peppers? I say bring on the twisted little fiends!

Callipygia said...

Hmmm this has me needing to eat cold prawns with bread, butter & wine (lovely! and for breakfast) or at least one serious mound of this potato salad. Who can resist asoefatida or Madhur for that matter?

Lucy said...

Hi Mansi, it just flew by...

Sophie, I tell ya, those bars really are worth the fuss. I used amaranth, Cassie's first suggestion simply because I had some in the pantry and now the jar is empty! Any salad that can stand around improving is, I must say, a Very Good Thing at this time of the year.

Amanda, you can eat the blossoms and, I dare say you can eat the leaves too - I'll look into it. I ate my first broad (fava) beans from the plant over the weekend and didn't know I could eat the leaves. I'll be getting into them today, I can tell you!

Hi Patricia, I'm so pleased you're a potato fan too!

Oh Deb, you are so right! It's a question of taking time out to think slowly for me. Like you, I've always been in a rush to get things done early. Now I relish that time spent quietly going about my own business! You must, must grab those blue potatoes - give me plate art!!

Hi Shayne, parsley is an excellent substitute for the coriander-phobes out there and it's such a lovely salad that it would be a shame to miss out. I love the stuff, but it took some geting used to! I used to be a children's bookseller and found that Lucy is a very popular name - for young girls, picture book characters, teddy bears and even dogs!

Wendy, shamefully I haven't even scratched the surface of that book either. This is from her earlier book, Veg Cooking of the East (I think Random House publish it...God, how easily I forgot all that bookselling malarky), so having the other book you can imagine how encycolpedic this one is too! I used to eat toast in the car on the way to work. I wold get there and find butter and Vegemite in my wrong!

So do I Suganya! I'd love to be that organized (actually, it will never hapen, so I'll just keep on wishing...). I'm lucky in that I have a found the perfect spot to, as you say, play with the light. My art school major was drawing, so I think graphically, and like to push the light around as if it were charcoal. Does that makes sense?

Susan, that's FANTASTIC news! Running - well, I ran for 2.5 km's the other day without stopping and was thoroughly chuffed with myself. Only took it up last year - slow, me. Those chillies are surprisingly mellow, and I would even suggest that you, my friend, could take even a little more heat!

Lisa said...

Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian is one of my favorite cookbooks. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but you've certainly pointed out what I have been missing. Thanks!

Lucy said...

Callipygia, I do love asafoetida (even if I have to think really, really hard about spelling it) and Madhur, well, she's just wonderful. Have you read the first part of her auto-bio? Highly recommend it.

Lisa, my problem is that there's just so much to choose from in Jaffrey's books. Slowly I'm working my way through...but what I really love is her writing voice.

Anh said...

Lucy, yes, breakfast. How easy do we abandon it? *sigh*. I have been more mindful of what i eat for breakfast of late. Usually yogghurt with no-fruit muesli with loads of fresh seasonal fruits (so many nice fruits in summer, why waste?). I notice an increase of energy that carries through to mid-day, and I have reduced my coffee intake considerably...

And the salad itself is soo lovely. It will be on our table today or tomorrow for sure!

Johanna said...

A leisurely breakfast with time to think about what to cook for dinner in the evening seems the perfect way to start the day (by the way, I have a gas stove but my ladles are melamine!)

Lisa said...

I know what you mean about Ms. Jaffrey's book Lucy. I've possessed a copy for a few years now but I find new recipes and ideas each time I browse the pages. I can honestly say it is one the best cookbook investments I have ever made.

I also have a cookbook recommendation for you, in case you don't own a copy: Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Vegetarian Cooking" by Yamuna Devi. I consider it the bible of Indian cuisine. I've written a short review of the book here.

Cynthia said...

Oh my gosh, I've got to try this! I am really crazy about potatoes and this is some potato salad. Thank you, Lucy!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Sounds good! I like mine with garlic, fresh ginger, a little soy, and a touch of sesame oil. Or just with lemon, olive oil, & sea salt, of course! But, as I'm sure you've noticed, I'd eat my own Christmas tree if it had enough lemon juice on it ; )

Simona said...

Lovely. I have never used fenugreek seeds: your recipe may provide the right excuse.

Lucy said...

Anh, it's funny that for other people in my home, breakfast is a ritual involving lots of cereal, fruit and toast but that for me, well, I just didn't really get it. Glad you're changing habits too - isn't the summer fruit grand?

It is a good start Johanna. I didn't think I needed to say 'metal' ladle...anyhoo. Don't use anything but a metal ladle if you're attemping this - the small saucepan mentioned in the recipe will do the job just as well.

Thanks so much Lisa, I've just ordered it bsed on your excellent review. Can't wait to get my hands on it! Hoping it arrives before we head off to New Zealand after Christmas.

Me too Cynthia - I can't get enough potato dishes...I know they are a 'bad' carbohydrate, but I don't actually care...;)

Amanda, you and I were separated at birth, I've no doubt! I'd eat my Christmas tree too...I ate them dressed just as you suggested - delicious. Thanks!

Simona, fenugreek is a wonderful spice. This is a wonderful introduction to its classic curry fragrance.

shula said...

Just a note to let you know that, jam-wise, you are at the very top of my list.

Still living at the same place?

Lucy said...

Sure am Shula. Sure am.

Pleased you're back - you were sorely missed!