2005 was the second and last year (after 1992) that I was forced out of Calcutta during Pujo. Well, I wasn’t in the city the last two years either, but that was because I was working in Delhi. But in this particular case my parents voluntarily decided that we would go on our umpteenth trip to Rajasthan during the Pujo vacation. As much as I love to travel and as obsessed as I am about Rajasthan, it is incredibly difficult to get me out of the city during those 4 days. But I did oblige, albeit grudgingly.
May be it was a result of my separation pangs from Calcutta that I fell sick on the very third day of the tour. Fever, food poisoning, general lethargy took me over. I did not stop travelling of course, because the last thing you’d want to do while is Rajasthan is to sit in the hotel room (Unless it’s Lake Palace, Udaipur!). By the time we reached Mount Abu I was feeling a bit better, maybe because of the weather. I suddenly gained back my appetitte which I had lost over the last 5-6 days, and strange as it may sound I was craving badly for alu sheddho-dim sheddho bhaat (rice with boiled potatoes and boiled eggs). Now let me get this clear here. I am NOT one of those Bengalis who will even look at a Bengali restaurant when on a trip, but this time was an exception. Finally hungry after so many days I didn’t exactly wish for gatte ki kadhi to satiate it. We walked into this self-proclaimed “Bangali Hotel” and ordered bhaat, masoor dal, alu bhaja and alu posto. I was waiting eagerly for my food to arrive when came the alu posto…bits of potato semi mashed and swimming in a watery gravy dotted with poppy seeds. It was completely white and plain unappetising. I finished my meal with the other three. But in the process my mother gently called the guy who was taking orders and told him, “Aise alu posto banaoge toh Bangali bhaag jayega restaurant se…Bangal mein alu posto aise banate hai…(If you make alu posto like this, bengalis will run away. In Bengal this is the way we make alu posto)” and she actually told the guy how alu posto needs to be made. We are that serious about alu posto!
Thankfully I heard my mother while she was giving away her recipe to the guy 9 years back and so a couple of days back, when she was out for a meeting during lunch time, I decided to rustle it up. I followed her recipe overall but added a twist that I had read about in my amazingly talented friend P’s blog Let’s Talk Food. I find her recipes excellent…she’s not just a great cook and photographer, but a brilliant writer as well, and most of her stories will have you in splits. Following her direction, I ground coriander and green chillies with the poppy seed paste and the result was this lush green divine alu posto.
Recipe inspired and partly adapted from Priyadarshini’s Let’s talk Food (find original recipe here)
Potatoes, diced: 4
Onion, diced: 1
Poppy seeds: 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves: 1 cup
Green chillies: 3 + 2
Nigella seeds/kalo jeere: 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, to taste
1. Soak the poppy seeds in water for at least 2 hours. Then make a paste of it along with the coriander and 3 green chillies adding a little bit of water. Set aside.
2. In a non-stick kadhai, add mustard oil. Once oil heats up add the nigella seeds, and 2 green chillies slit longitudinally. Stir for 45 seconds before adding the potato cubes. Sprinkle some salt and cook the potatoes covered on medium heat for 10 minutes. In the last 3-4 minutes, add the onions. After they are almost done, uncover and crank the heat up and keep stirring till the potatoes become crisp and brown on the edges.
3. Add the poppy seed-coriander-green chilli paste and coat the potatoes and onions well with that. Add a little bit of water if you need to loosen the paste, but not much as it’s meant to be a dry dish. Cook for another 5-7 minutes. In between check seasoning and add salt if required (my Mother always adds a bit of sugar for the balance, but I don’t. You may, if you feel like).
4. Serve hot with plain rice and kolai or masoor dal.
Eat Like a Bong: Day 8