“I’m about to board the flight/train. See you soon.”
“Okay. By the way, what do you want for lunch/dinner?”
“You know Maa! Moshuri daal, bhaat, ghee maakha aloo sheddo (red lentil soup, steamed rice, mashed potato seasoned with ghee and salt)”
This conversation, or a version of it, is repeated each time I am on the way home after travelling for days/weeks/months. This ritual stems from the feeling of warmth and comfort that only potatoes can give. Nutritionists and dieticians have gone blue in the face urging me to stop eating this ‘fattening’ food. I’ve quit them rather than give up potato.
Sheer nonsense I tell you!
Has there ever been anything more satisfying and comforting than a bowl of mashed potatoes, or some piping hot potato wedges and tater tots?
For a beginner-level cook like me, the potato is the easiest vegetable to handle – stir fry, boil, steam, season and voila! And then there are dishes like the “simple, tasty and a bit fancy” aloo posto which when translated means “potato (aloo) with poppy seeds (posto)”.
What it actually turns out to be is a luscious dish of potatoes cooked in mustard oil and coated in creamy poppy seed paste. The aloo posto is a classic example of “how to make tasty food with minimal ingredients”. And the brilliant part of this dish is that you can substitute the potato with almost any other vegetable! Carrots, capsicum, ladyfingers, ridge gourd, pointed gourd, etc.
The main seasoning of this dish is the Bengali spice paanch phoron (five spices). As the name suggests, it is a mix of five spices – methi (fenugreek seeds), kaalo jeere (black cumin), jeere (cumin), radhuni (a Bengali spice) and mouri (fennel seeds). This mixture can be easily found in a store catering to regional or Indian tastes. No paanch phoron? No worries. Just go ahead with the rest of the spices.
I’ll also let you in on a tasty Bengali secret. This posto paste that you are about to make tastes yummy with rice. Take ¼ cup of the paste, add some salt and a drizzle of mustard oil, mix well and then eat with rice. Heaven on a plate!
Now let’s get cooking…
Aloo Posto (Potatoes in creamy poppy seed paste)
Chunks of potatoes cooked in a creamy poppy seed paste, seasoned with a teaspoon of spices and some mustard oil
- 500 grams Aloo/Potato
- ¼ cup Posto/Poppy seeds
- 1½ tablespoon Mustard oil
- 1 Green chilli
- ¼ inch Ginger
- ¼ teaspoon Paanch phoron
- ¼ teaspoon Sugar
- Salt to taste
Clean, peel and cut potatoes into small cubes. Wash the cubed pieces and set aside.
Put the poppy seeds, green chilli and ginger in a mixer/grinder. Add 2 tablespoons water and blend into a fine paste. Add a tablespoon or more of water if needed.
In a cooking pan placed on low flame, heat 1 tablespoon mustard oil.
Add ¼ teaspoon paanch phoron to the hot oil and let it crackle. Add the potato cubes to the crackling spices, sauté for a few minutes.
Pour in 1 cup water, season with salt, cover and cook.
P.S The water here looks white because I did not want to waste the goodness of the poppy seed. So after emptying the mixer of the paste, I swirled some water in the mixer and used the water.
Once the potatoes are cooked, add the poppy seeds paste, mix well, cover and cook for 2 minutes.
You will notice that once the excess water has dried up, the potatoes are coated in the thick, creamy poppy seed paste. Adjust the salt level as per you taste.
Add a pinch of sugar, drizzle ½ tablespoon mustard oil (optional), whisk off the flame and serve hot.
- If you don’t have paanch phoron, just mix the fenugreek seeds, two types of cumin seeds and fennel. Use the required amount of this mixture.
- If you are a finicky cook and want to ‘wash’ the poppy seeds, pour the required amount in a strainer and place under gently running water.
- Yes, mustard oil can be replaced with other vegetable oil. But I would strongly advice against it.
- Stick to green chillies for the level of heat; red chillies will kill the taste.
- Some people do add turmeric powder to this dish and that is absolutely fine.
- Make a large amount of the poppy seed paste and tuck it in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator for later use.