Solid Gold Easy Action


These potatoes are neither radioactive nor laced with the sort of E-numbers that will keep a three year old awake for a week. It is in fact, my new friend tumeric, which I’m sneaking into everything these days. It has a squillion medicinal properties (and Mum, according to Wikipedia it repels ants if you sprinkle it in the garden), a delightfully earthy sweet flavour, and stains your food pleasingly, eye-scorchingly yellow.

Panchphoran Aloo, or potatoes with whole spices, comes from Nigella’s seminal text How To Eat and is what I made for dinner tonight. HTE is so densely packed full of wonderful recipes that with initial reads it is impossible to take everything in. It took me a while to pick up on this fabulous potato dish but now I’ve made it so many times that I don’t even use the (tumeric-smudged) book anymore. What you want to do: Get lots of floury potatoes, scrub them and then parboil for five-ten minutes. Nigella doesn’t instruct you to do this, but it makes them a lot easier to cook. Drain and dice the potatoes, then toss them into a hot, non-stick pan, stirring occasionally still somewhat golden. Add a spoonful or so of the following and stir: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek, fennel seeds, mustard seedstumeric. There’s a bit of standing and stirring involved but it’s really simple to make and tastes marvelous, especially with plenty of sea salt.

This is a very cheap meal for me because I have all those spices to hand (including a 500g catering-sized pack of cumin seeds that I’ve made surprising headway with) but I can see why the lesser-stocked amongst you might freak out at an ingredients list like that. I find health food stores really handy for cheap bags of spices and things if you want to start somewhere. There’s one on Cuba Street which has all manner of enticing wee bags of things…that I am quite embarrassingly addicted to purchasing. Last time I was there (on the way to The Dark Knight) I walked out clutching 2 bags of quinoa flakes, a bag of kibbled rye, a bag of ground linseeds and a bag of bran. It’s addictive I tells ye.

By the way, I apologise for the harsh photography. I’m having ongoing camera issues, which, coupled with the total lack of natural light here (it has rained for about 3 weeks straight) does not good food porn maketh. I also apologise if this post is lacklustre…these assignments are keeping me stressed and busy, instead of stressed and stationary.

With the rain and the sleet and the damp and the cold comes a couple of benefits. For example: steamed pudding. I first bought my pudding steamer in the infant days of this blog (back when I had permanent poor exposure and no depth of field, ah, circularity) and it occurred to me that it hadn’t gotten any use in a while. A casual flick through Nigella’s delicious How To Be A Domestic Goddess (while I should have been doing something more productive) had me longing suddenly to introduce butter to its amigos sugar and flour. You have to get going in advance – the whole two hours steaming thing – but apart from that these things practically make themselves. And they’re so delicious, not stodgy at all, but miraculously light. And I love the way a fat, golden jammy slice of this pudding slowly soaks up the milk pooling in the base of the bowl…I highly recommend you look up all your very old cookbooks, you know, the sort that have recipes for salads set with gelatine, and make yourself a darned steamed pudding. Unless you’re in the northern hemisphere in which case maybe wait a few months. It’s one of the best things about this weather.

If I can’t be perky, nothing livens things up like the neighbourhood cat – seriously, I defy you to view this and not feel the slightest stirrings of mirth in your soul.

Above: This isn’t our cat. If the landlord is reading, this isn’t even a cat, it’s…a teddy bear (ceci n’est pas un chat?) But seriously, it’s this kitteh that hangs round our ‘hood and occasionally stands by the door looking cute and vulnerable and what would you do? Turns out that its most natural, ideal sleeping position is…face-planted. Did you know cats can breathe out their ears?

Next time: I’m not sure, again, so I’m also not sure why I persist with this “next time” feature. I bought some brisket though, with a view to cooking it slowly somehow…any suggestions?

15 thoughts on “Solid Gold Easy Action

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Laura, I did a smile when you spoke about using tumeric. I used to use it a lot in my Weight Watcher days, over 30 years ago. My, how the time doth fly. I used/use it with cottage cheese. Looks the colour of egg for sandwiches or with salads in summer. And brisket, I cook in crockpot with the extras you cook corned beef with, Golden syrup, or brown sugar, some vinegar etc. loved the kitty picture. hugs Nana.


  2. Boffcat says:

    …that’s the sound of my heart melting! My sister used to have a cat who would wait till you were asleep and then plonk herself on your head. It’s possible but not particularly recommended to breathe through a small black cat.On a side note, my boyfriend and a friend of his once confused turmeric with curry powder, with fairly indigestible results…


  3. Kay says:

    Will remember the tumeric and buy it by the bucket when ant season comes around. Thanks for the hint. Hmmmmm steamed pudding. Definitely winter comfort food.


  4. Neen says:

    I adore Turmeric, although it stained the entire inside of a steel pot of mine yellow. 🙂 Spicy Aloo, fabulous. As for brisket, start with a rub (equal parts pepper, salt, brown sugar, and paprika is the easiest, although you can get way more complicated), and cook it slow, like 250 degrees. My boyfriend just made a very successful brisket for the first time last Friday, and he should be posting about it soon on our blog. I think he combined a Food and Wine recipe from their June 2007 issue and Cook’s Illustrated’s technique. Hope that helps, and hope the rain lets up!


  5. Jeanine says:

    Wow, those potatoes do look radio active. I bet I could get my kids to eat them by saying that, actually. 🙂Love the pic of the, um…teddy bear. 😉 How cute!


  6. Ann says:

    I love turmeric but wish I knew more about when to use it; love the color it leaves behind too. The steamed pudding looks DE-lish and so comforting, especially on a cool night. And that kitten, that is actually not really there and who is really a teddy bear? ADORABLE. I love kitty breath. 🙂


  7. Adam says:

    Did your hands turn yellow when you played with the Tumeric? Mine always end up looking like I ate a bunch of movie theater popcorn.Steamed pudding with gelatine? Sounds pretty cool. I want to sit back with that and some Saved by the Bell:)


  8. syrie says:

    Sweet kitty. My poor boyfriend was cleaning out the spice cupboard one day when the unsealed packet of tumeric somehow fell on his face. He inhaled quite a bit of it unfortunately. Anyway, he dusted and washed it all of but it wasn’t until 4 hours later when we were out and about that I noticed his whole face had taken on a rather alarming shade of yellow that was only noticeable under certain types of light. He was very embarrased.


  9. Zo says:

    Brisket – i’m gathering you mean this is some sort of cow thing? Our flat has taken to making stews with a slow cooker/hot pot. Usually any inexpensive meat (blade steak, chuck stewing steak, whatever) works fine. But lob in some Marmite! bay leaf, stock, a bit of worcestershire sauce, potatoes, veges… i think my flatmate’s doing a meat stew post soon…potato almost-curry-thing looks good though, will try when i get back home. and zomg, SO sympathising on the assignments/stressness! We’re doing paradigms in environmental sociology…don’t suppose you know what a paradigm is? 😀


  10. Tim says:

    I cook a similar dish, it's great. The long list of spices seems to be the major barrier to most people regularly cooking Indian — if you have them stocked in your pantry it's no more difficult than most other styles of cooking.


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