Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Aaloo Puriyan (Potatoes & Deep Fried Puff Bread)

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This is a dish that could be eaten for breakfast or as a snack or served after poojas (religious services) for the langar or communal feast. It is actually a very simple but satisfying dish and the flavors of the hot fried puris (fried puff bread) and the slightly crushed aaloo (potatoes) in their own spicy curry complement each other. It is a comfort food that many all across India can relate to.

Puris can be eaten for breakfast (with aloo sabzi), lunch (with kale channe), dinner (with different sabzis) and even dessert (with halva). They are wonderfully light, golden brown puffed, round pieces of fried bread that taste best hot, straight off the frying kadai (wok). Although puris can be wrapped in aluminum foil and kept for 4 or 5 days, the taste of freshly made, hot puris cannot be duplicated.

Aaloo (potatoes) are commonly used in Indian cuisine and can be found in many dishes. When made alone in this semi-curry style, though it looks easy, simple and quick to make, the skill of the cook can be seen in the type of spices used and the way the potatoes are sliced and just slightly crushed.

The whole dish rests on the spices, texture of the potatoes and most importantly, serving it hot with hot puris. And also the consistency of the turri (curry), which should not be too thick and especially not thin like water. It tastes best when served with a couple of slices of green mango pickles with the saunf (fennel seed) masala in sarson (mustard) seed oil.

Ingredients for Puris:   
250 gm atta (wheat flour)
1 measure of pani (water) to make the dough soft
Vegetable oil to fry in

Directions for Puris:
1. Slowly add water to the flour and knead the dough in a bowl till it has is semisoft. Cover with a light cloth and place aside for 30 minutes to let it ferment a little.
2. Grease your palms with some oil so that the dough won’t stick and then break the dough into several 1-inch pieces. Roll them into balls and set aside.
3. In a kadai (deep skillet or wok), heat the oil up till it is very hot.
4. Roll the dough with a walan (rolling pin) till you form a 4-inch round patty. Roll all the patties out and keep to the side for frying.
5. Carefully slide the patty into the hot oil and then see if the patty starts to puff up and then turn slightly brown.
6. Repeat the steps and cook all the dough. As the puris come out, place them on paper towels on an inclined plate to soak up and drain the excess oil. Keep the heat on high until you are done with cooking.

Ingredients for Aaloo:  
2 lbs medium size aloo (potatoes) – yellow is better than Russet
1 cup dahin (plain yogurt)
2 tbsp tael (oil) – vegetable or olive
Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), haldi (turmeric), jeera (cumin seed), garam masala

Directions for Aaloo:
1. Boil the potatoes in a pot till semi-soft. Drain the water, peel them and slice into 1 inch quarters. Take a quarter potato, mash it by hand and keep to the side.
2. In a medium saucepan warm the oil over medium heat. When nicely hot, throw in the jeera (cumin seed), turmeric, red pepper, salt and stir.
3. Throw in the mashed potato and mix thoroughly with a ladle. Now throw in the rest of the potatoes and stir well, cooking for 5 minutes.
4.  Add the yogurt into the pot, stir well and bring to a boil to bring out the flavors. The turri should be slightly bitter. If you want to make it more bitter, add more yogurt. Do not stir hard as the potatoes should be solid, not smashed.
5.  When the flavor is soaked into the potatoes turn the heat off and cover the pot. Before serving, sprinkle with garam masala.

MAMA’S TIP OF THE WEEK

FOR BEST RESULTS, TAKE ITEMS OUT OF FRIDGE TO WARM UP

As you learn to become a better cook, you understand the importance of the right temperature for different parts of the dish you are preparing. Most people are too impatient and in their need to speed things up, will simply turn up the heat while cooking. Instead, they may simply overcook the dish, or even have it stick to the pot.

The secret to good dishes is in the right temperature control so that the ingredients have a chance to soak together and allow the flavors to seep in. This requires patience, and allowing the items to cook slowly, and then cooling down in their own turri (curry). It all starts from taking the items out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before using them, so that they come to room temperature.

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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.

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