Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Puri Aloo (Puffed Small Fried Bread & Curried Potatoes)

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There are several types of fried breads in Punjabi cuisine that are very satisfying but not made at home everyday, like kulche or bature  or puris. They have the same fluffy texture but are eaten with different types of dishes to complement their flavor, like channe with bature. Among them, puris are a favorite of many as it can be eaten with sweet halva or with salty foods like channe, but most often with slighty smashed, curried aloo (potatoes).

Puri aloo is best eaten as a meal by itself with garnishes like raw onions, achaar (pickles) and with long, spicy green Indian mirchen (chilli peppers). It is a favorite for a heavy breakfast by young and old, but it is equally comforting when eaten in the middle of the afternoon as a snack.

The word “puri” comes from the Sanskrit purika or filled. It is either made of atta (whole wheat flour) or maida (refined wheat flour) and when the dough is put in the hot oil, it fluffs up with one side (the one considered the top) that is softer than the other and turns a golden brown.

Potatoes are consumed universally all over India, but the ones used for this dish should be the Idaho russet variety which can be easily smashed to make it easy to dab into and eat as well as to allow the flavor of the spices to permeate through the dish. You can add other spices to the curry, as you want. portion of protein that other flours. Mixed with water, it can be used as a facial exfoliant or scrub or to replace eggs in vegan cooking.

In the heat of the Punjab, this is the bread that can easily be eaten with a dollop of homemade butter or just plain yogurt or with a cool glass of lassi (buttermilk) sitting under the shade of a tree on a charpai (jute string cot).

6 medium aloo (potatoes)
4 cups atta (unbleached wheat flour). Makes 24 puris
2 cups pani (water) – boiling, to add to the potatoes
4 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil
1 tbsp amchoor (dry green mango powder)
1 tsp jeera (cumin seed)
1 tsp garam masala
Spices (to taste): haldi (turmeric), namak (salt), mirch (red pepper)

1. Wash the potatoes well and then them place them in a large pot of boiling water.
2. After they are tender, drain the water and peel two of them, letting the 4 others to cool off. Mash the two peeled potatoes and set aside in a bowl.
3. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot and throw in the jeera, turmeric, pepper and salt and stir till they are brown.
4. Add the whole and the mashed potatoes to the masala to make a thicker curry and stir well for 2 minutes, adding the 2 cups of boiling water.
5. Leave on the heat for 5 minutes. Add the amchoor and garam masala to bring in the authentic medium brown color and spicy tanginess. Cut the whole potatoes into 1 inch cubes and throw into the curry to let the flavor seep in. Mix the ingredients well and then remove from the heat.
6. Pour the flour in a bowl and slowly pour 2 cups of water in while kneading the dough till it becomes a nice, tender but firm ball. Dab the surface of the ball with a little water to keep it moist, cover the bowl and set aside.
7. Coat your hands with a little oil then pinch off a portion of the dough and make into a 1 inch round ball.
8. Pour a little dry flour on the counter and roll the ball in it to coat it. Now use a velna (rolling pin) to roll the ball into a nice round, flat pancake, about 1/8 inch thick and 4 inches round. If the dough is too soft, then you can make the pancakes with your hands and fingertips.
9.Heat the oil in a karahi (wok). Throw in a small dab of dough to make sure the oil is very hot. Release a rolled pancake into the hot oil, if there is space, then release another pancake or two into the oil.
10.When one side is slightly brown and fluffs up, turn it over using a sieved spatula and turn over 2 or 3 times to make sure both sides are cooked. Be careful that they do not become dark brown. The puris should fluff up. Take them out and place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
11.Now repeat the process till the rest of the puris are made and the dough is finished.
12.Serve the aloo in a bowl with hot puris and the garnishes on the side.

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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.