Weekend Herb Blogging - It's Always Potatoes For Me

So, on those days when you come home from another bad day at the office, beleaguered and barely able to think about cooking but your stomach is telling you "feed me right now!" you need something comforting but tasty. You don't want chocolate (OK, so maybe you do, but you also need nutrients and something flavourful), you don't want (or can't afford) a takeaway and toast and peanut butter seems like a band-aid on a decapitation.
Enter Bombay Potatoes! From what Paul tells me, Indian food isn't as popular in the US as it is over here. With Chicken Tikka being adopted as one of the country's top ten indigenous dishes, Indian food is to British cuisine what hamburger is to the bun.
Yet many people choose not to cook it at home. Perhaps people are scared off by the seemingly endless lists of exotic spices, the slow cooking, the heat or the amount of ghee (clarified butter) that is so crucial to achieving that distinctive Indian flavour.
Whatever the reason, I am here to prove that there is such a thing as a quick supper that is both delicious, satisfying and which, once you've tried it, you will want to incorporate into your regular menus. Still not convinced? How about this: the dish I am about to reveal uses only two spices, both of which you will have amongst your collection of spices, particularly if you are keen on home canning.
"Again with the waffle and preamble!" I hear you wail, slightly too loud, I might add.
The dish? Sag Aloo, known to some as Bombay Potatoes. The variations on this basic recipe are incredibly versatile. So versatile in fact that there is a blog devoted to finding the perfect recipe for Bombay Potatoes.
I am not sure how authentically Indian Sag Aloo actually is. It seems to me that Indian restaurants, in the tradition of Chinese restaurants, have developed this dish for the potato-loving European market. I can only offer as proof of this the fact that they use Mustard Seeds and a little Cayenne Pepper as the main source of flavour. Both are quintessentially British spices, and, along with curry powder, used since the days of Empire.
Whatever the actual origin (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong), there is no doubt that homemade Sag Aloo is a far superior dish to the flabby, insipid versions you find on the supermarket shelves, where the potatoes are cooked literally to the point of collapse.
Instead of using a floury potato, which seems to be the norm, I used Anya Potatoes which are a hybrid of the Pink Fir genus. You could replace this with a decent salad potato, or a spud which retains its firm texture without crumbling but with a nutty flavour.
The Sag element of the dish comes from the addition of cooked and chopped spinach which is stirred amongst the potatoes, offering it's emerald green goodness to the pan.
A final swirl of yogurt (although I used sour cream) to the cooked potatoes coheres all the ingredients together.
I am always amazed at how few ingredients are needed to produce such stunning food and feel that my own hubris is grounded in reality - it's just all the elements working together in an alchemical fusion. I simply placed them in a pan and let them get on with it. Ingredients are like schoolchildren. Some get on like a house on fire, hanging out at sleepovers, getting drunk down the park together, falling in love whilst others just bully the weedier ones, or they are bolshy troublemakers. Some are so quiet that you don't even notice they're there, and 20 years later you can't even remember their names.
Anyway, if you wish to recreate this one-pan dish for lunch or supper here's how. Oh, and I think it would be really good served with some chicken or a salmon, something that's been given a loud spice rub.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, this weekend held by Pat at Up A Creek Without a PatL.

SAG ALOO - serves 2 generously
Small Bag Salad Potatoes (about 1kg), you can peel them if you have a real aversion to the skins. I did half peeled and half unpeeled. Boredom prevailed in the end. And the taste is not compromised in anyway.
Large Bag of Spinach
3 and half Tablespoons Butter (traditionally Ghee but butter works well - you could use olive oil if you're squeamish about ALL that butter but the flavour won't be as good. With that in mind, you could use a 50/50 mix of oil and butter)
2 Teaspoons Mustard Seeds (the recipe notes black seeds but I used regular yellow ones)
Pinch Cayenne Pepper to taste
3 Onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Large Clove Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt, Pepper
Yogurt or Sour Cream to finish (optional)
Rinse the spinach and cook in only the water left clinging to the leaves after rinsing, with a little salt. Once completely collapsed, drain, leave to cool, then chop.
Melt the butter over high heat in a saute pan but do not allow to burn. Toss in the mustard seeds and cook for a few seconds until they start to pop.
Turn the heat down and add the onions and garlic. Gently cook until completely collapsed and starting to turn golden. I have always found the smell of onions cooking in butter completely alluring and it stimulates my appetite more than anything. It symbolises the onset of supper.
Add the potatoes and cayenne pepper. Cook for a few minutes to allow all the potatoes to absorb all the flavours, then add the spinach and season well.
Pour over enough water to cover. Simmer over gentle heat for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are completely tender.
Taste for seasoning, remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt or sour cream. Serve in deep bowls with nothing else except perhaps a paratha.

P.S. The deadline for the Big Burger Ballyhoo has been extended to May 25th. The response we've gotten already has been fantastic, but the list of invited guests has grown. This means we need to serve up more food, ergo, more recipes. What are you waiting for? Get Grilling!


Joanna said...

Great to have this recipe, because a while back I looked for one in quite a lot of places, and couldn't find it in any of them ... I love sag aloo ... like you, I wonder how subcontinentally authentic it is, but, as you say, it's authentic British cooking - and delicious, which is really all that matters.

Thanks for sharing

Ulrike said...

Potatoes are always good...and spinach that sounds like heaven.

Thanks for helping me to translate the cake recipe!

Deborah said...

I have a weakness for potatoes. This sounds like a great combination!

Kelly-Jane said...

"Like a band-aid on a decapitation" :) :) I really squeamish, but that makes me laugh!

Your dish looks good, I'd love it, but I can almost hear the wails if I try and serve my lot spinach again!

Kelly-Jane said...

PS If you email me details I'd be happy to send on info for you.

mooncrazy said...

Glad for the extension, I've almost finished the post for BBB.

Kalyn said...

I have no idea if this is authentically Indian, but in the U.S. they label things that Americans love which aren't quite authentic names such as "Chinese American food" or "Greek American Food" so perhaps this is "Indian British Food." Whatever it is, I think it looks just delicious. I've been on a bit of a spinach binge around here lately myself.

Joyce said...

Ahh - another veggie dish...love it. Gets even better with the Indian twist.

Nora B. said...

I have a confession...I've been lazy when I make this - I use frozen spinach. I think that it still tastes pretty good. And I throw in some fried garlic sometimes. Like you said, what makes a difference is the type of potato that you use.

Gattina said...

Freya, oh thanks for bringout out this dish! I had seen it once but forgot to ask about the recipe, now glad to see it here!!! *kiss* I started having Indian food regularly was when I lived in Hongkong, fantastic! Sad to say, not many friends of mine in here appreciate it that much...

Shaun said...

Freya, love - Truthfully, I have not heard of sag aloo, so I guess not all elements of the British empire trickled down to its former colonies. Mustard seeds and spinach are a perfect match. I love that the tool of cohesion is yoghurt...It makes one feel as if he or she is doing something good for his or her body for consuming those potatoes and not exercising afterwards. I'm also glad that you and Paul have extended the deadline for the Big Burger Ballyhoo...I've been thinking of all sorts of things to make but keep coming up empty...nothing original, but now I have more time to think about it...maybe I'll consult Eric on this one, too.

T.W. Barritt said...

Yes, I am a failed amateur Indian chef. Tried it several times and screwed it up. I like this idea of potatoes -- it would be like putting the training wheels back on again!

Helen said...

Love Indina, best I had was in London come to think of it, and I love potatoes...this is definitely going on the menu this week!

Truffle said...

This sounds delicious! Looks absolutely beautiful too :)

Susan said...

It's true about the U.S. We don't have a curry shop on every corner like we do pizza and Chinese. Too bad, though. My favorite restaurant is 45 minutes out of NYC, authentic and caters to a large Indian community. I do cook it at home with tasty results as you have, but small, simple dishes are the way to go. I hardly know what I'm doing yet.

Cynthia said...

I make a couple of spinach and potato dishes but have no idea what I call them. I think I usally say that I cooked spinach with potatoes, not creative I know but rather practical :)

Thanks for your recipe.

Little Foodie said...

Tasty! I have a book of old Anglocised Indian recipes. The Memsahib's Cookbook, Recipes from the days of the Raj (rather grand sounding title). It has lots of recipes that only use a few spices. This should be in there! Mmmm!

Terry B said...

First things first, Freya--I think we all enjoy your preambles. For me, great writing and story telling are just as important as great cooking in the food blogs I choose to read. So keep it up.

And while you won't find a curry shop on every corner in America, Indian food is taking hold, at least in larger cities. Here in Chicago, we're particularly blessed with an entire Indian/Pakistani neighborhood along Devon Avenue. And there are great Indian restaurants scattered throughout the city.

This dish sounds fabulous. I will definitely give it a try. Nora B confessed to using frozen spinach. My lazy approach will be bags of pre-washed baby spinach. Washing spinach is the most annoying part of cooking fresh spinach to me, and the baby spinach is already nice and grit-free.

Sophie said...

That's funny, there's definitely a comfort food air around again this week. It must be all the rain! I look forward to trying this out. Much better to have something possibly unauthentic and tasty than the rubbish curry I had out on Friday night

Lucy said...

'Ingredients are like school children'. Freya, your writing is a thing of joy!

I recently read that many Indian people don't prepare potato dishes for holy days as they are only a recent culinary import.

This is a beautiful dish.

Janet said...

That looks really good, I've never heard of Bombay Potatoes but I will have to add that to my ever growing list of "things to try".

Pille said...

Sag aloo has been on my to-do list forever! I've always ordered it in Indian restaurants, as it tastes good and it's an unusual potato dish (potato being the main crop here in Estonia). I couldn't find a recipe in any Indian cookbooks until recently, so I got suspicious as well, that it's an Anglo-British dish:)

Culinary Cowgirl said...

I love Sag Aloo, but the recipe I have for it just didn't cut it...so thanks, this one looks much better!

christine said...

This looks absolutely delicious, I love every ingredient in it so I'm sure I'd love the finished product. Have to try it soon. Thanks! :)

Callipygia said...

I will be anxious to try these to supplement my small but growing knowledge of Indian food!

Anonymous said...

Hi, just to let you know that Sag aloo is not the same as bombay potatoes. They are 2 seperate dishes. Sag means spinach and aloo means potatoe. A recipe for bombay potatoes can be found here: http://www.recipezaar.com/136031 - or anywhere else if you google it. Just thought i should clarify so people don't order bombay potatoes and expect there to be spinach!!!!

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