Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Aloo posto with a twist

Aloo Posto, that humble combination of potatoes and khus khus paste, is not a dish, it is a way of life. My Raja Mama, my Mum's cousin who lives in Raniganj, has had aloo posto every single day of his conscious life, both for lunch and dinner. I am not exaggerating, not one bit. During family celebrations and feasts when everybody else would be on a wild maachh-mangsho frenzy, I have spotted Raja Mama relishing his rice and aloo posto,and a little chutney, sitting on the floor of a room no one else fancied. The satisfaction on his face is priceless. Raja Mama, Raja is his nickname though, is an otherwise harmless man, a clown when drunk and a sweetheart otherwise, however, if the one responsible, mostly his mother, should forget to make that aloo posto on any particular day, you would see a Raja Mama you'd rather not meet. At one point he was known to send his plate flying across the room but after his father thrashed him with a greased wooden stick one sultry summer afternoon and locked him out in the lethal colliery heat, he has known to have developed immense control on his temper. Now he merely refuses to eat, that after he has screamed his lungs out.

Anyway, talking of aloo posto, it is crazy how many different ways of cooking aloo posto there are in Bengal. There are regional variations and even within the same region aloo posto has multiple avatars. I think every Bengali household has its own way of making aloo posto and some homes like ours have ten differents ways of making aloo posto. So there is the shaada aloo posto served with a drizzle of raw mustard oil and loads of a slit green chilies. This one uses no turmeric. Then there is the aloo posto with holud (turmeric) usually tempered with panch phoran. Again there is the jhola aloo posto, this is a runny version of aloo posto. And on the other side of the spectrum is the jhuri aloo posto, where the potatoes and poppy seed paste are fried on low heat unless oil separates. And there is makho posto where the diced potatoes are laced in poppy seed paste, a middle path between jhola and jhuri really. Again the tempering may vary, while mostly we use paanch phoran, sometimes we make an exception and use kalo jeere. Fry some onions after you have tempered the oil, add the potatoes and finally the posto bata, you get the peyanj aloo posto.  One of my aunts uses whole cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick to temper aloo posto, I hate it. No she doesn't read my blog.

For a posto connoisseur the grinding the posto is not a matter of joke. An absolutely smooth posto bataa might not go well with them. posto bataa must be grainy! At least that's what it's like at my place!

By the way, while everyone knows the legendary Aloo posto-Kolai Dal romance, and while I am  crazy about the couple as is every one else, at my place we do not necessarily have kalai er dal with posto. Actually the dal to be served depends on the kind of posto we are having. For instance, with the jhuri posto we always, always have Arhar Dal with ghee. And I tell you, some times I wonder if history otit all wrong. If the original love story had different rotagonists!

Anyway I wanted to make my contribution to the aloo posto legacy of my family, and I have concocted my own version. Aloo posto with a twist! Hope you like it!

Potatoes (diced) - 5 large 
Paanch phoran - 1/2 tsp 
Poppy seeds/ khus khus- 100 g 
Green chilies - 4-5 
Fresh cilantro leaves - 100g 
Mustard oil 
Salt to taste  


Make a coarse paste of the poppy seeds, green chilies and coriander leaves with very little water.

Heat mustard oil in a pan until smoking point. Add the paanch phoran and once it splutters and exudes its aroma, add the diced potatoes.

Sprinkle some salt. Fry the potatoes on medium low heat until golden and almost done.  

Add the popyy seed-coriander paste and toss well to coat the potatoes with the paste. Sprinkle some water, adjust seasoning, cover and cook for a few minutes.

Finally drizzle a little raw mustard oil and take off heat.

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