I would love to visit one. So many fragrances. So many colors. I doubt I will ever be that fortunate (Bucket List?) but I can find and use new spices in my kitchen. And that is what our ‘assignment’ was for IHCC.

    The Indian culture revolves around spices, discover some new ones this week!

And of course I had to find not the most fragrant spice, but the smelliest one. ASAFETIDA!! I had only heard of this spice one other time in a Patricia Cornwell book. The heroine of her books – Kay Scarpetta – was covered in the stuff when a ‘bomb’ went off in her hands. Lucky for her that was all she was covered in. This spice is really something else!! Understandable!!!

So I knew I had to find some and see, or rather smell, for myself.

    How bad could it be??

      Yeah, THAT bad!!! aka: devil’s dung, or stinking gum.

But once added to a dish, it loses it’s ‘fetid’ odor and merely enhances the other ingredients. It imparts a very strong onion-garlic flavor to Indian dishes and is commonly used in conjunction with tumeric, as it is with this dish.

The asafetida lingered so that you could taste the ‘fragrance’ but it was just barely there. In the background. Like using salt. You only notice what it does for the other ingredients.

    4-5 medium-sized potatoes
    2 tbs vegetable oil
    1/8 tsp ground asafetida, or 1/8-inch lump asafetida
    1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds {I had to use ground because I could not find my whole. I used the same amount.}
    1-2 dried hot red peppers, (optional) {I used about 1/2 tsp of crushed pepper flakes.}
    1/2 tsp turmeric
    12 fl. oz tomato sauce {Recipe to follow.}
    1 tsp salt

Wash, peel, and quarter potatoes. Put them in bowl with cold water to cover.
In 2-3-quart pot, heat oil over medium heat. As it heats, put potatoes in colander to drain. When the fat is hot, put in the asafetida; after it sizzles (5 seconds), add the cumin seeds; when they sizzle and change colour (5 to 10 seconds), add the red peppers, which will begin to change colour in a couple of seconds. Now put in the drained potatoes and the turmeric.
Fry the potatoes for about 2 minutes, stirring them now and then.
Now put in 3/4 pint water, tomato sauce, and salt. Bring to the boil. Cover and allow to simmer very gently for about 1 1/2 hours.
To serue: Take to the table in a deep dish. Give each person a little bowl to serve their own potatoes as well as the sauce.
These potatoes are best served with pooris, chapatis, or parathas, but they are also good with plain boiled rice and Lamb with Onions and Mushrooms. Left-overs can be put in the blender or mashed to make an excellent soup.

This was actually a very mild dish. I think the peppers would have upped the heat. I think I would add a little more cumin and a little more asafetida next time. I used chapatis and while making them was not too hard, using them is an art. I liked these and will make them again.

The recipe is on page 725 of The Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook which contains over 650 recipes. It is a combination of two of her previous cookbooks – Eastern Vegetrian Cooking and An Invitation to Indian Cooking. I bet I can find plenty of recipes for the next 6 months!!!

Jaffrey’s Tomato Sauce

    Take 16 oz of canned tomatoes and pour the contents into a stainless stee; pot. Add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp sugar. Bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently and braking up the tomatoes until you reduce the contents by half. Pour contents, after cooled, into an electric blender and blend until you have a smooth paste.

I considered using canned sauce, but decided to use Jaffrey’s recipe instead. It was a good call.

You can join in with I Heart Cooking Club if you like. Just visit the web page and find the weekly ‘assignments’ and cook along with us.