That Seventies Show: Alu Posto

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Disclaimer: Since some buses have been burnt because I have used turmeric in alu posto I must stress once again that most of my recipes are built on instinct, inspired by what I see around me and my taste preferences. They are NOT text book versions of dishes assuming that there could be a single definition of 'authentic'.

To clarify I use cumin or even onions in alu posto because I like the flavours of both. I didn't use turmeric earlier but started doing so after seeing yellow alu postos served in Mumbai Bengali restaurants.
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Noone has taught me this version, it is my version of alu posto and not the quintessential alu posto and it works for me.

So follow the recipe at your own risk.



29/7/12 Update



Cooked alu posto after ages today. For a series of cooking demos for an agency which is planning to create an online lifestyle channel.

Skipped onions today to make it traditional.

The recipe...heat oil, add green chilli and dry red chilli, kalo jeere, parboiled potatoes, turmeric, jeera or cumin (my fav spice not traditional) , chili powder...stir...add crushed posto & water paste...cook... read on

Here's the cooking video

The original post: 


Alu posto is a rare Bengali vegetarian classic. It's popularity cuts across folks from different communities. But then potatoes are addictive. As are poppy seeds! And no animals are harmed are in its making. So alu posto's universal popularity is no surprise. And, of course, there is the little detail of it being a very light and delicately flavoured dish.

Intrigued by the 'Seventies Show' tag? Well alu posto means potatoes (alu) cooked in poppy seeds (posto). The Flower Child of the food world.

I had not posted this recipe as most Bengali food blogs have it. We served it to Australian food blogger, Spice and More , and her lovely family when they visited us on Sunday night. Mama and Papa loved it and wondered why I hadn't put up the recipe so far. (The kids were jet lagged and sleeping inside).
Taking up from the earlier poppy discussion, Spice and More told us about how she was once stopped at Singapore airport when she was taking khous khous in for cooking. Now who would explain the magic of Lebanese cooking to the sniffer dogs and their vigilant masters?
I used to count days for my trips back home when I moved into Mumbai. My mom's alu posto would call out to me.
Survival warranted that I learn to make it myself. It is quite a simple recipe actually which I have learnt through trial and error. I have trained my cook, Banu, to make it. She made yesterday's version and I must proudly say that she did a very good job of it.
So here's how you can make a heady alu posto for four:
Ingredients:
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tea spoon: kalo jeera/ kalonji/ onion seeds/ nigella seeds (different names for the little, black seeds)
  • 1/2 a red onion, shallot ... finely chopped
  • 6 potatoes: cubed and parboiled. Parboiling ensures that you don't have to use too much oil
  • 50 g Posto/ poppy seeds, khus khus in Hindi, Khous Khous in Lebanese: ground into a powder and then made into a thick paste by adding a bit of water
  • Spices: 1 tea spoon each of turmeric and cumin powder. 1/2 tea spoon each of red chilly powder and sugar. 1 tea spoon, or more, of salt
  • 3 green chillies spilt into half
  • 1 table spoon cooking oil. While any oil will do, the traditional Bengali oil of choice is mustard oil. I can't stand it!
Process:
  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add dry red chillies once the oil is hot
  • Let it splutter, add bay leaves
  • Let it crackle, add the black onion seeds
  • Add onion and stir till they turn translucent
  • Add potatoes (which should already be soft)
  • Add poppy paste
  • Add spices and a tea spoon of salt
  • Throw in the green chillies
  • Stir. Should be done in 5 minutes. Add a bit of water of the potatoes are hard
I like to dry the dish at the end and prefer the potatoes to have a slight edge or crunch. Ideally the potatoes should look braised. There are other versions which are slightly more soupy or squishy. I don't like them
This is best enjoyed with steamed rice. You can also have them with rotis or plain parathas. There is nothing to stop you from having them with bread or by itself either.
It is addictive. You have been warned.

Comments

i know - it is so addictive...
good one!
Shaswati said…
Hey! Alu posto has to be accompanied with "kalayer daal"! Heh heh - trust a pure ghoti when it comes to posto - and we all get so passionate about the topic... :)
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Dear Kalyan
This is a great recipe and well researched and practised one. I apprciate the fusion you have brought in with onion and a strong spice cumin and bay leaf. I did not graduate beyond the old classical version of simple posto and green chili paste with a Nigela seasoning.
I must try this soon.
Have a good day
S said…
oh...thank you thank you! this just brought back memories of countless summer afternoons spent reading story books during the vacations after a heavenly lunch of biulir dal (kalaier dal as shaswatidi said), aloo posto, bhat, lebur achar and postor bora.

the version my mother made was also dry, not squishy, though she used either onion and ginger or nigella, depending on how purely vegetarian she wanted the dish to be.

now i'm all inspired to make some biulir dal and aloo posto myself. hope mine turns out looking as nice as yours does. thanks again :)
The knife said…
Thanks Somoo, good to hear from yu after ages

Shaswati as a Bangal who adds a bit of sugar in food I too agree that alu posto rice flowers with a bit of yellow daal. we have moong or mooshur though.

On a separate note, non Bongs might confuse Kolai with Kalyan :)

S, I am sure it will. This pic looks nice because I took it in the morning before I left for work. must also say that my maid made it and not me.

Amazing how food brings back memories. Hope you make it soon and relive a bit of Calcutta in Mumbai. What is posto bora? Just posto or anything inside it?

Dear Ushnish,

Thanks for writing in. I must confess, and have put a disclaimer, that most of the recipes here are not 'classical'. Most of my recipes are instinctive and would make the purist wince :) A bit like Sehwag huh?
S said…
Ma typically made posto bora from the posto bata prepared in excess of what is required for the aloo posto/jhinge posto, so there were never any exact measurements and it was a little bit of this and some of that. One would generally add finely sliced onion, finely chopped green chillies, some grated ginger and salt to taste to the posto bata, mix all this together and drop it in batches into hot oil, fry on medium heat until cooked and you're good to go!
I've always felt that Indians know how to do potatoes.
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Dear Kalyan
Thats what I am appreciating, cook what we or others love to eat!!!
See my latest posting on who is a cook and what are we !! ( under cabbage , peas
Ullash ( cheers)
Sharmila said…
Can't stay away from good food snaps even when on a vacation :-) ... the alu posto does look perfect. I like the slightly mushy version. You don't know what is a posto bora? Check out my post on it. :-)
The knife said…
S, Sharmila...thanks for telling me about posto bora. Must definitely try it. Coincidentally I reached the posto section of Chitrita Banerjee's Traditions and Kitchens of Bengal.

Interestingly she uses onion in her alu posto :)

Sharmila, vacation means no cooking?

Jessica we are fans of potatoes across the country. The joke is that potatoes aren't indigenous to India and were introduced a couple of centuries back

Dear Ushnish,

Cooking is fun when one enjoys it. I will definitely check out your post.

Cheers

Kalyan
Anonymous said…
I hate the soupy versions, yewww

But I usually make it niramish, no onion

BongMom
The knife said…
yay Sandeepa (bong mom) I like it firm and soft inside which the boiling helps.

I have not had a very traditional Bong upbringing and didn't realise that onions were niramish till I read Chitrita Banerjee's book yesterday. Like the Jains I guess

Potatoes and onions are my favourite veggies
Mythreyi Dilip said…
This is new to me but sounds delicious and interesting!

Merry Christmas and Happy holidays:)
The knife said…
Thanks Mythreyi and Merry Christmas
k said…
you know what's easier then making aloo posto? finishing it:)
The knife said…
That K is the long and short of it. Couldn't have summed up the post better :)
Try this as a variation to your recipe. Leave out the onions and cumin. Wet grind the posto - add a couple of cloves of garlic to it. I know all the purists will react a bit violently to this but it's yummy. Especially if you're also adding jhinge (ridge gourd) or potol (pointed gourd) to the aloo
The knife said…
at semanti actually the one I made yesterday was without onions...i kept cumin though as I love the flavour...garlic would give it a Bangladeshi flavour?