Dum Aloo – The Kashmiri Version

SANDEEP PANDIT

Saturday Jul 20

Aloo, Batata, Oolu, Potatoes… whatever the name, however prepared, this vegetable delight has tributes given to it by many cuisines, and Kashmiri Pandits are no exception, with the complex flavoured, deep fried and Dum cooked masterpiece, popularly known as the Kashmiri Dum Aloo (Potatoes cooked using Dum Method or Pressure Cooking). In older times, Dum was achieved by using heavy bottomed pans that were covered with a heavy lid and sealed with fresh dough to create a pressure cooker effect. Today however, the humble pressure cooker saves time, energy and cost by doing just that with same results.

Dum Aloo has many variations, from the plains of India in Banaras to the kitchens in Bengal. Many in our great nation pay their homage to Potato, with their version of Dum Aloo. Well, in its true essence, if you cook anything using Dum (The ancient method of pressure cooking) it shall have the honour of the adjective. But what distinguishes the Kashmiri version of this dish, is the lack of Onions, tomatoes, garlic and Coriander. Well, I know many people may get surprised to know this (and many do question the logic of me not mentioning coriander, fresh or ground), but Kashmiris traditionally have stayed away from using Onions, garlic and tomatoes in their dishes.

Here’s my family’s and my recipe of Dum Aloo and I must add that this is one of the most complex methods of cooking and is truly time consuming. However, at the end, what you get is a huge roller coaster ride of flavours for your palette. An experience that will remain in your memory, long after you have savoured your meal.

Here is what you need, (and I hope the Images help)

  • Small/ Medium size Potatoes- 750 g to 1 kg (Size of the potatoes is essential for best results)
  • 1 teaspoon of Zeera (Cumin Seeds)
  • 2 pods of Elaichi (Green Cardamon Pods)
  • 1/2 stick Dalchini (Cinnamon Sticks)
  • Tej Patta (Dried Bay Leaves)
  • 2-3 Laung (Cloves)
  • ¾ Teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 3-4 Teaspoons of Kashmiri Lal Mirch (Kashmiri Red Chilli) Powder- I prefer Everest Kashmiri Lal brand
  • 2 Teaspoons of Saunf (Fennel Seeds) powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon Hing (Asafetida)- OPTIONAL
  • 750 ml Sunflower/ Refined Oil to deep fry
  • 3-4 Table Spoons of Thick, beaten Dahi (Yogurt)
  • 1-3 cups of water (200-350 ml)
  • Salt to Taste

Use a heavy bottomed pressure Cooker and a Deep Wok/ Kadai for deep frying.

METHOD

Making a Dum Aloo in Kashmiri cuisine is a three stage process. Boiling, Deep Frying and Final Cooking

STAGE 1- Boiling

Wash the potatoes, soak them in salted water for an hour or two and par boil them in the same salted water (2 Table spoons per Litre of Water).

Dum Aloo - Step 1

Depending up on the type of potatoes, it takes from 30 to 45 minutes for the Potatoes to par boil (Do Not overcook them). The best way to know when they’re done, is to gently push a knife into one of the relatively larger potatoes. If the knife goes in gently, stop cooking, if not, allow the potatoes to boil for some more time and turn off the heat. (Tip-It is best to let these potatoes cool down in this water, but if you are pressed for time, or you feel that they have softened to an extent of cracking up, you could alternately drain the salted water and wash the potatoes in cold water).

Dum Aloo - Boiling

Peel the potatoes and using a tooth pick pierce then evenly all across. This step is essential, as it allows the oil to fry the potato evenly and also creates tiny channels for the spices to penetrate while being cooked in Dum. (Tip- Hold the potato gently in your hand as you pierce it. This ensures that they won’t break as you proceed. I prefer to pierce each potato between 10-12 times evenly).

Dum Aloo - Boiled

STAGE 2- Deep Frying

This is an essential step as there is a bit of chemistry at work here. Frying these potatoes takes off their moisture and makes them like a semi permeable membranes (due to the piercing). As soon as they are simmered in the sauce (next Stage), they soak up all the spicy goodness.

In a Wok/Kadai, heat oil (About 750 ml in a medium wok/ Kadai). Reduce the flame and allow the oil cool slightly before you add the potatoes (DO NOT ever fry in hot smoking oil, it burns the food immediately and it will never be fired all the way through). To test if the oil is too hot, just put a small piece of potato into the oil, if the oil is the right temperature, the potato piece should not burn immediately.

Boil oil in kadai

Take the boiled, peeled and pierced potatoes and place them in the heated oil. Fry the potatoes in small batches and turn the flame to medium (Just about touching the vessel) and Deep fry the Potatoes till Golden, Crispy and having lost almost all their Moisture. This is a rich dish, I do not recommend an alternative to deep frying JTake the Potatoes from the wok/ Kadai and get ready for the next vital stage.

(Tip- The best way to know when the Potatoes are well fried, is the point where they start floating on the surface of the oil and have turned a beautiful golden brown.)

Dum Aloo - Deep Frying

 

STAGE 3– Cooking in Dum

In the Pressure cooker, toast the whole spices (Cumin, Bay leaves and crushed Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves) on a gentle/ low flame. Take 3-4 Table spoons from the Wok/ Kadai (used for frying Potatoes) and add it to the spices in the pressure cooker. On a low flame, slowly stir these spices and turn off the heat.

Add Kashmiri Chilli powder (I do not recommend any other Chilli Powder, as most are too hot to be used in this quantity) and mix it with the contents in the cooker.

Dum Aloo - Cooking in Dum

Add Kashmiri Chilli powder (I do not recommend any other Chilli Powder, as most are too hot to be used in this quantity) and mix it with the contents in the cooker.

Kashmiri Chilli Powder

Add Garam Masala and stir.

Garam Masala

Add Fennel Powder and stir.

Fennel Powder

Add Hing/Asafetida (Optional) and Mix.

Hing - Asafetida

Turn on the heat again and on Gentle heat roast these spices (Tip- The heat must be low to gently bring up the temperature of the spice Mix. Do not roast for more than a minute or two and never on high heat)

Add the Dahi/Yogurt into the cooker and mix well.

Dum Aloo - Dahi_Yogurt Mixing

Turn up the heat for 2-3 minutes and allow the spice mix to roast again. Turn down the heat and allow the spice mix to turn vibrant red. (Tip- The point where this roasted spice mix oozes oil and has turned a deep red is the perfect way of proceeding).

Spice Mix

Add Water and salt (to taste) to the cooker and bring the sauce to boil.

Dum Aloo - Boil the sauce

Add the Deep fried Potatoes to the cooker. Place them in the sauce gently and once all have been placed, use a spatula or a large spoon to coat each with the sauce. DO NOT STIR them as it will break the potatoes. Bring the sauce (with the potatoes in it) to a boil. Add a little more water if needed but make sure that the water does not submerge the potatoes. The sauce should only (about) cover the potatoes, as this dish does not have a runny gravy/ sauce.

Dum Aloo - Almost Ready to serve

Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook until you have one steam whistle. DO NOT allow the potatoes to overcook, as they’ll crumble. Turn off the heat and allow the cooker to cool gradually. Once the pressure cooker has cooled down, open the lid, gently spoon out the potatoes one by one into a serving bowl. Heat the remaining sauce in the cooker (If runny) till it gets thicker and pour it over the Potatoes in the serving bowl.

This dish is best eaten with steamed rice or tehr (Kashmiri Turmeric and mustard oil flavored rice) and dahi/yogurt.

Dum Aloo - Ready to serve

Bon Apetite!

Cheers!!

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