Aloo mein hai dum

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Aloo kachalu beta kahan gaye the…remember this inane game we used to play as kids? Aloo has been a part of our lives since bachpan and it is still a part and will remain a part. I remember our neighbours in Delhi would make jeera aloo and moong ki dal every night for dinner. And I used to tell mom that look if they can have potatoes every day why can’t we? The jeera aloo is still vivid: small cubes of potato with skin on cooked in generous amount of oil tempered with lots of jeera. The seasoning was only salt and pepper, no other spices. Now I wonder why would they cook potatoes every day? Simply because everyone loved them and also because there was a lack of ideas (probably!). 

Why is it that when you are stuck at “what should we cook today” the answer is always “make some aloo”! Potatoes are like this…extremely popular, extremely versatile, and non-fattening. Non-fattening?! You had always thought that eating a potato too many will make you like one! For that matter, any food in excess helps you to put on extra kilos. But ask around, or read up on potato, the poor things are just notorious for what they are not. Yes, they do have carbohydrates but that is energy giving. One medium sized potato would give nearly 97 calories. The fat content is what we lovingly dole out in chips and French fries and aloo paranthas. 

Aloo has a lot of dum. But no that is not why a dish is called dum aloo! In fact I have surprised many guests with my preparations of potato halwa, potato soup and potato pizza. One cannot extol the versatility of the potato enough! At one party some years back, we were running short of ideas for dessert. As it was cool in the evening, Alyona and I decided that we would serve a halwa, Potato Halwa but would pass it around as the normal sooji ka halwa. What do you think happened? The halwa was liked by all but only one guest commented that the sooji was really fine and where could she get it from! Which are the recipes you can cook is not what I would like to start talking about here…because there is no end to the number of possibilities. Potatoes will take any kind of treatment, you can chop them, grate them, julienne them or you can dry them. You can steam them, sauté them, boil them, fry them, microwave them, bake them, roast them…The most nutrient dense area is just below the peel. Hence it best to cook them with their jacket on or peel it as thinly as possible. 

And how many potatoes do we eat? Asians average 25 kilos per year and the Britishers around 84 kilos! Yeah, potatoes are that popular. Did you know there is the Potato Museum situated at Prince Edward Island in the community of O’Leary in the western part of Canada? The museum houses an interesting display of the potato industry and has a large collection of farm implements and machinery related to the growing and harvesting of potatoes. It gives little bits of interesting information like how they made a mountain out of mashed potatoes for the movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Potatoes have been around for a while. It was only in the 1950s that the instant mashed potatoes were developed. 1995 saw the planting of potato in space and its growth. And 2008 has been declared as the International Year of the Potato by the UN and they are focusing on the importance of the potato in providing food security and alleviating poverty. After rice, wheat and corn, potatoes are the most important crop in the world. 

There is a saying “Only two things in this world are too serious to be jested on, potatoes and matrimony.” But I like the one by American novelist Louisa May Alcott: “Money is the root of all evil and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.” There are thousands of ways to cook a potato. I wish someone had the willingness to go around the world and compile a book!

Recommended recipesAloo Matar Paneer,  Aloo Gadbad,  Aloo Ki Launji,  Aloo Ka Chokha,  Aloo Bhaja,  Aloo Beans

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.