Saturday, 30 May 2015

Seeds of labour

Vegan Tandoori Aloo

I ventured out on this recent holiday to Europe and the US with apprehension about the food scene.

During my previous trips to the US, both the times accompanied by young kids and an elderly parent, it hadn’t been easy to find vegetarian food. Certainly not the kind of one would indulgently eat while on a holiday.

My daughters’ holiday in NYC two years ago had been a pizza pilgrimage and they had come up with their definitive list of the best vegetarian pizza and pie places around the Hudson.

Then they both embraced veganism.

Hence my fears, that this time as well we could be glancing at menu cards full of meat and more meat, finally settling for an unfinishable cups of lukewarm coffee or undrinkable tea to wash down cloyingly sweet Krispy Kreme doughnuts or greasy croissants.

Or we could be helplessly stuck with soulless stuff like tofu and tempeh and dry kale or rancid coconut chips.

What we actually saw was a groundswell of healthy and tasty eating, wholesome and organic food that was mostly accessible, fairly affordable and imminently edible.

Even the gram flour coated, baked kale chips we tasted at a vegan meet-up were actually nice.

Mainstream stores like Pret A Manger and Whole Foods stocked freshly cooked salads and convenient hot meals, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

Vegan and vegetarian “options” – did I just hear chalkboard scraping?

I have plans of writing more about these experiences, but for now will quietly marvel about this revolution.

A population battling obesity and related diseases in overburdened state healthcare systems, a generation of people with an all time high awareness of the environment around them, a growing sensitivity to the cruel excesses of the meat and dairy industry, celebrity endorsement by the likes Jamie Oliver, Stella McCartney….

Surely, the seeds of labour are bound to sprout.

This was my mantra while growing the notoriously difficult to grow coriander for the first time. I waited, watched, pretended not to watch and watered the patch patiently, until one day the brown soil was dotted in green.

Here’s a dish I made while the coriander was in full bloom and seeding in April this year.

Vegan Tandoori Aloo


4-5 large potatoes or 10-12 chat potatoes, boiled
8-10 cashews, soaked for 30 minutes
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp chat / pani poori masala
½ tbsp garlic ginger paste
½ tsp red chili powder, or more
Pinch of haldi
Pinch of ajwain
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp kasuri methi leaves
1 tsp amchoor powder
Salt to taste
Pinch of sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp any other cooking oil

For garnishing

Finely sliced Spanish onion
Coriander leaves, preferably seeding coriander


Peel the boiled potatoes.  Cut into large cubes. If you are using small potatoes, there’s no need to cut them.

Do not discard the peels.

In a mixer, put together the peels and all the other ingredients except the oil, and blend till you get a smooth paste. Adjust all flavours and salt to your taste.

Heat a piece of charcoal/ briquette on the stove till it burns evenly.

In a pan heat the olive oil and add the peeled potatoes and sauté for a minute or so. Pour the paste over the potatoes. Stir-fry on high heat for a few minutes more until the rawness disappears.

Place a katori/bowl lined with aluminium foil on the potatoes and place the burning coal in it. Pour a tsp of oil on the potatoes and when it starts smoking, place a tight lid on the pan so the potatoes are smoked thoroughly. Remove the lid after a few minutes.

Serve hot with sliced Spanish onions and seeding coriander.

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