This is a slightly glammed-up version of an Indian street breakfast/snack food. When I travelled through India with my partner several years ago I saw puri being prepared, cooked and sold just about everywhere. It's basically an unleavened bread made from a whole wheat dough, rolled thinly and fried in oil until it's puffed and golden. Fresh from the pan, it's crispy but let it sit for a bit and it starts to soften a little. Big, small, pale or wholemeal; there are many variations.
I still vividly remember stepping out of the Sadar Market gates in India's blue city of Jodhpur and coming across this street food vendor, one of many in the area. We were wanting to try the potatoes and spinach bhaji but the chirpy dude insisted we sample more from his outdoor kitchen. Small spiced potato cakes and some delectable crispy puri he filled with lentil dhal; handing them over to us to see what we thought of them. If I knew the Hindi words for freaking awesome I would have blurted them out straight away. This was the first time I tried puri. Damn, if only I wrote about my culinary holidays back then. As for the potatoes we wanted to try initially, he squashed them on the hot-plate, put them on a plate and crushed the spinach bhaji over the top before drizzling over a little lentil dhal and yoghurt.
The recipe I have here is solidly based on one featured in a gorgeous Indian cookbook I own, called Food of the Grand Trunk Road. Not only does flicking through its pages remind me of the amazing food India has to offer, but its gently nagging me to get back someday. As much as I'd like anyone to spend the time and make both of these recipes I've shown here, you could forego the puri component and go with the potato curry on its own or team it with another dish. Don't be scared of all the chilli, as in the end all you get is a mild tang.
the puri (fried bread)
- 400 g flour (I used a mixture of buckwheat & plain)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted & coarsely ground
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- cold water, to knead
- vegetable oil, for frying
Place the flour, cumin, salt and 2 tablespoons oil in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add cold water, a little at a time, to form a smooth and firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for ½ an hour while you make the potato curry.
Divide the dough into 20 pieces and roll each into a ball. Lightly spray or oil your work surface and roll each piece of dough into a flat disc about 8 cm in diameter.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan and cook each puri one at a time. Cook for a few seconds on each side until puffed and golden. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
the aloo (potato curry)
- 4 medium potatoes
- 6 medium tomatoes, puréed
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 3 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- ¼ tsp asafoetida
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- salt, to taste
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/3 cup coriander leaves, chopped
Cook the potatoes (skin on) in boiling water until they are just cooked. Drain the water, remove the skins, then squash down using a potato masher or small plate. Set aside.
Heat the mustard oil in a wok or large skillet, add the cumin seeds and as soon as they start to pop add the ginger, chilli and asafoetida. Stir for about 20 seconds then add the turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander and salt. Add the blended tomatoes and allow to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the crushed potatoes, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced. Check for seasoning, add the lemon juice, garam masala and coriander and stir well.
Serve the curry with the puri and, if you wish, some green (coriander & mint) chutney and tamarind chutney.