ALU POSTO (Potato with white poppy-seeds)

This a very simple and delicious recipe.  It is a very typical Bengali dish, so please, Bengalis, correct me if it is not authentic!

And please don’t try to use the black variety of poppy seeds that are normally available in Europe!  I have never tried, but nonetheless, I can promise you that it won’t work!!  Most Indian or Asian shops will sell white poppy seeds, and it is worth the trouble trying to find them!  Theya re also very nutritious, which high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, maganese and magnesium.

Here is an interesting link about the history of poppy seeds (posto) in Bengali cooking:  http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/food-wine/how-british-greed-spurred-the-creation-of-one-of-bengals-most-loved-dishes/

Though many variations can be made using different vegetables, I would not reccommend changing the other ingredients (for example, you CAN’T change black cumin for normal cumin- they are definately not the same!!).  You will see that the recipe calls for a little sugar.  This is very typical of Bengali dishes, and is to help balance the flavours, not to make it sweet!

INGREDIENTS

3 medium sized potatoes (peeled, unless they are new potatoes with soft skin)

2 spoons white poppy seeds

1 1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds (nigella, kalo jeera, kalonji)

Green chilli, chopped (according to taste).  Or if you don’t have it, dried red chilli will do.

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder

Salt

Hing (pinch)

A little oil to fry the potato (the original recipe has mustard oil, but any vegetable oil also works)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Grind the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder or dry-grinder and soak in a little water with the sugar and turmeric powder.  (You cannot grind them in a normal blender, as the seeds are too small).
  2. Cut the potatoes in medium-sized cubes (they should all be the same size!!).
  3. Heat the oil, and add the chilli and black cumin until the seeds start to pop.  Add the hing, and then add the potatoes and salt.  Lower the heat a little, and fry for 5 minutes, stirring time to time.
  4. Add the poppy seed mix, stir, and then add more water, until the potatoes are almost (but not completely) covered.  They water whould be enough that by the time the potatoes are cooked, it has all evaporated.
  5. Cover, and cooked until potatoe are soft (but not smashed), the water has evapotated, and the poppy seed paste is sticking to the potatoes.  Serve hot with rice.

VARIATIONS

-Posto can be made with many other varieties of vegetables.  Another similar version can be made with a mix of potato and white pumpkin (Chalkumro/ winter gourd/ ash gourd).  This is juicier that with only potato, and is good for the stomach.  Use 1 large slice of white pumpkin, and 1 medium sized potato.  Fry the potato as above, then add the pumpkin and all other ingredients in the same style.

-If you are using vegetables which are softer or cook faster, first stir-fry the vegetables until they are almost cooked, then add the poppy-seed paste (with just a little water, which it had been soaking in) at the very end and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.  You do not need to add more water.  This works for zucchini (which is is an  east meets west version) and for beetroot which has been sliced or grated very thinly, and well as many other vegetables.

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