If you grew up in the north of India then you know the place of Tamatar Aloo, not just in your kitchen but in your life! Tamatar Aloo, where tamatar stands for tomatoes and aloo is the hindi word of potatoes, is lightly spiced tomato broth cooked with chunks of firm but tender potatoes and occasionally but preferably sweet peas thrown in there to tickle your taste buds. This hearty curry, I tell you, it’s an experience you do not want to miss. I have eaten this curry so much (very happily by the way), growing up in a north Indian family that if one day you open me up and tell me that there’s this running in my veins then I will not be surprised even one bit.
Whether it’s simple everyday meals, special dinners or if coming from a Hindu family, Pooja meals, one version or the other of tamatar aloo always fits the menu. In the same way, you can find it at a road side vendor stall, a fancy restaurant and even at a railway station food court. Yup, that’s where I have the fondest memories of relishing my tamatar aloo. My brother and I, trying to stick our heads out from between the iron bars of the window, of the sleeper class, of our train. Failing miserably at it but still trying to keep our eyes stuck on Papa who was out on the railway platform, in line, behind several people, waiting for his turn to buy us some tamatar aloo from the food stall vendor who served them with hot, freshly fried, soaking in oil, pooris.
With a knot in our stomachs and an unspoken question in our minds, we would fear the train leaving the station and Papa left behind still standing in line. Although now I wonder if the fear was rather of Papa having to leave without the tamatar aloo and pooris in his hands, for we knew he wouldn’t miss the train at any cost. Nothing like that happened though. Papa always made it back to the train, on time and always with two disposable dona bowls made out of banyan leaves. One filled with fresh fried pooris pressed one over another to accommodate as many as possible and another with runny and soupy tamatar aloo ki sabzi. Even as kids we knew it wasn’t the most hygienic thing in the world but that never stopped us from eating them because they were good!
That’s just one story and one version of tamatar aloo. I know for sure for people who hail from where I do, everyone has their own recipe and their own story. The recipe I am sharing today is what my mother in law normally makes at home which my very wonderful husband cannot get enough of. I still think my version, the one I brought from my mum’s home is better but we just agree to disagree!
3 cups potato (peeled, washed, cut into 1″ cubes)
2 cups tomato (diced)
1 cup green peas (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup red onion (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (can also mince fresh garlic and ginger)
1-2 thai green chili
2-3 tablespoon cooking oil (I use anything from mustard, vegetable, canola to olive)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pinch asafetida (it has a bit of an acquired taste so if you do not like it just skip it)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cilantro for garnish (optional)
Heat oil in a pressure cooker or thick bottom pot that also has a lid, over medium high. Add cumin seeds. As they sputter, add asafetida followed by onion. Stir. Turn the heat to medium low. Cook the onion until light golden in color, about 5-8 minutes.
Add ginger garlic paste. A tablespoon or two of water. Mix well. Add turmeric, coriander, garam masala and salt to taste. Mix well. Add tomato and green chili. Over medium heat, cook the tomatoes until they begin to melt.
Add potato and peas. Mix everything well together. Add about 1- 1 1/2 cups of water if pressure cooking (almost double if cooking in a pot). Cover the lid. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through and tomatoes are mixed well to make a curry of the consistency of your choice. Turn off the heat. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with steamed rice, roti or poori.