We in the West, that is to say those of us of northern European extraction, are inclined to construct our meals around a slab of protein accompanied by a starch and green vegetable. In most other cultures the starch is the central element to be enhanced by protein and vegetables. Inasmuch as our bodies run primarily on carbohydrates—fad diets notwithstanding—this make a lot of sense. The potato has an interesting place in this scheme of things since it can be either a starch or a vegetable. In India no one would dream of replacing rice—or in the north, bread—with potatoes, but that does not stop them from enjoying the ubiquitous tuber. This recipe, which I adapted from Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook (Dee Why West, NSW: Landsdowne Press, 1976), shows the potato shining in its vegetable role.
White mushrooms, 250 g (8 ounces)
Firm white potatoes, 250 g (8 ounces or one large)
Oil or ghee
Onion, 1 medium, halved and thinly sliced
Garlic, 1 clove minced
Ginger, 5 ml (1 teaspoon) grated
Hot chili, 1 minced (to taste)
Coriander leaves, 30 ml (1 Tablespoon) chopped
Tomatoes, 150 g (½ cup) diced, canned are fine
Turmeric, ground, 5 ml (1 teaspoon)
Green peas, fresh or frozen, 150 g (½ cup)
Garam masala, 5 ml (1 teaspoon)
Clean the mushrooms and cut them into quarters or thick slices depending on their size. Wash the potatoes and cut into 25 mm (1-inch) cubes. Set both aside.
Heat the oil or ghee in a frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion for about 3 minutes or until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, ginger, chili, and coriander. Fry for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomatoes and turmeric then add the mushrooms and potatoes. Add a bit of water, if needed, to half-submerge the potatoes. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Add the peas to the pan and sprinkle on the garam masala. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Remove the cover and check that the potatoes are done—they should pierce easily with the tip of a small knife. If not done, replace the cover and cook a bit longer. If they are done, raise the heat a bit to drive off excess moisture. Serve with basmati rice and assorted Indian pickle.