Spicy Potato Soup (Aaloo Ras)

I love to cook fresh and local - and we try to grow our own tomatoes, cayenne pepper, bell pepper, curry leaves and basil/cilantro in pots on our deck. We have been lucky enough to have had wonderful harvests for the last three consecutive years. I can probably attribute this to the fact that we haven't gone on an extended vacation for the past three years! Vacations are sure 'harvest-killers' unless you happen to be one of those lucky people with the good-Samaritan neighbors. While all my neighbors are very nice - I don't happen to be one of those lucky few. We moved to a new 'larger' home just - you guessed it - three years ago! My home can officially be considered the main reason that we haven't gone on vacation for the last three years! Pramod insists that that our new mortgage is scandalous. Obviously, I was the one hankering for the new 'large' home, and so we must be content to vacation in our home for a while -or so he says.
He suggests that I try sleeping in a different bedroom every night.. hmmmph.
The soil in our backyard is too rocky to grow anything (not surprisingly since I watched my house being built from scratch, and the workmen buried everything and the kitchen sink under the grass). We haven't been enterprising enough to create our own raised soil-beds. Its a project we keep planning but, there never seems to be enough time or inclination to dig - so - I have to rely on the farmers markets, and neighboring farms for my potatoes and other vegetables.
Yesterday I made a spicy potato soup which is so simple and easy, that I find myself cooking it quite often.
There is general agreement among contemporary botanists that the potato originated in the Andes. Most modern potatoes grown in North America arrived through European settlements and not independently from the South American sources. Historical and genetic evidence suggests that the potato reached India not very much later than Europe, probably taken there by the Portuguese in the 16th or 17th centuries. There are about five thousand potato varieties world wide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. The list of varieties found in European, North American or Asian markets is very limited, and these varieties are all of the same species - Solanum tuberosum. In India, the potato is one of the most affordable foods and can be cooked in so many different ways. It is one of my favorite vegetables, and growing up, I remember my mother cooked it one way or another almost everyday. Mainly, I suspect, due to the the fact that one of my two sisters would refuse to eat a meal that did not include a potato! This resulted in my mother improvising almost every dish so that it contained potatoes. The potato soup below, is not one that I remember my mother making for us, rather - one that I discovered as a quick meal option!


6-8 medium potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 whole dry hot red chillies broken into pieces (optional)
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
1-2 tsp canola oil
2 tsp whole cumin
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder (optional)
salt to taste
2-3 cups water
Coriander leaves
1/2-1 tsp tamarind paste (optional)

Take oil in a wok or shallow pan and turn the heat on medium high. When the oil is hot (test it by adding one cumin seed and if it sizzles then it is hot enough) add the cumin, turmeric powder, asafoetida powder and dry red chillis (if using). Next add the potatoes with about 2 cups of water. Bring the heat to medium and add garam masala and chilli powder (if using) and let the potatoes cook until soft. be careful not to let all the water evaporate. If you feel the potatoes start to stick, then add more water. When the potatoes are done, take the back of a large spoon or a masher, and coarsely mash the potatoes. The soup should have a thick consistency, but there should still be some small chunks of potato to add texture. Now add salt to taste and 1/2 -1 tsp of tamarind paste. Garnish with Cilantro leaves.

Authors Notes:
This versatile potato soup can be eaten alone or can be served with crusty bread, naan, chapatti or on a bed of rice or couscous. The tamarind lends a tangy flavor to the soup, and can easily be substituted by the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime. All the above ingredients are available in Indian grocery stores. I strongly encourage the use of at least 1 dry red chilli - the flavor imparted is incredible.


One of the quickest and easiest dishes to cook up is this chickpeas dish, called 'Channa Masala' or 'Chholle' in India. It is a simple, quick and easy chickpeas stew, that I love to throw together when I have little time to spare or when I am too tired to make anything elaborate. My husband, Pramod makes it well, too. In fact, the stew shown below is his creation. It is a staple food of North India, and has become very popular throughout the country.

If you don't want to deal with all the spices, you can buy ready-mixed spices like Shaan channa masala powder, and and use it instead of all the spice powders. (If you use Shaan you won't need to add any ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, amchur powder, garam masala powder or salt - it's already in the powder.) This convenient powder, and several other brands are available in any Indian/Pakistani grocery store. But like any packaged product, they contain preservatives, so I prefer to make it from scratch whenever I can.

This chickpea stew is doubtlessly on the menu of every Indian restaurant you can think of and is sometimes served at kabob houses as well. It is a really versatile dish and can be eaten with Chapattis, pooris, rotis, naans - or try it with bread, on pasta or rice. It is a great hit at parties, and is a truly healthy, vegan option and a must try!


Yields about 6 servings
1 large onion (peeled and diced)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 chopped tomato (optional)
2-3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
11/2 cup water
5 cups chickpeas -soaked and cooked, or 2 cans chickpeas, well rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 of a lemon - juiced
2-3 thai chillis, cayenne or jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
A handful of chopped fresh green cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onions and ginger-garlic paste, and sauté over high heat until golden.
Turn down the heat to medium and add the cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder and turmeric powder. At this point if you are using tomatoes, add the tomatoes and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes. Add the chickpeas and 1 1/2 cups of water and mix. Now add the roasted cumin, garam masala and salt. Cover and cook for 5 mins. Next, add the chopped green chillis and Stir. Cook covered for another 5 mins or until done. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or dried cilantro flakes.

Authors Note:
This dish is delicious served with chapattis, rotis, naans or crusty bread. Try it on a bed of cooked white or brown basmati rice (or any long grain variety). Omit the cilantro if you aren't fond of it. The best thing about this vegan dish is that it can be made as hot or as mild as you like. You can completely leave out the green chillis and substitute chilli powder with paprika for a much milder version.

A day with the Mumbai Frankie

If you were to ask me what food I miss the most in the US, I could think of several, but topping the list is undoubtedly the Mumbai Frankie! The main reason being, of course, that nothing comparable is available anywhere in the US, no restaurant make it (although a few in New Jersey do their best) and try as I may; I am unable to copy the closely guarded Tibbs recipe that made the Frankie so popular in Mumbai.
To share a little history about the Frankie - In 1967, a man called Amarjit Tibb was returning to India from a trip to England when he stopped en route in Beirut. During his brief stop there he stumbled upon the Lebanese pita bread wrap, with a variety of fascinating stuffings. He was inspired enough to take the pita wrap recipe, and remake it to suit the Indian palate. A year of research later, he hit upon the perfect ingredients. This ‘Indianized’ wrap tested brilliantly and started selling like in Mumbai like wildfire. Today, the Tibbs Frankie is a staple fast food in Mumbai, and is slowly hitting the rest of the country.

The Frankie is an Indian version of a wrap or Burrito. It is an Indian roti dredged in beaten egg, and griddled, then piled with variety of filling options – Veggies, Chicken, Beef, egg, Lamb, even shrimp and Indian Paneer (a kind of cottage cheese) have been used. I can't even begin to describe how delicious this wrap tastes; and after many a trial and error this is my best clone - and the recipe rocks - even though I do say so myself :).... mmm... simply scrumptious!!
For the wrap:
4 chapattis or rotis made from all-purpose flour – (In a pinch, whole wheat tortillas can be substituted.)
1 egg-beaten or 1/4 cup eggbeaters
1-2 tablespoons oil and/or cooking spray.

For the filling:
3-4 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 small Thai or cayenne green chilies, finely chopped, or to taste
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder, or to taste
1 tsp chaat masala powder (easily available at any Indian grocery store)
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 of a lime (juice)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsp of freshly chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

Variety of fillings:
a) For a veggie frankie: you can use an assortment of your favorite vegetables – try mashed up potato, grilled bell pepper strips, carrot strips, shredded or cubed zucchini, snow peas, broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, grilled green beans, sweet corn, peas, etc…

b) For a paneer and veggie frankie: 2-3 cups paneer, diced into small cubes with your favorite veggies – broccoli, bell pepper, mushrooms etc…

c) For a chicken frankie: 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1" cubes.

d) For a shrimp frankie: 1 lb of cocktail (or any small variety) shrimp - peeled, de-veined and tail removed

Method :
a)Veggie frankie:
Wash and cut the veggies into strips or small cubes. To a frying pan add 2 tbsp oil, and on high heat, add the onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add ginger, garlic and green chillies. Add cumin and coriander powders, turmeric powder, chaat-masala powder, red chili powder,salt and pepper). Add vegetables in batches, using the vegetables that take the longest to cook first. Stir-fry all the vegetables till cooked but still crispy. Add the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, lime juice and a the chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well and keep aside.

b)Paneer and veggie frankie:
To a pan or wok, add 2 tbsp oil and turn heat on high. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir fry for 1 min. Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies. Now, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, chaat masala powder, salt and pepper.(If adding veggies, do so now and stir fry till crip) Add the paneer cubes and mix well. and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and freshly chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well and keep aside.

c)Chicken/Beef/Lamb/Goat frankie:
In a large wok on high heat, add 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the onion and stir fry for 1 min. Then add the ginger, garlic and green chillies. Next, add cumin and coriander powders,turmeric powder, chaat masala powder, red chilli powder, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix. Stir-fry for a few more minutes on medium until the chicken is fully cooked through. (If you wish, add your veggies and stir-fry for a few minutes). Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and freshly chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well and keep aside.

d)Shrimp or prawn frankie:
In a large wok on high heat, add 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the onion and stir-fry for 1 min. Add the ginger,garlic and green chilies. Next add turmeric,coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili powder, chaat masala, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss. Stir-fry for a few more minutes until the shrimp is just barely cooked, taking care not to overcook the shrimp (If you like you can add your favorite veggies and stir-fry for a few minutes). Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and freshly chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well and set aside until needed.

How to make the wrap:
Spray a large griddle or frying pan with a few drops of cooking oil or cooking spray, and on medium heat, and place chapatti (or tortilla) on the griddle. Liberally brush the egg wash all over the chapatti and flip. Let cook for a few minutes and brush the egg wash on the other side, flip again and cook for 1-2 minutes. Now, Place the chapatti on a clean surface. Add a few tablespoons of the filling (make sure the filling is hot before serving) and wrap into a burrito shape. wrap with foil or a napkin to serve. Repeat this procedure for the rest of the chapattis.
Authors Notes:
These wraps are delicious served as snacks and lunch or a light supper. They can be served with hot sauce or cilantro chutney (Recipe follows soon); Or they can be eaten on their own. You will find that they are far less 'bready' than pita - and less chewy in texture than the tortilla.
The chopped green chillies can be left out for a less spicy version, or try using jalapeno peppers instead.
Ready-made fresh or frozen chapattis (or rotis) and paneer are always available at Indian stores across the country. I will be posting the recipe for chapattis soon. All the spices that are needed are also available at Indian stores.


Hi! Welcome to my kitchen! Come and share my culinary adventures with me!