Learn how to make Dum Aloo Kashmiri ~ A traditional Kashmiri dish of deep fried baby potatoes cooked in creamy almond and cashew gravy, no onion-garlic recipe
After a month of sultry hot summer days, the skies have opened their doors to cool showers. The welcoming sight of rain drenched plants and trees and the pearly rain drops on a window pane is what exactly we needed after a days of heat waves. As the temperature dropped couple of degrees, our cravings for some spicy delights just went up a notch! Another reason to love the pittar-patter rain!
Husband had come home with a bag of baby potatoes from market and dropping few hints about the Dum Aloo Kashmiri he had had couple of years ago! I pretended not to hear him as the last few attempts of making the famous Kashmiri Dum Aloo were far from being a success story! And the triple sin of not just cooking the potatoes, but also deep frying them before dunking in a rich cashew-almond gravy was something I wanted to avoid when I am on a path of eating healthy! Well, I don’t have to say who won in the end! Interestingly I am not even ashamed to have had committed this triple sin! Ha…
As the name suggests, Dum Aloo Kashmiri or Kashmiri Dum Aloo is a superb example of rich cuisine of Kashmir, a crown of India. The deep fried baby potatoes are slow cooked on a low flame which allows them to absorb the amazing flavour of aromatic spice blend that is unique to this state of India. The cooking technique used is Dum Pukht where Dum means to ‘breathe in’ and Pukht means ‘cook’. There are conflicting statements when it comes to the origin of this technique of cooking which dates back to early 16th century. Some state that the origin of Dum Pukht is from Persia which was then introduced to India by the Mughals and others argue that it belongs to the Awadh or Oudh region (present Uttar Pradesh in India) in India. And some other sources simply states that the technique is based on traditional Indian method of cooking dishes buried in the sand.
Deep fried baby potatoes for Dum Aloo Kashmiri
The earliest documented recipe of Dum Pukht technique can be found in Ain-I-Akbari which was what the Nanbais or the Bazaar cooks employed by the philanthropist Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daulah of Awadh resorted to. Legends claim that the Nawab in an attempt to feed the poor during great famine in his kingdom, he created a “food for work” employment with masonry work at the Barra Immambara shrine. To feed thousands of workers, the Nanbais resorted to the ancient recipe found in Ain-I-Akbar where the beef was cooked overnight in a ‘deg’, a Dum Pukht technique. The turnip which was introduced by the Kashmiri Pandits in Awadh replaced the beef and this way the Nanbais could feed the workers a warm food at moment’s notice. Large cauldrons were filled with rice, meat, vegetables and spices and sealed tightly to make a one-pot meal that was available to workers day and night. Is it said that one day when the Nawab visited the construction site he caught a whiff of the aromas emanating from the cooking tents and he immediately ordered the royal kitchen to cook and serve the dish using Dum Pukht technique! (Source – Wiki).
Dum pukht cooking uses heavy bottomed pot called Handi. It is a round, spherical shaped clay pot which has thick bottom to help in preventing the food from getting stuck or burnt during the long hours of slow cooking. The top has wide mouth with a narrow neck that flares out to form broad rim. Since there are no handles, the pot is lifted by grabbing the broad rim of Handi. A wide clay saucer is used as a lid to cover the handi and is sealed with dough made of flour and water to prevent the heat from escaping. The Handi is left on a bed of hot charcoal for several hours and in some cases the hot charcoals are distributed on the lid for even distribution of heat. The heat creates the steam, the steam condenses and it rolls down the curved walls of the Handi, which in other words is the heat is choked before it can escape and thus conjures the term Dum Pukht. (Source – India Curry) Ingenious, isn’t it?
Heavenly Dum Aloo Kashmiri
There are two aspects of Dum Pukht style of cooking. One is Bhuna or Bhunao which means slow roasting and cooking the food and the second is of course Dum which is maturing of cooked food. The process of bhuna or slow roasting the spices and herbs helps in releasing maxium flavour and dum cooking in a sealed pot helps the food to cook in its own juice and thus helps in retaining their natural flavour and aroma. In some cases the dough is rolled into thick disc that covers the opening of the pot like a lid to seal the food in the handi and is called as Purdah, a veil, which during the process of cooking becomes soft, fluffy and really tasty bread as it absorbs the flavour of the food cooked inside the handi. (Source - Wiki) When the seal is broken in the end, the fragrance that floats in the air will momentarily make one to imagine the bygone era of rich traditional Awadhi food heritage. As in any regional foods of India, the fresh herbs and spices play a vital role in dum pukht style of cooking and the end product is a rich food that is a world class apart in flavour and aroma from any other food you’ve ever tasted.
Ingredients for Dum Aloo Kahmiri
The Dum Aloo Kashmiri recipe I am sharing today is the one that is perfected after many trials and errors. I don’t claim it to be authentic or traditional Kashmiri recipe. The balance of spices in this Dum Aloo Kashmiri varies from one recipe from another. This is my version of Dum Aloo Kashmiri where I have used the basic spice mixes used in Kashmiri cuisine which suits our taste. I have combined the unique blend of spices used in Kashmiri style of cooking like fennel seeds, ginger, Kashmiri chilli and hing/asafoetida with whole Garam masala (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise and bay leaf). The use of fresh spices is highly recommended as the flavour they add is incomparable to the ready-made store brought ones. This high flavoured spice blend is balanced by the rich gravy prepared using yogurt and the paste of cashew-almond which give it a slight edge of nuttiness. Also this recipe of Dum Aloo Kashmiri doesn’t use any onion and garlic and hence is Satvik style of cooking. Be generous with the use of salt and sugar in this recipe as they bring out the deep flavour of the spices to life. And also since you will be spending a little more time in the kitchen when preparing this dish, make sure you cook some extra as the leftovers taste even better a day after or even a two days later!
Ingredients for gravy
Ground paste of cashews, almonds and spices
Dum Aloo Kashmiri (A traditional Kashmiri dish of deep fried baby potatoes cooked in creamy almond and cashew gravy, no onion-garlic recipe)
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30-40 mins
Recipe Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Spice Level: Low to Medium
Serves: 6-8 people
Shelf Life: 2-3 days when refrigerated
Serving Suggestion: With any Indian flat breads or flavoured Basmati rice
15-18 New Potatoes/Baby Potatoes scrubbed and washed
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste
For the Gravy:
10 each Cashews & Almonds, soaked in warm water for 2 hours
1 inch Cinnamon
4 Green Cardamoms
1 small Anise/Aniseed
1 Bay Leaf
1- 1 ½ heaped tbsp. Saunf/Fennel Seeds
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1½ tbsp. Dhania/Coriander Seeds
½ - 1 tbsp. Sugar
6-8 Dried Red Kashmiri Chilli (Or any mild dry red chillies)
½ - ¾ tsp Dried Ginger Powder or 1 inch fresh Ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup Thick Yogurt, whisked to remove any lumps
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Saunf/Fennel Seeds
¼ tsp of Hing/Asafoetida (Optional but recommended)
1 tbsp Oil/Ghee
For the dough to seal the pot:
¼ cup Maida/All Purpose Flour
Water to knead the dough
- Take cashews and almonds in a small bowl and add just enough hot water to cover them. Let them soak in this water for 2 hours.
- Scrub and wash baby potatoes to remove all dirt. Pierce every single potato several times with a help of a fork and then place them in a pan and add about tbsp of salt and enough water to just cover them. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes.
- Next, close the lid and cook them on medium flame for 8-9 minutes or until they are par boiled. You can even cook them in a microwave for 7-8 minutes.
- Drain all the water and towel dry them with kitchen towel to remove any moisture. Since we will be deep frying the potatoes in very hot oil, make sure that the potatoes are moisture free. Once you have dried the potatoes, you can leave their skins on or remove it. I have left their skins on as I like the crisp and earthy taste of deep fried potatoes.
- Heat the oil in a kadai/wok for deep frying. Once the oil is hot, deep fry the potatoes in batches of 6-8 until they turn golden, about 3-4 minutes per batch. Gently move them around so that the potatoes are evenly fried with a help of slotted spoon and place them in a plate/bowl lined with kitchen napkins to remove any excess oil. Repeat until you have deep fried all the potatoes and keep them aside until required.
- Next we will proceed to make the delicious, creamy cashew-almond gravy for the Dum Aloo Kashmiri. Dry roast cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom, star anise, bay leaf, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds on a medium flame for a minute. Dry roasting the spices brings out their natural oil which makes the gravy very flavourful.
- Transfer the dry roasted spices to a clean, dry plate and let them cool down to room temperature. Once cool, grind these roasted spices, ginger and soaked cashews and almonds along with the water in which they were soaked to smooth paste. Add little more water to aid in grinding the spices and nuts to fine paste.
- Prepare the dough by mixing plain flour with little water and knead it well to make soft dough. Roll the dough to make long thick strip to seal the lid. Keep it aside until needed.
- Now it’s time to put everything together! Heat oil/ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds, fennel seeds and hing. When cumin seeds start to sizzle and change colour to deep brown, about 1 minute, mix in ground cashew-almond paste and stir well for 2-3 minutes on medium flame.
- Add sugar and yogurt and mix them well. Let it cook for a minute or two before adding a cup of water and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with lid and let the gravy cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the lid and add the potatoes and mix them well so that the potatoes are well coated with the gravy. Add about ¾ - 1 cup of water or little more if you find the gravy too thick and adjust the seasoning. Cover the pot with lid and seal the lid with the dough strip. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat without disturbing. This is called ‘dum’ cooking, a slow cooking in a low flame and helps the potatoes to absorb all the rich flavours from gravy. You can skip sealing the lid if it is too much of a hassle and simply close the lid and let the curry simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Switch off the flame and let the Dum Aloo Kashmiri rest for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle finely chopped coriander and finely chopped cashew and almonds and serve hot with any Indian flat breads or plain or flavoured rice and enjoy!
- After cooking the baby potatoes, you can leave their skins on or remove it. I have left their skins on as I like the crisp and earthy taste of deep fried potatoes.
- Please remember to dry the cooked potatoes with kitchen towel to remove any moisture. Since we will be deep frying the potatoes in very hot oil, make sure that the potatoes are moisture free to avoid any accidents.
- You can replace the baby potatoes with 3-4 medium to large potatoes. Cook the potatoes until they are par boiled and dice them into large bite sized pieces before deep frying.
- This recipe of Dum Aloo Kashmiri doesn’t use any onion and garlic and hence is Satvik style of cooking. You can use ½-1 cup of finely chopped onion before adding the ground cashew-almond paste. The onions will lend sweet caramalised taste to the dish.
- Some recipes of Dum Aloo Kashmiri also use tomatoes in gravy. You can grind 1-2 tomatoes along with roasted spices and cashews and almonds and follow the recipe.
- You can skip sealing the lid if it is too much of a hassle and simply close the lid and let the curry simmer for 10-15 minutes.