On a recent trip to Japan with my brother, we ended up sharing a few meals in Indian restaurants. It wasn’t something we’d planned, eating dishes from our part of the world whilst being so far removed from it in so many ways. It was such a lovely experience, eating with our fingers and sharing dishes that had been made right in front of us. Fragrant curries and delicious, crispy naans straight out of the tandoor. Chatting with the men that cooked our meals and marvelling at the journies that took them so far from home, to such foreign locales. It was also incredibly comforting for me to be eating amongst people who had an ingrained understanding of what being vegetarian meant, carefully asking if eggs and dairy were ok. One dish I ordered again and again was aloo palak - a delicious combination of spiced potatoes and silky, smooth spinach. And, on returning home to Frankfurt, I decided I wanted to make this for myself again - in a different way, with the spinach more present and less pureed. The dish is simple and quick to make and only requires a couple of staples and some cumin to bring it all together. Eat it with some hot rice, or a toasted tortilla or roti and some yoghurt on the side - its perfect for the wintery temperatures that seemed to have dropped out of nowhere. You can adjust the amount of spinach based on the consistency you like - I prefer a larger spinach to potato ratio. Also, feel free to use frozen spinach if you can’t find fresh, just be sure to drain all the water out when you thaw it.
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
about 400 gms of spinach, chopped to the consistency of your choice (mine was medium-fine)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ghee or sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
3 tablespoons tomato puree (just the juice from canned tomatoes)
freshly chopped coriander, to garnish
Heat the ghee or oil in a medium-sized, deep pan. Add the cumin and allow it to gently splutter, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and stir well, keeping the heat at medium. After about a minute, add the garlic and stir, cooking until the onions turn a light brown. Add the potatoes and mix together to combine. After a minute, add the turmeric, chilli and cumin powder and stir together. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes, then add a cup of water mixed in with the tomato puree. Stir everything together, lower the heat and cook, covered, until the potatoes are about 2/3rds done. I like my potatoes very soft and velvety, but if you like more bite, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Once the potatoes are about 2/3rds done, add the spinach to the pan and stir together. This takes a little patience, given the difference in consistency between the potatoes and the spinach. Add a little salt, stir through again, cover and cook for another 5 minutes, checking in occasionally on the consistency of the potatoes. Once they’re done to your liking, check for salt - you might need to adjust it a bit at this stage. Remove from the heat, spoon into a serving bowl and top with the freshly chopped coriander. Serve hot with rice, flatbread or rotis - some yoghurt on the side is the perfect accompaniment.
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: about 30 minutes