Talk about skipping straight to summer without even time to take a (fresh) spring breath. Well, Edmonton has been having its mini heat wave last week when the mercury hit the late thirties, and I am sitting in the brilliant sunshine,
For me and the non-meat eating members of my family, summer is a time to enjoy nature's bounty at its best. Our farmers markets are heaving with fresh, beautiful vegetables and fruit and Kay's hard work in the back garden is beginning to produce
And what better way to start off what's shaping up to be a pretty delicious summer than with some delicate new nugget or warba potatoes? Last year, I had the honour of being one of the runner ups in the BCFresh New Nugget Potato recipe contest with my delicious Bombay Potatoes (nope, no false modesty here, that is a great recipe that I've been making forever :)) But ever since then, I've been planning this year's recipe... talk about being presumptuous, what? So when the contest finally arrived, I was in pretty good shape and raring to go.
So almost as soon as spring arrived, I've been looking for these deliciously creamy nuggets in my grocery stores, and to be honest, I bought a whole bunch even before the contest had been officially announced. For me, they now signify the start of potato salad season, and because these have such a short season, every potato salad I make starting early spring has these Warba potatoes in them. I mean, they have pink eyes, they are super easy to prepare (read, no peeling required) and they taste out of the world... what's not to love?
Back to my recipe. Like I mentioned earlier, this recipe has been a year in the making, ever since I got my mother to send me a boat load of cookbooks from India. One of those books was the excellent Essential Kerala Cookbook by Vijayan Kannampilly. This book has fast become one of my favourites and while I significantly modify these recipes, mainly for heat and technique, the ideas in the book are classic and the flavour pairings are absolutely terrific.
Kerala is a tiny state in the South of India, and growing up, we were hugely influenced by Kerala style cooking. My mother was a school teacher in Kerala and my grandfather was also from there, so we grew up cooking and eating Kerala style dishes all the time, be it the traditional Banana Boli or the Prawn Fry. Keralite (not Keralan, mind!) food is all about balancing light, fresh, creamy flavours with spice, heat and tang. Their fish fry is famous, as is their beef chilly, which is served in every street side shack, usually paired with a layered flatbread called a malabar porotta (paratha). If you can imagine lying on the pristine beaches of this little state, being cooled by the swaying palms, or canoeing in a houseboat down its incredible backwaters, then you can also imagine the delight in heading back to one of our many friends' houses for an incredibly simple, but oh so flavourful meal of fried fish, rice, pickle and a light, creamy coconut curry. Or if one can bestir themselves from a languid massage at one of Kerala's famous ayurveda (traditional Indian plant based medicine) centres, one may head down to the restaurants for a pure vegetarian meal of appam and vegetable stew all washed down by cold tender coconut water (PS - coming soon here on The Tiffin Box, I've just perfected my appam recipe) One can only describe it as heavenly, indeed!
One of the best loved Kerala recipes of course, is the avial. This light, delicately spiced, creamy, tangy curry is served at almost every festival celebrated in Kerala and other southern states, as well as a staple of the every day meal. The recipe for avial caught my eye as soon as I started flipping through the book, and while the traditional avial is made with seasonal vegetables, I knew almost immediately what my recipe for the BCFresh contest was going to be. Erm, no contest really :) It had to be a version of this delicious, fresh and summery dish.
Avial is almost ridiculously well suited to the equally delicate new nugget warba potatoes. The light, creamy flavours of coconut milk and curry leaves go brilliantly with the sweet creaminess of these little gems. As this dish is not heavily spiced, the sauce complements the flavour of the potatoes, gently enhancing it, never overpowering. Together, they are an unbeatable combination of fresh and local with fragrant and exotic.
For me, this is what my website is all about, and I am always so happy when I can use simple, local ingredient in a completely different, unusual way, but nonetheless, something that is super easy to recreate in your own kitchen, be it in the tropical paradise of Kerala or the urban streets of Edmonton. After all, if home is where the heart is, then sure as heck food is what brings us all together, and for me this recipe is the best of both my worlds. I hope you enjoy it too!
2 tablespoons coconut or unscented oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig (8 - 10) curry leaves
1 small onion, finely diced
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 - 2 green chillies, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
400 ml can of light coconut milk
1/2 cup hot water or vegetable stock750g BCfresh New Nugget (Warba) potatoes, halved
1/4 cup plain yogurt, whisked
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Heat the oil in a pan, and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the onion and sweat for a few minutes, until soft, but not coloured.
Add the finely chopped ginger and sliced green chillies and sauté for another minute. Add the turmeric and stir.
Add the coconut milk and hot water to the onion mixture, along with the new nugget potatoes. Simmer gently for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Season to taste with salt and sugar. Just before serving, stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot with rice.