Potatoes with Mustard Seeds
- Caitlin Sutton
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown
onion, peeled and finely chopped
2-4 fresh hot green
chilies, split into halves lengthways
waxy potatoes boiled, peeled and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon ground
½ teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon salt
finely chopped, fresh green coriander (optional)
Heat the oil in a
wide pan over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds and
mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of a few
seconds, put in the onion and chilies. Turn the heat the heat to medium.
Stir and cook until the onion is quite soft but not brown. Put in the
potatoes, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir
gently once or twice. Add 2/3 cups water and cook over medium-low heat for
8-10 minutes, stirring now and then, until all the spices have been
absorbed by the potatoes. There should be just a hint of sauce at the
bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the fresh coriander over the top, stir it in and
serve. Makes 4 servings.
This is a dish my family and I have
enjoyed for a number of years. My dad, the chef in our family, would procure a rating
system for various dishes that he instructed us to abide by. Sookhi Bhaji
has repeatedly received “10” as the highest rating. In addition to its
phenomenal taste, this potato dish is an example of cuisine that my family has
adopted as our own for a couple reasons; the ingredients are easily produced in
the garden that we harvest yearly. Also, my dad enjoys supporting the “Indian
Spice Store” on Fuller Road in Albany, and thirdly, the spices combine to make
flavors that are rarely produced from our English/Irish heritage.
greater part of his life, my father has viewed subsistence farming as a
desirable, economic goal for the Sutton family to strive towards. Vandana Shiva
argues that “food security is in the seed” because seeds offer not only a
source for life, but also a storage place for culture and history (Shiva 8).
Every year, my father consults his dried seed collection before beginning a new
planting season. Harvests typically yield plentiful amounts of tomatoes,
onions, brussel sprouts, green and waxed beans, lima beans, summer squash,
zucchini, acorn squash, pumpkins, blue hubbard squash, watermelon, bell
peppers, beet chard and several varieties of spicy peppers. In addition, the
herb garden yields basil, chocolate mint, thyme, parsley, dill weed, oregano
flowers like lavender and gladiolas. We have been fortunate that our geography
has allowed us to have a garden that we can use to sustain ourselves, not to
mention the fertile land and the proper climate which would be needed to grow these
plants. There is a tremendous amount of pride attached to the feeling that one
can utilize an internal system to produce healthy sustenance.
cayenne, mustard, turmeric and coriander are not products that our garden has
produced but are native to regions like India,
Turkey and Pakistan.
The author of this recipe, Madhur Jaffrey, attributes to her inspiration for
this recipe to the Indian state of Goa in the
Southwestern coast of India. Undeniably, Britain’s
influence on India
as a country is insurmountable and even Jaffrey’s own cookbook is sponsored by
the BBC. Curry is an example of cuisines
that Westerners would consider “Indian”, but in fact, the British incorporated
curry into their own cuisine and ultimately tore the colonized nation’s
identification with various spice mixtures (masalas) from their grasp. The result was a unified concept of “curry”
as one spice that can be easily reproduced and which has ingredients that are
unknown to the consumer. Jaffrey also
accounts for this “missing culture” in her text by illustrating how “vindaloo”
is incorrectly perceived by Westerners as the “hottest curry”, but in its
native land it is actually a Portuguese dish “vindalho” that is comprised of
mostly pork with vinegar and garlic.
In the late fifteenth century Goa
was largely Hindu and although it was in prosperous Muslim hands, it was able
to retain its spices and other riches for trade. Soon thereafter, the greed of
European countries (especially Portugal)
was successful in disrupting the economy and culture of the Goan area of India.
Because Portuguese traders were mostly interested in controlling the coastlines
of this area, the cultural effects on this area were somewhat less than they
could have been. In fact, both Portuguese traders and Goan natives learned
several techniques for preparing food from each other and Goan cuisine, like
the recipe above, is a reflection of that integration. Cumin and coriander were
spices that Indians added to foods like vinegar, pepper, mustard and potatoes
that the Portuguese brought with them from the New World.
Within every recipe, there is an
opportunity to bestow unique influence onto a dish. My life has allowed me to
perceive harvesting as a means for achieving this synthesis. By examining
colonial influences in contemporary Indian food, I have become more aware of
the social and political forces that act upon every ingredient I work with.
Although Soohki Bhaji is not directly linked to my heritage, the
combination of seeds, spices and vegetables that produces it has become part of
Jaffrey, Madhur. Flavours of India.
London: BBC Books. 1995.
Narayan, Uma. Dislocating Cultures. New
York: Routledge Publishing. 1997.
Shiva, Vandana. Stolen Harvest. South End Press. 2000.
The McCormick Website. www.mccormick.com.
McCormick & Company. 2004.