Dum Aloo is the signature dish of Kashmir, a region in northwestern India, famous for its breathtaking landscape and unique cuisine. Kashmir boasts of exotic natural beauty that makes it a popular tourist destination: the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, sleepy lakes, meandering rivers, dazzling waterfalls, beautiful glades, dense forests, and very diverse flora and fauna.
The Mughal Emperor Jehangir said about Kashmir: "If there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here".
Kashmiri cuisine is renowned for its refined flavours. Yogurt is generously used to make rich creamy dishes while spices like turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and the unmistakable bright red Kashmiri chili are wonderfully combined to create unique flavours.
Kashmiri cuisine has been greatly influenced by the cooking style of Pandits (Hindu Brahmins) and over the centuries the Turkish, Afghan, Persian, Punjabi and Central Asian invaders have left their mark on it as well.
Dum Aloo (also Dam Oluv) reflects the Pandit influence in that it doesn't use onion and garlic. It is a delicacy of fried whole potatoes (aloo = potato) cooked in a spicy yogurt gravy. It is traditionally cooked in a tightly closed clay pot on low heat to prevent the steam (dum = steam) from escaping and to allow the spices to infuse the potatoes. The spices are roasted before making the gravy to boost the flavours.
There are many variations of dum aloo, some even including onions and tomatoes, but I greatly enjoyed Vaishali's version with coconut milk and almonds (Vaishali is the author of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes, one of my favourite blogs. I previously posted her delicious Mango Bread). I made her recipe several times using regular potatoes peeled and cut into pieces but recently I used whole baby potatoes and my favourite blend of spices and the result was absolutely delicious. I was so excited about this experiment that I completely forgot to poke holes in the potatoes to help them absorb more flavours, so don't skip this step.
Kashmiri Dum Aloo (adapted from Vaishali's recipe)
- 750 g whole baby potatoes
- 1 can (400 ml) creamy coconut milk
- 1/4 cup almonds (about 30)
- 2 Tb olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 Tb grated ginger
- 1 generous Tb Madras mild curry powder (use any curry powder you like, I chose this one for its bright yellow colour and mild flavour)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- pinch of saffron
- salt to taste
Soak the almonds in warm water for 20-30 minutes, peel off and discard the skins, then coarsely blend them. I like the texture and crunchiness they add to this dish, but you can go ahead and blend them into a fine powder if you prefer.
Wash the potatoes. Poke them in a few places with a toothpick or a fork. Heat 1 Tb oil in a pan on medium and add the potatoes. Cover with a lid and let the potatoes cook for about 30 minutes until tender but not very soft. Toss them around from time to time to help them cook through.
Heat 1 Tb oil in a pan on medium, add the cumin seeds and let them splatter. Add the ginger and stir for a few seconds. Add the almonds, curry powder and coriander and cook for a further few seconds till fragrant (for more heat, add 1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili powder). Add the coconut milk, potatoes, saffron and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and let simmer for about 30 minutes until the gravy thickens and the potatoes are soft (test one with a fork).
Serve hot with rice, naan, puris or chapatis.
Enjoy and spread the magic:)
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