Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Potato, Cauliflower and Green Peas Sukhi style (Dry Curry)

I think I will be very busy this year if I want to learn and keep up the plans for the blog. Take a minute to read the comments from the last post. Throws up a lot of interesting questions.

Prepared veggies

1. Can fish be organic?
2. Is industrial food production really bad?
3. What is local food movement? Is it just a yuppy feel good kind of thing?
4. Can organic farming really provide food for the exploding population of the planet?
5. What exactly is crop and seed diversity?
6. Is organic cost efficient to actually make a difference?

All good questions and we will strive to explore all of them in due time.

I primarily wanted to learn more about GM(genetically modified), bio-engineered seeds and how lack of bio diversity was going to harm food production. But the issues that have been brought up are all inter connected and a good idea to be researching about all of them.

Mixed with spices and ready to be covered and cooked

Over the last decade on every visit to India I have heard mom and several others mention that certain varieties of several vegetables are not in the market anymore. When this particularly hit hard was when the broad beans I was seeing on the last visit was very broad and really big. It was the first time I have even seen it but everybody seemed to think broad beans were always that way. That is so not true, the visit before last the broad beans were the size they always were. Is this a new variety that people have gotten used to quickly or does it make its appearance only during the summer? I have no idea. Next was when I was trying to get seeds for the country tomato (naatu thakkali) the sour short and stout tomato with ridges and my uncle sadly said that the seeds were not available even in the seeds co-operatives that regularly. Were these varieties going to disappear for ever, probably.

Lid closed and cooking

For quite a few years now tomatoes that are readily available in the market are mostly the smooth oval shaped ones called Bangalore tomatoes, much sweeter and in my opinion dull and blands the tastes of rasam, sambhar or tomato rice that they are used in. We have gotten used to them like we eventually do.

What is a bio engineered or genetically modified seed?

Biotechnology has made it possible to inject genes from other plants and animals into plant seeds to create traits that would help the plant deal with adverse conditions like drought, withstand pesticide exposure, increase yields creating characteristics that do not occur naturally. The most bio engineered seeds are corn, soybean, cotton and canola. This term also includes breeds of crops created by selective breeding.

After the first 15 minutes

What is a hybrid seed?
Hybrid seeds are those that are produced by artificial cross-pollination to create desirable traits like increased yield, drought resistance, better looks and disease resistance.

What is a heirloom seed?
Heirloom seeds are those that have been preserved over several years and handed down from the gardeners who preserved them. These are seeds that have to be created by open pollination. Open pollinated plants are those whose seeds are capable of producing plants just like their parent preserving all the good qualities.

There is no denying the benefits of hybrid seeds, it has increased agriculture output and the ability of governments to pull their masses out of poverty. This seems harmless when compared to GM seeds. Animal characteristics in plants? Is that desirable? Has technology gone overboard? GM seeds which were used in mostly large industrialized farms have now started to contaminate non-GM seeds.

Now to the recipe of the day,
The best aloo gobhi I have tasted so far was in a hole in a wall place which sold fresh hot foods at a very reasonable prices. The kitchen was visible from where the order was placed, a much needed confirmation because the place was really dirty. The place was closed by the authorities, no surprises there. I lost my source for aloo gobi and had been on the lookout for something similar till I saw Sookhi Gobhi Aloo over at Mad Tea Party. This is what I have been looking for along with the added bonus, no grease. Some version of this aloo gobhi has been made every week at our house ever since. Sometimes I have followed the exact recipe while other times I improvise a little bit like this one with green chilies.

Ready for serving

Serving : 6 people
Dry Potato, Cauliflower and Peas Curry
1. 2 Russet Potatoes + 2 Red potatoes (I prefer red potatoes but only had Russet potatoes, DH went shopping) - 4 Cups (peeled and cut into bite sized cubes)
2. Cauliflower split into small florets - 2 cups
3. Green Peas - 1 Cup
4. Green chilies - 4 slit
5. 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
6. 5 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
7. 2 tsp turmeric powder
8. 1 tbsp sambhar powder or coriander + red chili powder
9. 1 tsp cumin powder
10. a small pinch of asfoetida
11. salt to taste
12. 2 tsp oil

1. In a flat bottomed pan, heat oil and add the cumin seeds, asfoetida, garlic and ginger. Saute till the ginger and garlic are fried , take care not to burn.
2. Add the turmeric powder and green chili and saute for a minute.
3. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, peas, saute for 2 minutes or so.
4. Add the sambhar powder and salt and give a good mix.
5. Close the lid and set the heat to less than medium, cover the lid and cook for 15 minutes.
6. Open the lid, toss and add more salt and chili powder if required, close and cook for another 8 minutes.
7. Switch off the heat.

Tastes best with rotis (wheat breads) or even with steamed white rice.


  1. Indo..I prepared similar sabzi on Monday, added carrot and beans along. Loved it along with Rice..

    Now ur curry tempts me to try again..

  2. The potato curry looks excellent, ISG!

    I am already enjoying your 2010 blog theme.

    Talk about engineered foods -- check out this lima bean I came across at Burpee's site -- they say it was bred from an heirloom. I'd like to know what they put into it to get this result! The photo spooks me!

    lima bean

  3. Ah, broad beans, the bane of my life! Where I live, I cannot get beans with beans in them, they are all pod, and such monstrosities I get put off when I see them. If I'm at home during the time of hyacinth beans, I make the most of it - we don't get them here unless we go exploring in some far corner. And sometimes naatu tomatoes are more expensive than the Bangalore variety.

  4. Wow, delicious curry! Madteaparty recipes were seen everywhere nowadays! Love this type of curry with warm phulkas! The naatu thakkaali is stillavailable in the market but for more cost. As they can't have longer shelf life they were deprived in super markets but still available in small vegetable shops and big veggie markets. We always use them. And you are right. The broad-broad-beans are only seen nowadays :(

  5. Yes, whenever I see HUGE seeds or enormous veggie, I hesitate to buy, also find that huge Chickpeas, dry or canned gives you a stomach ache and gas. It's scary. I go for smaller sized Organic chickpeas cans if I can find them for chole.

    Gobi aloo looks yum, love the casserole pot more.

    It's 19F here, snow is coming tomorrow. Hope it melts away by Saturday or Sunday.

  6. Lavi, never mind go for it, they are tasty and good for you ;)

    Linda, I see what you bean. Like Asha said in her comment below it is a good idea to be afraid of big and heirloom in the same sentence but than again aren't heirloom tomatoes bigger than normal (what we think normal today) tomatoes? So may be not all bad. Worth an email before buying the seeds.

    Sra, I am glad you noticed them, I was thinking I was over reacting.

    Nirmala and Sra,
    That explains it, they are harder to grow because they are not a hybrid variety and shorter shelf life makes super markets not carry them. Needs a dedicated consumer and shopper!

    Asha, so true, been there done that. The chickpeas were so huge, I was scared to eat them but did anyway. I have now started looking at them carefully and preferably organic varieties.

    The pot is just a non-fancy non stick one Asha.

  7. First, your DD1 takes lovely pictures.

    Second, thanks for all the info. The hybrid and heirloom definitely sound better than GM

    I love aloo-gobi in all forms. We make it similar without the sambar powder :)

  8. yumm, I love sookhi aloo gobhi as well .. very tempting

  9. Delicous looking curry.
    I do try to buy oraganic but not all my veg and fruits, you know they just cost more .........but i still try and also go to the farmers market .

  10. You go, girl!! Keep on writing. I love reading your posts.

    You know my views on this, so I won't waste much space. Here's to a better living! May this new yr bring you joy, good health and ore happiness than our heart could hold.

    I've seen naatu thakkali - the sour ones even during this recent India trip. ridged tomatoes - I've never seen, nor heard.

  11. Thats of real concern Indo. I completely agrre with you. this year only i realised this problem while visiting my native place. I used to love one variety of rice which is no longer available these days. farmers due to more profit has moved to other high yielding varieties. but I really dont understand this idea of organic chicken and fishes. in this world with high pollutants is that really possible.
    love this alu gobi. Gobi is fav with me. its a must dish atleast once a week. would make this one sometime.

  12. Sukhi bhaaji looks great, indo!

    GMOs scare me a lot too and at a point I read a lot of books trying to understand what should and should not be eaten. It is a sad state that we have to really think hard about what we should eat :) GMOs kill natural diversity and makes crop susceptible to single-variety attacks and the worst of all are these world of gene patents laws which make the life of a farmer not using GMOs just that much more difficult. Anyways, enough of my blabber now; I can go on and on on this topic :)

  13. Very interesting topic. Just a few weeks ago DH read about this in Omnivorous Dilemma and went onto the explain the perils of these genetically modified seeds in the long run. I am yet to read the book, but that is on my to-read list.

    To me anything with potato, cauliflower shouts comfort food.

  14. Looks Yummy ISG, aloo gobi is all time favorite with rotis.

    We grow our own veggies in our little garden, but it scares me to shop at places I dont know. Farmer's market is a good choice, and so is whole foods but its a bit expensive and we are the bargain queens no?

    I have started soaking my veggies(store bought) now a days u know.

    Once saw a girl with a paris hilton style puppy in her handbag and as she was shopping, the pooch was licking the veggies :(

  15. Sandeepa, cross my heart, these are my pictures. DD was at school that day :)

    RC, I have the book and yes every foodie should read it.

    Sayantani, we would be left with a handful varieties of each fruit and vegetable and it might be too late. Chicken I guess can be organic depending on what is fed and how it is raised, organic and free roaming and cage free, the vocabulary is head spinning. Fish especially wild fish where pretty much nothing can be controlled I guess cannot be organic. Farm raised is another story altogether.

    HC, yes organic whenever possible :)

    Kay, thanks for encouragement. I love the sound of that endorsement. Those nattu thakkalis are still available but one has to look, what I meant by the ridges was the curvings the tomato has, as opposed to a smooth surface.

    PJ, certainly sad state of affairs. I eliminate a lot of vegetables and then the lack of diversity(there that word again) bothers me and I go and buy them :( I saw the trailers and the interview with the director on PBS for Food,Inc. I should go and buy/rent it and watch it soon.

    Sowjanya, yes soaking is a good thing. my mom says she soaks everything with salt for atleast half hour before cooking. I follow the same especially for fruits and vegetables we eat with the skin.

    Shri, Deesha thanks. give it a try.

  16. hey
    i am new to ur blog and luv ur aloo cauliflower recipe.
    i am sure going to try ur rec, very innovative. in fact recently i made plain cauliflower with meat and was wondering how shall i use the leftover uncooked cauliflower.
    now i have ur perfect recipe.
    also nice info on hybrid plants. i also never use roma tomatoes in usa, it is very sweet no pulp at all and takes long time to get cooked .

    also i am glad u liked my doodh ka sharbat recipe on
    take care


  17. Informative post and the sukhi subzi i often make it. Looks so good.

  18. My apologies :-) I have too much faith on DD1 ;-)

  19. u are right abt the naatu tomatoes .. they are much sourer and u need less to get the tomatoey taste. The more u find out abt all the Frankenstein veggies, the less u feel like eating them.

  20. Nice thought provoking post :-D as always.

    Made aloo gobi a couple of days back. did not add peas this time. This is an all time favorite in our house, everyone eats this very happily.

  21. The other day I met an agri scientist from the opposite side - from the GM supporting side. He patiently tried to tell me that in India we must first worry about feeding everyone in the short term. But, I wonder what the long-term impacts of GM food might be. We will never know till too late! The other scary thing is that science seems to always be backtracking so I wonder where all this confidence in GM comes from!

  22. Yep, yep ... - you are so right about the engineered variety being tasteless; When I moved to the US, I found the vegetables available in supermarkets absolutely lacking, so I am really looking forward to when I can grow vegetables.

    Anita's aloo-gobi is a favorite around my house too. I am going to try your version too ... love the close-up photo, Indo .. very tempting and delicious!

  23. Happy new year indo. That bhaji is delicious and what a thought provoking post - hope to get more info as u continue to explore

  24. yes ISG, Pal payasam, even I couldn't believe it, they add eggs but we dont. I have kept 14 idlis for occasions..too much work to scoop'em out..

  25. The curry looks very tempting, Indo.

  26. Hi.I guess am first time here.
    While reading your post I realised so many of the desi versions are not seen these days. I remember in my childhood every house would have a pink and red desi rose which are not seen any more.
    The taste the desi tomatoes impart to the dishes, the Roma tomatoes or the hybrid versions never.
    If I compare today's cauliflower and my childhood cauliflower there's surely a huge difference in the taste. Earlier a simple sauted veggie used to taste so good. Old is gold they say, but now only the memories are left.
    I have a humble blog
    will truly love if you could drop by.
    I am surely gonna visit u, will love following u.
    And yes even I hesitate to ask, but do realise you learn a lot when you question.

  27. This dish looks so inviting!!

  28. Lovely recipe! I wanted to respond to the comment about Burpee's Big Mamma Lima Beans. I am a farmer and work on an organic vegetable farm. I am very opposed to genetic modification of any sort and want to clarify that there is a great difference between breeding plants over time and engineering them (it seems hybridization is already understood here).

    Breeding over time means carefully selecting plants and saving seed over seasons for desired traits, such as size, flavor, suitability to climate, etc. This is what farmers (and later seed companies) have been doing over the long history of agriculture, in fact, how agriculture was developed through the domestication of wild plants. It is, in fact, what Burpee did with the lima bean that your reader was so alarmed by.

    From Mother Earth News:

    "Burpee’s interest in heirlooms dates back to 1876, when founder W. Atlee Burpee collected hundreds of variety samples from his customers. The current Burpee president, George Ball Jr., is fascinated by heirlooms, too, especially those originally bred by Burpee. A few years ago, Ball located a New Jersey farmer growing a lima bean once known as ‘Burpee’s Big 6-Pole Lima’ — a remarkably large-podded variety bearing nickel-size beans that have the taste and texture of baby limas. After several seasons of quality selection at the company’s Fordhook Farm in Pennsylvania, this vigorous variety has been re-released this year as ‘Big Mama.’" (Issue #215, April/May 2006, "Improving Heirloom Varieties" by Barbara Pleasant)

    These beans actually remind me of the Judiones de la Granja that are grown in Spain outside of Segovia and that I have grown in my garden myself. The also cook up to teaspoon sizes. I hope this rests your readers' minds. Happy cooking and gardening to all!

  29. Thanks Rebeca, for the detailed information. I will pass this on to my reader. I would love to visit your organic garden.

  30. I never thought this combo could be so great without onions or tomatoes! Thank you for the wonderful recipe. And I even received compliments for how nicely cooked the potatoes were in spite of being solid and un-mashed.


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