Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mashed Potatoes, with Oriya Flair

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine has come up with an event that is close to my heart: Regional Cuisines of India or RCI. Each month, bloggers come together and cook up specialties of one region or state of India. This month, the RCI event is being hosted by Swapna of Swad. The name of Swapna's blog means "flavor" and the flavor of this month is Orissa Cuisine!

For me, a large part of the experience of being an Indian is the humbling realization that it will take considerably more than one lifetime to know even the basic history, geography, culture and food of my land. I was reminded of this when the theme of Oriya (from Orissa) cuisine was announced. Apart from knowing Orissa as a state in the East of India, and a vague awareness of its landmarks such as the Sun Temple at Konark and Jagannath Temple at Puri, I am blissfully unaware of the cuisine and culture of this state.

What should I make for RCI: Orissa? Madhur Jaffrey came to the rescue (as she often does in my kitchen). Her wonderful cookbook World Vegetarian, contains a little section on basic mashed potatoes, and some really clever ways to spice them up and turn their creamy goodness into one of several kicked-up avatars. The use of mustard oil and mustard seed paste is a hallmark of the cuisine of Orissa, and one of Jaffrey's suggestions is to spike mashed potatoes with this piquant spice.

Because this dish is a simple side-dish, I chose to cook the potatoes in a jiffy using the microwave. Of course, one could cook them in a pressure cooker or simply on the stove. Mustard oil is an unfamiliar ingredient for me, and I don't stock it in my pantry, so I took Jaffrey's suggestion of substituting it with extra-virgin olive oil. Once I had made these mashed potatoes, I remembered a Bengali acquaintance making a similar dish one afternoon for lunch many years ago. She shaped the mashed potatoes into little balls and tucked them into a corner of each plate. It was a cute presentation, and because Bengal and Orissa share some culinary traditions (they are neighbors, after all), I chose to shape these potatoes the same way.

Mashed Potatoes, Oriya Style

(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, serves 2-3)mashP2
2 medium potatoes (I used red-skinned)
1 heaped t mustard seeds
1 hot green chilli
1 T mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil (I used olive oil)
salt to taste
1. Wash the potatoes well. Pierce each potato 8-10 times with a fork (to vent steam while cooking and prevent the potato from exploding)!
2. Place the potatoes on a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 2 mins and 30 seconds. Let them sit for 1-2 minutes, then turn over and microwave again for 2 minutes.
3. As the potatoes are cooking, crush the mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle to a powder. Mince the chilli and add it to the mustard powder. Add the oil to the mixture and let it steep while the potatoes cook and cool down.
4. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (but still warm), peel them (you can leave the peels on if desired). Mash them, then sprinkle with salt and the mustard mixture.
5. Mix well and shape into 6-8 little balls. Serve at room temperature.

We loved this simple side-dish, with the soft creamy potatoes, the warm flavors and gentle heat from the chillies and the mustard, not to mention the dash of color added by the brown and golden flecks of mustard. V remarked that this dish tasted like "mashed potatoes on steroids", which pretty much sums it up! I don't know if this dish is authentic enough to be part of a traditional Oriya meal, but I think it makes for a very favorful side-dish to any meal. You can put it together in a matter of minutes, with basic pantry ingredients, and serve these spicy little balls as an unusual accompaniment to a simple dal-chawal supper.

For a beautiful array of traditional and modern Oriya dishes, check out Swapna's neatly categorized round-up


  1. mashed potato balls? wow! i am so amazed by the variety of dishes in orissa. that too, so unique!

    thank u so much for dropping by, Nupur :)

  2. Wow Nupur those potato balls look so yummy and the recipe looks quite easy to

  3. I love the notion that we can life a lifetime and never really know the full depth of the culture and cuisine of India -- or maybe even of the US, too, though our culture is so much younger.

  4. Yum... I thought mashed potatoes would be boring (Ok, I was a complete ignoramus!) until my husband made it for me... and kept coming up with variations. I'm going to make this one for him, for a change! :)

  5. Wow that looks yummy and is so fast too...and totally new way of cooking mashed potatoes this fall! lovely pics...

  6. wow.. a quick yummy dish..
    nice entry..

  7. Shaping the mashed potato is a nice variation - gives it a snacky feeling - they are droolworthy!

  8. Mashed potatoes on steroids? Thats funny!

  9. The crushed mustard gave it a wonderful 'kick', didn't it?
    The potatoes looks delicious.

  10. Hey Nupur,

    thats a simple and flavorful dish :). and i have had mashes potatoes in an Oriya tiffin, so i guess it must be traditional enough. i like V's comment ;).

  11. Hehehe...Mashed potatoes on steroids!!
    looks nice! I have never had mashed potatoes, this looks like a good way to start!

  12. Raw mustard seeds imparts such a unique kick! A very popular Karnataka dish made with raw mustard seeds is "Kaai-Sasve Anna" which is "Coconut-Raw Mustard Seed Rice". There is an idea for RCI Karnataka ;)

    Those little globes of mashed potato look delicious!

  13. Nupur,

    Hey excellent combo of mashed potatos and mustard, I have never used mustard oil ever before.
    Thanks for the recipe
    Mashed pototo on steroids lol :)

  14. Hi Nupur,
    Simple and tasty potatoes. Nice entry for RCI.

  15. what a simple but flavorful dish, it's a winner! gimme' alu anytime :) i do like split rai in my raita.

  16. I make a spicy mashed potato too and call it potato choka but I am definitely going to try yours with the mustard oil and mustard seeds. Thanks, Nupur!

  17. Thats funny what V said! Pictures make it look real good :-)

  18. Nags, true, we are learning a lot about Oriya cuisine this month.

    Madhuli, it was really easy, try it out :)

    Lydia, so true. Isn't it nice that we get at least small glimpses of cultures and cuisines through the food blogs?

    Shammi, I'm sure he will love it! Would love to know the variations your husband comes up with :)

    Padma, yes, that is true, this dish would totally fit into fall dinners- comforting and yet spicy.

    Arts, thanks :)

    Sra, that's very true: the little balls are great to sneak in as snacks! They are quite addictive :)

    Jyotsna, I burst out laughing when he said that :)

    TC, it really did; even without mustard oil, the mustardy taste came through very well!

    Musical, oh really? An Oriya tiffin sounds like a treat!

    Manasi, I think you will love mashed potatoes. They are creamy and comforting!

    Roopa, wow, the mustard seed rice sounds awesome! I realize I don't really use raw mustard seeds as much as I could...they have such a terrific flavor.

    Sreelu, I have never used mustard oil before either! I'm OK with using olive oil in this recipe :) I don't think it is very practical to go buy a whole container of oil that I will use so infrequently.

    Madhu, thanks!

    Richa, me too! alu-lovers, we are! I *love* the idea of split rai in raita. I sometimes make a tadka but adding some raw crushed rai is an awesome idea! Thanks, Richa!

    Cynthia, let me know if you like it :) Potato choka sounds delicious!

    Latha, thanks!

  19. What a simple dish! I am learning a lot of new things in my post-blog life. Oriya Cuisine is completely new to me but thanks to RCI, there are so many dishes that I am learning about.
    I love the first pic. I plan to make this soon. Only prob is I don't have mustard oil. I don't want to buy some just for this one. I will give it a shot with my regular oil.

  20. TBC, I would suggest using extra-vrigin olive oil or even sesame oil (the Indian untoasted kind), instead of cooking oil, because the oil in this recipe is not cooked. Just a suggestion. Since you live in the US, olive oil should be very accessible (and in my opinion, very versatile, so good to have in the kitchen anyway).

  21. Loved to see our good old Alu Seddho here :) Mustard oil is best for this, olive oil doesn't come close

  22. these potato balls look so neat...

  23. Nupur, if u plan on making the raita, u might want to try with banana & kakdi (both separate ofcourse!) they both taste awesome imo, it's a gujju delicacy as far as i know :)

  24. I always have EVOO for cooking Italian dishes.I'll use that then.Thanks, Nupur.

  25. what a great idea Nupur - I love the presentation too! I guess the idea behind using the mortar and pestle is to have sort of an uneven texture? I'm asking because I don't have one and would have to get by with my spice (aka coffee) grinder. I'm thinking I could grind part of the mustard seed coarsely and part of it more finely.

  26. The mustard must be giving a nice zing to the potatoes.The balls are looking really cute. Simple and nice recipe :)

  27. Lovely... I have bookmarked a peas dish for the event... lets hops I make it... I have every intention of :-)

    How're you doing? Good to note you're on DT now. Miss your events girl.

  28. Sandeepa, oh, is that the name: alu seddho? Thanks for pointing that out! I know, I know, mustard oil would be the best by far, but I did not have any, and it did taste good enough to my uneducated taste buds :)

    Bhags, thaks :)

    Richa, banana raita would be totally new for me, and kakdi I know I would love! I have seen in some Maharashtrian households, when they make a mixed koshimbir, they mash in a small ripe banana into a huge bowl of koshimbir to add that little bit of sweetness.

    TBC, yes, while not authentic, EVOO worked for me (and is suggested in the book as well) :)

    Cathy, a spice grinder would work just fine! In fact that is what the book recommends (my bad for not mentioning it in the post). Yes, I think the texture of coarsely ground mustard seeds looks and tastes better, but that may just be an individual preference :) The reason I used a mortar and pestle really was just because I did not want to have to clean out the grinder for such a small amount of seeds.

    Archana, "zing" is exactly right!

    Raaga, I hope you do get a chance to make the peas recipe ( is it the famous ghughuni?)
    I'm doing great. Busy :)

  29. Hi nupur,
    Boiled rice is parboiled rice. In india we ask for Idli or dosa rice,the grocer understands. You will get in Indian stores abroad as many of my friends there use them.
    This recipe never fails as I have given exact amount of water also.
    Try and let me know.
    Your potato balls are simple but very tempting!

  30. Hey Nupur,
    I was in the St.Louis airport for 2 hrs last evening and soo wanted to get in touch with you. I could not get online from inside the terminal :( I was on my way back from Quincy,IL after an interview there.

  31. Nupur,your blog is great..lovely recipes and lovely pics as well

  32. Nupur, the potato balls look so cute and so delicious.
    There is an award waiting for you at my blog. Congratulations :)

  33. Thats quite a simple yet unique recipe Nupur... must have tasted amazing

  34. Hi Nupur,
    It has been some time since I started reading your blogs. I too love to cook (but cannot write for nuts)and also am a Graduate student like you were. i would like to thank you for all the amazing recipes that you have posted. I keep trying different ones each weekend. this mashed potatoes one sounds yummy. will try it out soon.

  35. Nupur, all I can say is --

    Please invite me next time you make these... they are sooooo inviting! :)

  36. Same boat as you- apart from knowing that there's a state called Orissa and the famous temples, my knowledge is zilch about Oriyan food & culture. Thanks to the RCI event, I know more about Orissa now than I ever did before. :)
    The mashed potatoes on steroids looks absolutely delicious!

  37. that is a cute way to present..

  38. Mashed potatoes on steroids!! That was a good one...

    Simple dishes sometime make so much of a diff to your meal..and this is one of them. :)

  39. Latha, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my query! I will get some parboiled rice and try your recipe soon.

    Priya, oh no :( I so wish you had let me know...I would have given you my phone numbers!! It would have been great to meet you, Priya! Please fly thro' again, or better yet, come and visit :)

    Timepass, thank you so much!

    Mandira, thank you, my dear!!!

    Priyanka, I was really happy with how tasty it was! Sometimes the simple things in life are the very best, right?

    Anjali, nice to meet you! Thank you so much for the feedback, I appreciate it very much. I do hope you try this simple will not disappoint. And good luck with your graduate studies!!

    Linda, you know you have a standing invitation! But until you can get here, these can be made in minutes in your amazing kitchen!

    Vani, RCI really is a wonderful learning experience!

    Rajitha, thanks :)

    Prajakta, very simple indeed!

    Coffee, yes, this is a good dish for those times when your have not gone shopping for a while and have no other veggies on hand :)

  40. Hi I am Sachin a chef from India.

    This recipe is very nice, pls try a new version (Bihari indeed), its called "Aloo ka Chokha".
    To the soft boiled potatoes which are mashed (or grated if you wish, though hand mashed which gives little lumps of potatoes while eating is great), add salt, mustard oil (lot of it), Chopped green chillies (with or without seeds), chopped fresh coriander leaves, chopped ginger, lemon juice and roasted and pounded cumin seeds. This recipe is very exciting version to accompany Dal and rice at all times. Mustard oil adds the zing and pungency very much needed for this dish.

  41. waaw the pic is so tempting and the recipe is so simple. I have gone through some of Madhur Jaffrey's books. dont have this one at my library.

  42. Sachin, thanks so much for sharing that recipe. It sounds perfectly delicious!

    Sharmi, oh, I'm sad that they don't have this wonderful book at your library! Next time you get a chance to browse in a bookstore, I am sure you will find it (it is widely available unlike some of her earlier books which are out of print).

  43. hallo!!!
    when i was in orissa I fall in love with these potato ball!! maybe the recipe was different, but they were super!!!!

    do you have any more recipes like this??

    Just by chance I found this blog: itßs super!!!!

  44. This one sounds interesting, gonna try it.. though am still stuck on ur other recipes in my bookmarked list.. by the way have u ever tried the peppercorn sauce they serve with mashed potato in Olive garden? It was heavenly.. I was looking for its recipe but cudn't find a simple one :( .. anyways have a gud long weekend !

  45. Vilasini, thanks for stopping by. If you are asking if I have more recipes from Orissa, then no, I'm sorry to say that I don't. The only ones I know of are on the internet. The food bloggers are currently all making Oriya cuisine, so please check other food blogs.

    Abhi, the peppercorn sauce sounds interesting, but no, I have never eaten at Olive Garden so I have no idea what it is like.
    You have a wonderful long weekend too!

  46. hi nupur,, i really enjoy your articles before the recipes.. you are very funny,, keeps me smiling till i reach your actual recipes and your creation of A to Z recipe collection is one of a kind, tried few of them with good results.. thank you,, take care

  47. Hey Nupur,
    I am a first timer to your blog and I am impressed with the presentation and orderliness of your blog. And you do have great recipes, as I realize after trying out your pav bhaji recipe. It turned out to my favor(and to rave reviews) and I made sure I credited you for it.
    I am an oriya girl and grew up having aloo bharta (or aloo chatni as they call it in some parts of orissa). Your mashed potatoes recipe misses out on the differentiating ingredients of oriya cuisine. its usually a combo of boiled potatoes, chopped onions, green chillies(or red), mustard oil(anything else and its not the same thing), salt and finally something that we call as vadi/badi(pronounced as 'badi' as in hindi for big/elder). and then you can always add in cilantro leaves.
    i love oriya cuisine for its strong flavors and simple ingredients. its definitely worth a try.
    have a great new year ahead. :)

  48. Hi, I agree with Spartan-Spirit. Anything substituting mustard oil and its the same thing. I am am oriya girl and I cook a lot of this stuff. Mustard-oil is a hard find here in UK. But what I do to get as close to the taste as i can is cook using a normal milder vegetable oil like sunflower oil(not EV olive oil) and then in the mash add a good amount of mustard paste(spread) in the same amount as the oil. Nothing substitutes badi that i get from India. But there is something that can be done. I keep this pre-prepared. Get one cup of Urad dal,add dry red chilli, dry curry leave and some whole black pepper . Fry it in hot oil for 15-30 Secs or until it starts turning gold in low heat. Than take it off the pan, let it cool and then grind it to a coarse powder. Than add it to garnish when you serve the potatoes. This was how I did it when I was surviving without the ingredients when I first came here. And that's the closest i came to emulating the taste of the real thing. Hope this helps.


Thanks for leaving a comment- I try to respond to every single one.