Indian food -- the aromatic spices, the color, the bold flavors. Love it. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat (good thing for raita and mango lassis to soothe my burning tongue). But, when I tasted this Spicy Mash for the first time, it was so delicious I couldn't stop eating it. Tears were starting to stream down my face, but my hand just kept bringing forkful after forkful to my mouth. It hurt so good.
This brilliant recipe is all thanks to my lovely friend, Fatema. I was super excited when she offered to come over one night to teach us some Indian home-cooking. I've experimented a bit with Indian food before, but still haven't been able really nail my favorites, like Chicken Tikka Masala (the hunt continues for the perfect recipe).
As Fatema unpacked her bag of groceries, I quickly discovered why. It's in the spices! Fatema's mum had just sent her a shipment of spices from Bangladesh via London. They knocked the socks off any of the jarred spices I had in my spice rack. I might as well be storing sawdust in my pantry.
The fragrance and potency of those Indian spices transformed this very simple dish of smashed potatoes. Raw onion and cilantro also added layers of savory, fresh, flavor. (I know, I usually hate raw onions, but it works in this. The trick is to slice them as thin as possible.)
The measurements in this adapted version of Spicy Mash are based on the potent spices I received from Fatema, so this may take a little bit of trial and error the first time you make it with the store-bought stuff (assuming you don't have a little Indian spice fairy like I do). My recommendation is to make the spice butter as directed and then add it gradually to the potatoes, tasting as you go. If more flavor is needed, you can always add more spice, but remember, you can never take out. So taste, taste, taste, as you go, until you get just the right ratio to your liking.
I also made some adaptations to Fatema's original recipe. Like I mentioned before, I can't take too much heat, so I omitted the minced green chilis she used and cut down on the amount of chili powder. I also added some ginger, grated to a pulp on a microplane, for some extra umph…and a bit of milk and cream cheese, which has always been a secret ingredient in my house when it comes to creamy mashed potatoes.
Special thanks to my little spice fairy and her spice smuggling mum! Spicy Mash is definitely going to be a new staple in my repertoire.
Serves: 4-6 as a side
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 ounce cream cheese
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of chili flakes
1. Boil potatoes about 20 minutes, or until you can pierce through them easily with a fork.
2. Mash the potatoes, adding the milk, cream cheese, ginger, and salt, and incorporating well.
3. In a saucepan, melt the butter until it starts to froth. Add the curry, turmeric, chili powder, and chili flakes. Cook the spices for a minute or so in the butter, toasting them up until they are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.
4. Add this to the mashed potatoes and mix well.
5. Stir in the onions and cilantro. Serve while warm.
Note: If you love spice and need more heat, add some finely minced green chili pepper.