Six O’Clock Solution: Spiced Sesame Potatoes from an Indian Chef’s Family Table

Asma Khan considers her book to cover “a life of cooking”.

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The home cooking of the author’s Calcutta mother is featured in a user-friendly cookbook by Asma Khan, who runs an Indian restaurant called Darjeeling Express in London’s Covent Garden district.

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Her second book is Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul (Interlake Publishing/Thomas Allen, $45). Ammu is the word that South Asian Muslims use for “mother”. Rich in stories about the food traditions of the Bengali region of eastern India, it is a collection of over 100 recipes divided into chapters that span the life of the author.

Khan sees his book as covering “a life of cooking”. She starts with comfort foods from her childhood, including this potato recipe. Then comes the basics of Indian cooking which she learned on her own when she was a student away from home in England. More elaborate recipes and festive dishes for big parties follow. Finally, it offers simpler and faster dishes for cooks in a hurry.

There are pages of suggested menus. Cooks new to Indian cuisine can start with easy modern recipes, such as spicy and crispy shredded cabbage with peanuts, green beans with fresh grated ginger or marinated chicken cubes on skewers then grilled. The generous use of spices gives the simple ingredients an Indian flair. Tales of the two culinary traditions represented by Khan’s parents – his mother a fish-loving coastal supermother, his father a lecturer at a British, landlocked university – add flavor to a book exceptional.

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Sesame Spicy Potatoes (Til Wale Aloo)

For 6 persons

1 pound (500 g/5-6) baby potatoes or fingerlings, unpeeled*

3 to 5 dried red chillies

1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil

1 teaspoon (5ml) sesame seeds

½ teaspoon (2 ml) ground turmeric

1 teaspoon (5ml) salt

*Substitute 3 to 4 medium potatoes, cut into wedges

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan of cold salted water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the potatoes start to become tender but not yet mushy.

Drain the potatoes and let cool.

Heat the oil over high heat in a saucepan, add the chiles and sesame seeds and immediately reduce the heat to low to avoid burning the seasonings.

Stir in turmeric and potatoes. Then add the salt and a little water and continue to stir. The potatoes should turn golden.

Serve hot.

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