Dum Aloo is a spicy potato curry from Kashmir, one of the world's most naturally beautiful but also extremely turbulent regions. This recipe is usually made with yogurt, but for my vegan version I use a delicious combination of coconut milk and lemon juice with traditional spices. A vegan, gluten-free, soy-free recipe.
Before it exploded with violence in the 1980s, Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, was known for being a paradise on earth. This valley nestled in the gorgeous Himalayas was a popular haunt for honeymooners and tourists local and foreign, and a backdrop for many of Bollywood's extravagant movies. There was a time when, it seemed, no Hindi movie could be made without at least a duet by the heroine and the hero, in matching bouffant hairdos, cavorting around on Kashmir's snowy slopes.
Not surprising, because this is truly a magnificent land, with a beauty that ranges from the stately, awe-inspiring, almost forbidding gray slopes of Leh dotted with brilliant blue-green lakes, to the verdant, softer beauty of Srinagar, a city that sits on the glossy Dal lake.
Unfortunately, today it is extremely unsafe for tourists to travel to this strife-smothered land, with the exception of places like Leh bordering Tibet. But there's another gift from Kashmir you can still enjoy, within the safety of your home: its rich, luxurious, slow-cooked cuisine.
Typically, Kashmiri cuisine tends to be heavy on meat. But the Kashmiri Dum Aloo I have for you today is one of the few delightfully vegetarian dishes this region is known for.
In its traditional form, Dum Aloo is not suitable for vegans, because it includes cream or yogurt, or sometimes both.
For my vegan Kashmiri Dum Aloo, I replace the yogurt with coconut milk and lemon juice. The creaminess of the coconut milk is perfect with the texture of the potatoes, which turn spongy when cooked and soak up all those delicious spices.
To achieve the perfect texture, the potatoes are usually deep-fried first. I take a healthier shortcut: I marinate the potatoes in some simple spices and roast them in the oven, in their jackets. The baking cooks them and gives the potato skins a crunchy texture, which emulates the deep-frying without the fat, and works beautifully in the final dish.
The sauce is perfection itself: creamy and luscious. You might find yourself licking the ladle often as you cook. But save some, because Dum Aloo is delicious with poori, fried Indian breads, or roti, or this 20-minute Dill Turmeric Pilaf with Pistachios.
Kashmiri Dum Aloo
- 20-25 baby potatoes (If you can't find these, use the smallest potatoes you can find, and halve or quarter them. Then follow the rest of the recipe instructions). If using whole baby potatoes, poke them all over with a fork.
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, or use paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups canned or freshly extracted coconut milk
- 2 tbsp chopped mint or coriander for garnish
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Grind together the masala ingredients with enough water to make a thick paste. Set aside.
- Mix the oil, chili powder, turmeric, and salt to taste and toss the potatoes in the mixture. Place in a 400-degree oven and roast 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. (Pierce with a fork to test).
- In a saucepan, bring the ground paste to a boil, adding more water or vegetable stock if it's too thick. Then add half the coconut milk and the baked potatoes.
- Once the sauce starts to bubble, turn the heat to the lowest setting and place a tight-fitting lid over the saucepan. Let cook 20 minutes. Add some water or vegetable stock if the sauce dries up.
- Add the remaining coconut milk, more salt if needed, and the mint/coriander leaves and lemon juice. Stir well and turn off the heat.
- Serve hot with pooris or rotis or rice.