Reema sent me this recipe for Bengali Aloo Posto ages ago (over a year back, to be precise). I had to first get some poppy seeds from India because apparently they are not available (aka banned) in Singapore. Poppy seeds are said to induce a high and generally make you sleepy if you take it in large quantities. Although this aloo posto disappoints in that regard, there's a payasam / payash they make in Karnataka that is said to have this effect, and that's next in my agenda ;)
Poppy seeds are also used in Kerala cooking, although sparingly. It is a good substitute for coconut (definitely not in flavour but in consistency) and I used to make this chicken curry with poppy seeds / khus khus that was such a hit that each time we bought chicken at home, which was rarely, I would insist on making this dish with some of it.
Soaking is necessary to get the seeds rolling. Always soak in warm water for 15-20 mins before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
Meet kalonji. It looks a lot like black sesame seeds but kalonji is actually Nigella, or black caraway or popularly known in Bengal as Kala Jeera (black jeera). I have no relationship with these seeds, mind you. I am using them for the first time in this dish and they give a nice crunch to the aloo posto. Ah, the joys of experimenting.
Bengali Aloo Posto (Potato in Poppy Seed Paste) Recipe
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2-3 tbsp khus-khus / posto / poppy seeds
1 tbsp mustard oil (I used normal cooking oil)
1 tbsp kalonji / kala jeera / nigella seeds
2 Green chillies, slit (I used 3 dry red chillies since I was out of green chillies)
1 tsp ghee
A pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
How I Made It:
1. Soak the poppy seeds in 1 cup warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain (use a tea strainer, the seeds will stick to your fingers and generally annoy you) and grind to a smooth paste. Add water by the tsp while grinding if it gets too thick.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the kalonji. Fry for about 2 mins. Then add the potatoes and cook for 5 mins, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Make sure that your flame is kept to medium.
3. Now add the poppy seed paste and the red chillies, broken into halves (or the green chillies which is what you should actually be using). Fry for 3 mins and then top off with about a cup of water and cook covered for 10-12 mins until the potatoes are cooked through.
4 .Stir in salt and sugar. The mixture should be thick and the poppy seeds paste should be sticking to the potato pieces by now.
5. Remove from fire, stir in the ghee and serve warm with rice.
The flavour was like nothing I had ever tasted. We immensely enjoyed this simple dish although next time I think I would make sure I add green chillies or maybe throw in a couple more red chillies.