Tandoori Pesto Potatoes

tandoori pesto potatoes

My first introduction to 'tandoori aloo' was not with an aloo exactly made in a tandoor. It was made in the most rustic manner possible and I still love that more than the ones we have now. When I was pretty young - about 8yrs. - one of my Father's friend who owned a huge farm house had invited us over. My cousins were visiting us and we were about six of us (I think). We were picked up in the morning and taken for a tour over the place, and I remember how much we enjoyed looking at the cows being scrubbed and bathed, the hens clucking in their large pens, the huge boulder sized cauliflowers adorning one stretch, and the tendrils from the bean vines that reminded me then of knotted telephone cords, and now of curls on the sides! Uncle had obviously nurtured the farm with love and care which reflected in the spacious barns, and the cattle shed - those days cow rearing was still not an industry or a factory! Animals in tabelas were taken care of well, and I have seen that it is so even now in some places and that really makes me feel good!

We were bushed after seeing only half the place as the farm was a big one. When we neared the lawn all of us just flopped down longingly on the soothing green grass which was so much more inviting than chairs! We had seen a huge pile of 'just dug out' baby potatoes stacked in one barn but little did we know that it was to be our energizer along with lassi! When two of the helpers arrived with vessels (not plates) piled with smoked baby potatoes, and two generous bowls of green chutney I remember that someone among us even commented - "Will this be good? Do you think we will be full with this?" I am sure that person had to eat his/her words that day! We gulped them down quickly and then followed it up with one or two more such stacks!! That is what good weather, good surroundings, nature and tandoori aloo can do - whet your appetite!

How did they make it? (Fire roasted) - Since we loved the smoked potatoes so much, my mother used to replicate this dish very often when potatoes were picked. We too started storing a pile which was used almost every day to make this delicacy. So easy too! In those days geysers were still a luxury and every bungalow had an outhouse. The outhouse had a place for boilers heated with coal. It was winter and very cold (In the North the temp. would dip to 2deg.), and the boilers would be fired early in the morning to heat water for bathing. Our helper, Ramkumar would add a lot of baby potatoes to the coal when the heating was done, and the embers would still be hot. He would let them cook there and go black and loosen from the skin - about half an hour, sometimes lesser as we kids would pester him till he removed them. The fun part was blowing at the potatoes, trying to remove the charred skin while they were still hot and having them with a sharp hara chutney!! Nothing can beat the smoky flavor - I cannot replicate this in my house, as we do not have a barbecue or tandoor but why deprive ourselves of the delicacy. I have tandoori dishes quite often but grilled in the oven, and this is healthy as well as tasty!

Continuing from where I left in my last post, I had used the same pesto recipe to try out this version of tandoori pesto potatoes. One look at the creamy pesto, and one lick told me it was just the right substitute for yogurt/dahi that acts as the marinade for anything tandoori. I just needed to adjust the seasoning a bit by adding:
generous amounts of (about 1 lime) lime juice
amchoor (about 1/4tsp. mango powder or chaat masala)
1/2 tsp. white pepper powder or black pepper coarsely crushed
a tsp. of carotino (or any other) oil and
1/2 tsp. of red chilli powder and a pinch of turmeric (optional), but gives a very Indian feel.

tandoori pesto potatoes

Ingredients for tandoori pesto potatoes:
200g - small baby potatoes (preferably new ones)
pesto as adjusted according to taste and method above - 1 cup
Oil (I used carotino)
Toasted pine nuts (chilgoze) - 1 tbsp.
Thin onion rings - A few for garnishing
red chilli flakes - to taste
A sprinkling of dry oregano
A tsp. of roasted sesame seeds

If I have enough time, I peel the baby potatoes, prick all over with a fork and boil in salted water till half done. As I had returned late from office I used my shortcut method - Boil the baby potatoes till tender. Peel and prick all over with a fork carefully without breaking (I prick twice on opposite sides).

Now mix the potatoes with the marinade well. There should be enough marinade to coat the potatoes generously. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your liking. Add a tsp. of oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. I did not plan this otherwise I would have done the first two steps the previous evening and let it refrigerate for 24hrs, as this really allows the marinade to impregnate the potatoes.

Next day or after an hour (depending on the method you adopted) pre-heat your oven for ten minutes. Cover a baking tray with aluminium foil and grease with a tsp. of oil. Place the potatoes separately (they won't spread but if they are bunched the coating will not grill properly) and grill till the marinade is absorbed and the potatoes are dry. Do not let them shrivel and burn! This should not take more than five minutes but keep checking as different ovens react differently.

Updated (02.12.08) - Grilled at the highest oven temperature.

Optional: I had skewered the potatoes in toothpicks (three in one).

While serving I removed them from the skewers and tossed with a tsp. of oil (looks too dry otherwise), toasted pine nuts, roasted sesame seeds, a light sprinkling of dried oregano and onion rings.

These make great starters, and also a good evening snack. They are high on health as there is hardly any fat (unless you have added more), and are grilled.

Just keep an open mind and do not tell your guests that it is vegan - once you let that out there will be one or two who will say that it is not like the real thing simply because their minds have decided that already!! One needs to be non-biased to like certain things:)

Another thing: HAVE IT HOT!! I took this to office and it was not at all good when it turned cold:( - the flavors seemed to have gone!!

tandoori pesto potatoes

This is my last entry to FIC-Yellow!

Last time I had asked you how the boars escaped in Asterix and the Black Gold (here): They enter the Roman camp! If you are an A and O person (or not), you know how the Romans hated that small Gaulish village - the only one that they failed to capture, and you know how the Gauls hate the Romans - the boars are forgotten!!


Words & their meanings (just in case you're new to them)
Tandoor - A large clay pot lined with coal at the bottom. The coals are heated to provide dry heat. Tandoori cooking is healthy as it does not require oil. Generally the food is marinated in a tangy/spicy creamy marinade made of yogurt or lime or tofu (as above), and skewered on iron rods and placed inside the pot. The cooking is quick, and the outer layer becomes crisp while the inner layers remain juicy. Coal adds a high degree of heat, and a 'cave man' flavor to the food which is sorely missed when we replicate these dishes in our electric grills. You can achieve the same flavor by using small indoor barbecues but it is a compromise and not the real thing!

Aloo (Hindi) - Potatoes

Tabela (Hindi) - A stable or cattle shed. Tabela generally refers to many animals kept in the same barn or shed with or without individual compartments. It is used for large scale reference, but here I mean few cows - about 5 to 10!

Lassi - Thick sweet yogurt drink topped with cream and nuts generally taken after lunch.

Hara chutney - Same as pudina chutney - see it here.

If the marinade is excess try the tandoori gobi - It involves a bit of preparation but totally worth it!

If you liked this, you may like the peanut butter twist to regular tandoori potatoes too!

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