Saturday, October 23, 2010

Potato of Color: Ratala Kees

Sweet potatoes are quite a misunderstood species of vegetable. Life is tough for a vegetable of color, especially when it is distantly related the world's most popular 'vegetable'. The 'sweet' in the name made me approach it cautiously, but I am glad that years ago, I gave this tuber a shot on my dinner table. The mild sweetness of the complex sugars melds beautifully in any spicy preparation. The orange hue is an eye pleaser, quite literally and figuratively. That beta-carotene will keep your eyesight sharp even in inevitable old-age. Like any misunderstood human being, the sweet potato has a tough exterior that is hard to penetrate. Just the sheer number of times I have cut open my fingers with my knife skills trying to create beautiful, even bite size chunks of the sweet p' ought to have scarred me for life. But, with the correct tool anything is possible. For me, cutting raw sweet potatoes without a mandolin slicer or a box grater is equivalent to a kitchen blood bath. Fortunately, using those very tools automatically cuts down on cooking time drastically. Baking, boiling, the sweet potato before using in a recipe works quite well too. If you thought the potato was ubiquitous, let me introduce you to his sweeter cousin. He can do anything the potato can do -- only better. Bake it, broil it, braise it, steam it, saute it, mash it, or fry it if you must. Whatever you do be sure to season well with salt and a touch of chili spice. Let the complex carbs keep you going and going... even when you don't feel like it.

Try this super-simple preparation; Ratala Kees (Grated Sweet Potato) regional to the Indian state of Maharashtra, and chronicled at Nupur's steaming hot stove. This is exactly the sort of stuff that you will not find at Indian restaurants. The recipe is pretty much verbatim from aforementioned source, replicated only for my records.

Ratala Kees (Grated Sweet Potato Curry)

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 fresh curry leaves
2-3 (or more) dried red chilies

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. When hot add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and dried red chilies. Cook for about 30 seconds.

2 sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and coarsely grated
salt to taste (about 1/2 tspns)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder (optional)

Add the sweet potato, salt and cayenne pepper. Mix well, and cover and cook for 4-5 mins till tender.

2 tbsp crushed, roasted peanuts Add the peanuts and combine well.

1 tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp chopped cilantro

Turn off the heat, combine lemon juice and top off with cilantro

Make this a complete everyday Indian meal, paired with some rotis and a cup of yogurt on the side.