For someone who has grown up in Mumbai, the act of buying vegetables and other produce in a closed-door, artificial environment is well, not exactly fun. I want to feel the vegetables, look for any marks on the cauliflowers, smell the herbs and above all, be able to chat with the vendor or, if one is lucky, the farmer who actually grew the produce. When I moved to California, after several years in Scotland, I was introduced to the Farmer's Market on UCLA's busy campus. I was hooked. Cooking Indian cuisine with fresh produce feels right and the process of cleaning, pealing and chopping the vegetables makes it a very personal experience. While I had tasted leeks in an entrée in Edinburgh, the dish was distinctly not Indian but what I soon came to realize, the very popular 'Baked Leeks with Potatoes'. The mild taste of the leeks stayed with me and I was thrilled to see some fresh ones in the local farmer's market a couple of months ago. I decided to try them in an Indian curry (a.k.a. sabzi in 'Hindi'). I contemplated what spices would go with my ingredients of choice: the leeks of course, potatoes and peas. I came up with a recipe that tingled my taste buds just right. Pair up the curry with fresh 'Phulkas' and some dal and you have a healthy meal that will satisfy a hungry stomach like nothing else! So here is the recipe for the sabzi. Enjoy!Leek and potato sabzi:
Three leeks - Washed, cleaned and sliced.Five medium-sized Potatoes - Washed, peeled and chopped into 1/2'' pieces.
Green peas - 1 cup, boiled and part cooked (the peas will start wrinkling at this point).
Grated fresh ginger - 1/2 teaspoon.
Grated fresh garlic - 1/2 teaspoon.Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric - 1/2 teaspoon.
Everest sabzi masala - 1/2 teaspoon (get this in any Indian grocery store).
Jagger or golden brown sugar - 1/2 teaspoon.Salt to taste and some water.
In a saucepan, take 2 tablespoons of canola oil and heat the oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the oil when it is hot. At this point when added, the seeds will brown and sputter. Traditionally, this step of adding whole spices to hot oil while cooking is often referred to as 'tadka' in Hindi, or 'phodni' in Marathi, the language I speak in Mumbai and is local to the state of Maharashtra. Once the seeds start to crackle, add the sliced leeks and saute them until they turn translucent, with the flame on medium to low heat. Now is the time to add the ginger paste, garlic paste and turmeric to the sauce pan. At once, you will get an earthy aroma with the leeks getting coated with a nice orange hue. Saute some more, say for about 1 minute and add the chopped potatoes. Saute for another two minutes and the part boiled peas. Stir all the ingredients thoroughly. Now, add some water to the sauce pan, I would say about a 1/4 cup and cover with a lid. Let the potatoes cook until just right. We do not want to lose the vegetable shapes to a liquid mush. Hence it is necessary to use as little water as possible. Once a fork can easily insert into the potato pieces, remove the lid, and turn the heat to a low setting. Add the sabzi masala, salt and sugar. Stir well and serve piping hot with the Phulkas.