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Potatoes with poppy seeds (Posto) on Sri Lankan curry leaf chutney

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

This dish is was created as an snack during evening cocktail hour. I was looking to make something that popped with flavor and would compliment almost any type of liquor. The very traditional Calcutta-style potatoes with poppy seeds, Posto, is a delicate dish with fresh flavors from the cilantro and green chilies. I do not grind all the poppy seeds, as is more traditional, as I love the crunch they have. In contrast, the Sri Lankan curry leaf chutney is intense, earthy and pops with deep flavor. The bitterness from the curry leaves are softened by the sauces and shallots. The author originally uses this sauce as a baste and sauce for grilled prawns, but I decided to repurpose it here.

Together this dish is spectacular! The gentle fresh flavor of the potatoes are brought alive with the deeply flavored and earthy curry leaf chutney. You would think that they would be contrasting, but they compliment each other very well. The wonderful texture of the crunchy poppy seeds makes this dish divine. Yamuna Devi's cookbook (more recipe here) is probably the first cookbook I bought when I moved to the US 30 years ago for my Ph.D. Over the years, I have cooked almost half the recipes, it is the cookbook that taught me technique, flavor profiles and always gave me a wonderful meal. This vegetarian cookbook is essential on any shelf, it is the bible of Indian vegetarian cuisine.

In contrast Peter Kuruvita's cookbook (more recipes here) is a more recent addition to my shelf and is true hidden gem of beautiful flavors from the South East asian islands. The recipes are tropical, fun and take us back to the beaches and sea. A wonderful cookbook from a master chef that explores the diverse flavors of this region.

For the Potatoes:

1/3 cup poppy seeds

6 almonds, lightly toasted

2 hot green chilies

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom powder

4 tablespoons cilantro, leaves and tender stems

3/4 cup yogurt, full fat preferred

20 baby potatoes, red, white, purple or mixed

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon nigella (kalonji) seeds

1 1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick

1 small bay leaf

Salt, to taste

To make the potatoes:

Lightly toast the poppy seeds on a pan and set aside to cool. Separate into two equal portions.

Add half the poppy seeds, almonds, green chilies, ginger, cardamom powder, cilantro and yogurt to a small blender and purée to a smooth paste. You can add a few tablespoons of water to get the purée going. Set aside.

Boil the potatoes until just cooked. As soon as they are cooked through, remove and cool in running water. You want the potatoes to have a good bite and not be too mushy. Cut in halves and set aside.

Heat the oils in a wide wok or deep frying pan, one large enough to fit all the potatoes comfortably. Add the cumin, nigella, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Sauté on medium heat for 30-40 seconds till the cumin seeds begin to take on color. Add the remaining poppy seeds and sauté for 10-15 seconds till the poppy seeds begin to darken.

Add the poppy seed paste ad cook. Add the potatoes and bring the mix to a simmer and cook tossing the mix well to coat the potatoes. Cook till the liquids have evaporated, the sauce clings heavily to the potatoes and the oils from the sauce are released. As soon as the sauce begins to take on some color, turn off the heat and cool.

For the chutney:

3 tablespoons oil

30 curry leaves

6-8 shallots, finely sliced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

3-4 garlic cloves, sliced

3 red chilies, sliced, or 1 teaspoon chili powder

1 heaped tablespoon black pepper, preferably Tellicherry pepper powder

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon oyster sauce

A few drops fish sauce

To make the curry leaf chutney:

Heat the oil in a small saucepan on low heat. Add the curry leaves, shallots, ginger, garlic, chilies/chili powder and pepper. Sauté stirring often till the shallots are soft and translucent 4-5 minutes, do not brown.

Add the butter and continue sautéing on low heat for another 3 minutes. Add the sugar, soy sauce and oyster sauce and stir to mix. Bubble gently for 2-3 minutes. Cool.

Purée the sauce in a small blender till very smooth. You can add a few tablespoons of water to get the liquids moving, but you do not want to make the sauce runny.

Pour back into the sauce pan and bring to a simmer and cook till the sauce has thickened to the consistency of ketchup and has darkened, The oils should begin to separate from the sauce. Take off the stove and add the fish sauce and stir in. Taste and adjust salt, if needed, but the sauces are very salty, and spice as desired. Set aside.

To serve:

Heat the curry leaf chutney till warm. Heat the potatoes till hot.

Add a dollop of the chutney to the center of a plate. Using a tablespoon, spread the chutney out moving the tablespoon in concentric circles outwards to create a circular pattern. You do not have to be perfect and you can fill in the gaps by adding a touch of sauce as needed. Add the heated potatoes cut side down also in concentric circles. Do not overcrowd the plate with the potatoes, so much so that you do not see the chutney pattern below. Stick a toothpick in each potato so that your guests can easily pick them up and scoop the chutney. Serve immediately.

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