Hello from what will arguably be the strangest time of our life. It feels weird to pop-in here to share an aloo sabzi recipe during an unprecedented crisis but here I am.
I’m writing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the country is definitely on edge amidst the news of rising cases and the possibility of the announcement of a national emergency that will severely limit movement. Saptarshi and I had been waiting for the axe to drop in Cambodia for a while since we heard about the outbreak in China. It’s been an incredibly distressing three months, as we have seen the outbreak travel from country to country, ravaging Iran, Italy, Spain and now New York, home to my younger brother and sister. The scale of the crisis is rapidly growing in Pakistan as well where the government has refused to ban religious gatherings despite moves in neighboring Muslim countries. Given South Asia’s population density, the region is a ticking time bomb.
Earlier in January, while I was in Pakistan, I was having a conversation with my mother about resilience, and what it takes to be a resilient individual, family and unit. International development professionals talk about resilience among households and communities a lot – how do you build or enhance their ability to withstand a crisis. I have been thinking about it as an individual a lot in the last year.
Last spring, I felt my resiliency ‘reserves’ completely depleted. It took for me to leave my job, a ruthless detachment from the problems of my family and friends, a focus on food, and enormous self-reflection and rest to slowly come back to equilibrium. I still haven’t come to peace with my decision to take ‘time off’ but again, I think if I hadn’t taken those steps, I might not have been equipped to handle a crisis of this scale.
An overwhelming majority of individuals do not have the same luxuries as me – a partner with a stable income, no pressing professional pressures and pending bills, and the ability to quarantine in a comfortable environment. We are checking in with our friends and family regularly and so far, everyone is safe. We are incredibly bummed that my sister-in-law and friends have had to postpone their weddings scheduled for May. But we look forward to celebrating them when the cloud of this terrible virus is gone.
In the meantime, there’s lots of projects I’m working on that are keeping me busy. Some of them are a little bit more mundane like updating old recipes, such as kadhi chawal and bagara baingan; others more interesting like poring through cookbooks to look for recipes of Pakistani regional cuisines; and working on various story ideas, this time more focused on Cambodia.
Hope you are doing okay too given the circumstances. Be kind to yourself. As my younger and wiser sister recently reminded me, there is no right way to feel right now. Sending you lots of love, and an easy recipe for aloo sabzi that carried me through graduate school and likely through quarantine.
Stay safe x
Aloo Sabzi (Curried Potatoes)
- ¼ cup oil canola/sunflower/vegetable
- ½ tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
- 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced in half rings
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 2 roma tomatoes roughly chopped
- 3 potatoes diced
- ½ cup cilantro finely chopped
- Heat oil. Add kalonji (nigella seeds) and fry for a few seconds until they begin to pop.
- Add chopped onion and brown on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes.
- Add crushed ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
- Add ground spices (turmeric, red chili and coriander powder) and fry for 30 seconds – 1 minute until aromatic. Splash with water to deglaze the pan if necessary.
- Add tomatoes and salt. Fry on high heat to soften the tomatoes, about 5 minutes.
- Add potatoes and coat in masala for 2 – 5 minutes.
- Add ½ – 1 cup water, just enough to cover the potatoes, and bring to boil. Lower heat and let the masala simmer in uncovered saucepan for 10 – 15 minutes or until potatoes are done.
- Turn off heat and gently fold in diced cilantro. Place a tight fitting lid on the saucepan and let the potatoes steam for another 5 minutes.