Picnicking has long been a tradition for my family, generations ago on the shores of the Arabian Sea, then on the banks of Nile. When they moved to England, they picnicked at seaside at Cleethorpes — still in their saris, stoic in the face of the cold weather, wearing three sweaters each.
Although the landscape and weather changed when they moved here, the food remained the same. The key was always simple food that could travel well and was, most importantly, big on flavor.
It's no surprise, then, that potatoes were always on the menu. They take flavor so well, are inexpensive and can be eaten either hot or cold. Over time these South Indian picnic potatoes, which found their way into my kitchen after a trip to the state of Kerala, India, many years ago, have become a family picnic staple.
They are a distant, more tropical cousin of the classic potato salad, but embellished with coastal Indian ingredients: crispy shallots, a few spices, crunchy golden cashews and a little coconut milk.
Because they are so rich and flavorful, they are best served with simple accompaniments: Some leftover chicken, chapattis, a tub of lime pickles (available online and in some supermarkets) and a simple salad that won't wilt in the heat.
South Indian picnic potatoes with coconut and cashews
Coconut, shallots and curry leaves are the leading ingredients of South Indian food and together they make a great team. If you can't find any curry leaves, just leave them out.
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 — 6
2 pounds baby new potatoes, washed
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (substitute yellow or brown mustard seeds if you can't find black)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
5 large shallots, diced
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves garlic, crushed
2 green chilies, finely sliced
1 large handful of cashews
¾ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup coconut milk
Place the potatoes in a pan of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for around 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and leave to one side to cool. When cool enough to handle, halve the biggest potatoes.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and when hot add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds start to wriggle and the curry leaves crisp, add the shallots and cook until they turn golden, then add the garlic, ginger, chilies and cashews.
Cook the mixture for another 2 minutes then add the potatoes and salt. Turn up the heat to high and fry the potatoes for a few minutes until they brown slightly then add the coconut milk and keep stirring until the coconut milk evaporates to a form a sticky glaze.
Can be eaten hot or cold.
Nutrition information per serving: 410 calories; 170 calories from fat; 19g fat (12 g saturated; 0g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 462 mg sodium; 53g carbohydrate; 7g fiber; 6g sugar; 9g protein.
Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of "Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen." She lives in London, blogs at www.meerasodha.com and tweets at @meerasodha