This is the simplest version of potato shaak, the recipe I was taught at the age of eight. I was expected to be able to make this confidently at that age along with rotli and rice.
1 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
1½ tsp mustard seeds
1½ tsp cumin seeds
5 curry leaves (optional)
750g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
50g fresh coriander, finely chopped
a wok or a pan with a lid
Heat the oil in the pan or wok on a medium heat. After a few minutes test to see how hot the oil is by popping in a few mustard and cumin seeds. If they fizzle and pop then the oil is ready.
Add the mustard and cumin seeds and curry leaves in very quick succession. Let them fizzle and pop for a few seconds and then quickly add the potatoes. Be careful as the oil may spit at you – you can use the lid of the pan as a shield. Add the salt, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder, then pour in 100ml water, mix and cover.
Leave to cook on a low to medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. The potatoes should be just tender, not mushy. You can give it a gentle mix after ten minutes to make sure the spices are evenly distributed. Once it’s done, garnish with fresh coriander.
Serve with rotli on the side or rolled up in a rotli like a burrito. I also like it on a thick slice of buttery toast because that’s faster than making rotli. Alternatively, you can serve it with couscous, quinoa or rice.
Mix the cumin and mustard seeds and the curry leaves in a small bowl so they are easily to hand to add to the hot oil.
Use a metal spoon or fork to mix the shaak. My mum always berates my husband for using a wooden spoon because all the spices stick to it.
Don’t be tempted to stir it more than once because you will break up the potatoes. If it is sticking, then add a little more water and turn the heat down.
Shaak on Toast
ANY shaak is fantastic on toast. Make sure you cut your own thick slices – about an inch thick is good – of sourdough or ciabatta, or use a slice of toasted panini. The toast must be buttered before the shaak goes on and if you are a ghee fan like me then a few spoons drizzled on top works a treat.
I used to eat this at university when I got homesick because I always had individual portions of Mum’s potato shaak in the freezer. After a night out it really is the best snack with a cup of tea. The sandwich works best with crusty white bread. Not anything fancy like sourdough but the ordinary white loaves the corner shop always has handy.
Prepare two slices of bread by spreading Green Chilli and Coriander Chutney on one side of each slice. Put three or four tablespoons of shaak on one slice and smooth it out to the edges. Add a layer of sev or some shop-bought Bombay Mix, chipsticks or ready salted crisps. Top with the other slice of bread, chutney-side inwards, and slice into two.
These should be eaten straight off of the frying pan so they are a wonderfully social Biting. You can have one person rolling the dough, one stuffing it and one cooking. Serve with plain yoghurt or some chutney for dipping. Or top with scrambled eggs, toasted seeds and chopped fresh coriander.
There are lots of samosa filling recipes but I find it much more economical to use leftover shaak. Potato and pea or plain pea work well. You need some shop-bought filo pastry. Take one sheet and cut it widthways into three strips. Take one strip and roll it up so you have a cone in your hand. Stuff the cone and press down the open edge to seal it.
Baste the whole thing with sunflower oil and bake in a 200°C (180°C fan) oven ‘til golden brown.
This can look like a proper showstopper. You can experiment with whatever you have lying around. Slices of confit garlic work super well as a decadent topping. I also like scattering over toasted nuts and seeds for the crunch. It can be served with slices of toast or toasted pitta breads if you don’t have time to make parothas. You can use hot or cold shaak.
Spread a cup of leftover shaak onto a plate. Finely chop 50g tomatoes and 50g red onion and arrange them evenly over the top. Put half a cup of plain thick yoghurt or skyr into a bowl and mix in a tablespoon of water and half a teaspoon of salt. Drizzle this over your shaak. Sprinkle over some sev, or some plain tortilla chips or ready salted crisps, lightly crushed. Hula Hoops work well! Drizzle over some chutney of your choice. Scatter with a couple of spoonfuls of pomegranate seeds and toasted, coarsely chopped peanuts.