Two Potato Vindaloo

January 11, 2012

At the ages of seven and almost five, my children often say funny things.  Long ago a friend recommended that I write down their cute little sayings, insisting that I wouldn’t remember.  It was one of those ideas that made perfect sense at the time and yet is something that I just never did.  And, although I thought I could rely on my very good memory, I don’t remember all the cute little things they have said over the years.  The only ones I remember are those I wrote down on this blog, captured either with my phone or the flip camera, or the ones I told so many times that they are burned into my memory.

Last night, Graham said, “I have a good idea. If people want to eat your yummy food, we could open a window in our house, just like Taco Time!”

And now for some clarification.  First of all, Taco Time is not Taco Bell.  It is a locally owned fast food-ish place where the emphasis is on fresh.  I haven’t eaten at Taco Bell since my early 20’s but I don’t mind Taco Time.  Second of all, I’m not a drive-thru kind of person but last summer our beloved babysitter took them through there and on to the park where they had a picnic.  They are still talking about it six months later.  Third of all, when Graham was the praises of my food, he was not talking about this Two Potato Vindaloo.  He was talking about a taco (sense a theme?) that I made him with black beans, cheese, homemade salsa and guacamole.

So no, we are not quite at the point where I feed my children Two Potato Vindaloo although I think that Graham, my hearty and relatively adventurous eater, would probably have liked it.  I have, oh, about one ton of leftovers in the refrigerator so maybe we will give it a try tonight.  I know that Spencer would not touch it.  But I bet, if I opened a take-out window in my house (a friend on Facebook called it the Dana Treat Drive Thru), I would sell out of this dish.

This recipe comes from the beloved Plenty cookbook.  I swear this book has magic powers.  I feel like each time I open it, there are delicious things in there that I have never seen, never noticed.  This recipe, starring both red potatoes and sweet potatoes, I always notice and the only reason I haven’t made it until now is that I don’t always have fresh curry leaves on hand.  You could, of course, leave them out, but I dearly love curry leaves and just the scent of them as they hit the pan reminds of me the year we lived in London and all the amazing Indian food I ate there.

I made a few changes, streamlined the cooking time.  Ground spices instead of toasting whole ones and then grinding them.  Canned tomatoes instead of fresh (have you seen “fresh” tomatoes in Seattle these days?  Yuck.)  I have the British version of the book so I always tweak the recipes a bit with the measurements and all.  Having made so many delicious things from this book, I have learned to trust Mr. Ottolenghi’s taste.  I hesitated at the amount of vinegar in this dish but the acidity cut through the any heaviness that curries can sometimes have and also helped boost the flavor of the spices.  I’m telling you, that man is a genius.  The only other thing I can add is that, unless you are vegan, definitely add a dollop of plain yogurt to your bowl.  More acidity and some creaminess are most welcome in this curry.

One Year Ago:  Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Two Years Ago:  Black Bean Chilaquile
Three Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Two Potato Vindaloo
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 6-8

Unless you live near an Indian grocery, fresh curry leaves can be hard to find.  If you do use them, they are totally edible.  I like the way they taste but you can also pick them out like bay leaves.  I know some people substitute bay leaves for curry leaves (I haven’t tried it – the flavors are not the same), but if you do I would only use four of them and be sure to pick them out before serving.  Don’t worry if you don’t have fenugreek seeds – just leave them out.

½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
6 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp. mustard seeds
½ tsp. fenugreek seeds
Kosher salt
12 large or 24 small curry leaves
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 14-ouce can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
Mint and/or cilantro to garnish

In a small bowl, combine all the spices except the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds.  Set aside.

Place a large heavy based pot over medium heat.  Add the vegetable oil along with the shallots, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown.  (You might want to have a lid handy in case the mustard seeds start to pop.)  Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger, and chile, and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with their juice), vinegar, water, sugar, and another pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and red peppers and simmer for another 20 minutes.  For the last stage, add the sweet potatoes.  Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 20 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.  Serve hot with plain rice and garnished with herbs.  Serve yogurt for garnishing at the table.


  1. I love the idea of a Dana Treat drive-in – a measure I fully support :) I got Plenty as a gift for the holidays and I can’t wait to dig into it. I’ve never even seen a curry leaf so I’m curious and wonder if it’s time to take a trip into Little India for some. Gorgeous photos too.

    Comment by kickpleat — January 11, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

  2. This looks yummy and I would go through your drive-thru. Wonder where I might find curry leaves in the Tri Cities?? Thanks Dana!

    Comment by Cathy — January 11, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  3. Like Jeanette, I received that book as a gift over the holidays, and have been meaning to make something from it. There are so many to choose from that I couldn’t decide until now. I just need to find fresh curry leaves here in Vancouver.

    Your boys say the most amusing things. Definitely let us know if you open the Dana Treat Drive Thru, because we’ll make a road trip out of it! :)

    Comment by Joy — January 11, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

  4. This sounds sooo yummy!

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — January 11, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

  5. I love ethnic food, and I would certainly buy this from a food window, haha. Glad to have found your blog, looking forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Ruth @ the tasty tRuth — January 11, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  6. It seems we both have two potatoes on our mind this week. This sounds wonderful, and I am a huge vindaloo fan. Will have to give this one a whirl. Have to agree with you on the Plenty cookbook; out of all of the ones I read last year, this one stays with me, time and time again!

    Comment by Chez Us — January 11, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

  7. It looks divine. I love that cookbook :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — January 11, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

  8. Kids are cute!!! I wish I would have written down the crazy things my kids said.

    Comment by leslie — January 11, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

  9. I received Plenty for Christmas and have been drooling over everything in it too! Everything I’ve made so far has been amazing. I was really curious about this recipe and just so happen to have everything (besides the curry leaves), so I’ll have to try this one next!

    Comment by Jacqui — January 11, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

  10. I need to make this soon!

    Comment by melinda ke — January 11, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

  11. I just made this last Sunday and it is lovely! I also really enjoyed the Mixed Beans with Many Spices and Lovage, served with the Coconut Rice. What a beautiful book!

    Comment by Jessica — January 11, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  12. You are right- this cookbook is magic. I have made multiple recipes and they are all so fresh with amazing combinations of flavors. I will look for the vindaloo and give it a try too!

    Comment by Phoo-d — January 11, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  13. Got Plenty for Christmas! Making the lentils with slow roasted tomatoes, gorgonzola, and picked red onions this week.

    Comment by Clara — January 11, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

  14. Screw the drive-thru; I want delivery. You do that, right?

    I’ve passed up curry leaves before at the Indian grocery near my house because I’ve never quite figured out how I’d use them. So thank you for an excuse to get over myself and give them a try.

    Your dinner looks lovely.

    (I started a journal when my boys were young where I jotted down the cute things they said. I filled up about 1/2 page before I forgot about the project. But it’s not too late for you to start. I say do it!)

    Comment by cheryl — January 12, 2012 @ 1:07 am

  15. Your theory about this book is totally spot-on…because i feel like I’ve never seen this recipe before IN MY LIFE and I flip through that book CONSTANTLY. A definite need-to-make.

    If I lived in Seattle I’d be driving thru by your window daily.

    Who are we kidding. Multiple times a day.

    Comment by Joanne — January 12, 2012 @ 1:28 am

  16. This looks beautiful. And, after reading the ingredients, I can almost smell this cooking in your kitchen. Taco Time is a weekly guilty pleasure of mine. Thank you for making me feel better about that, too.

    Comment by Mary Miller / A Passionate Plate — January 12, 2012 @ 2:08 am

  17. I have been meaning to add Plenty to my collection of cookbooks for some time now.

    Comment by bellini — January 12, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  18. Graham is so cute! I would totally visit the Dana Treat drive thru :)

    I hardly ever cook with potatoes but I think this recipe would be a good place for me to start since it’s combined with so many other, really great ingredients.

    Comment by Nicole — January 12, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

  19. Got Plenty for Xmas and been meaning to start cooking from it. Made this tonight and loved it. I couldn’t get curry leaves but it was great without .. I added some chopped cashews on top cause I wanted a little protein. Thanks for getting me started on this cookbook Dana!

    Comment by Catherine — January 12, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

  20. What a great idea to write down all the random awesome things your kids say, I’ll have to remember that. :) This vindaloo sounds delicious!

    Comment by Ashley — January 19, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

  21. I love all manner of curries, especially ones with curry leaves in them! If i wanted another dish to go along side (i always like a variety of curries), would you reccomend a dahl/chickpea/protein one, or something with less starchy vegetables?

    Comment by Juliet — February 14, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

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