I’ve written before about how easy it is to shift the ingredients in your Punjabi recipe depending on what you have on hand. Case in point--my recipe for Zeera Aloo Potatoes with Cumin Seed. This recipe did not make it into the new edition of Menus and Memories but it is beloved by many a working mother because it is fast, nourishing and kids love it. Serve it with whole-wheat flatbreads and yogurt topped with mint chutney and you have an attractive, delicious meal. I added a handful of cut okra that i had sliced and dried in the toaster oven while I prepared the potatoes. It was not enough to go it alone, but tasted great. I did not have any methi leaves, but mint is coming up beautifully already and it also added a lovely flavor to the potatoes. 

Stir-Fried Potatoes with Cumin

Zeera Aloo

Yield: 8 servings

      This is a simple, Punjabi workhorse--fast, but incredibly tasty, a dish that everyone will enjoy. Can easily be halved for smaller families. Red potatoes tend to be smaller than gold or white so use comparable ones (not tiny ones) for this recipe. Do follow the principle of the French mise en place and have everything lined up, cut and measured before you start so that the seeds do not burn.


¼ cup canola oil

2 teaspoons cumin seed

½ teaspoon carom seed ajwain or black mustard seeds

2 medium red or yellow onions, sliced finely vertically from stem to blossom end

1 green chile, seeded and sliced finely (optional)

1 teaspoon turmeric

8 medium red potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch wedges and wiped with paper towel

1 teaspoons dried fenugreek kasoori methi, or 2 tablespoons sliced mint or cilantro leaves (optional)

Salt to taste


     In a large wok, heat the oil then add the seeds and stir for a minute until fragrant. Immediately add the onions and sauté until golden. Add the chile and the turmeric, stir for a minute before adding the potatoes.Continue to stir-fry for five minutes and then add the kasoori methi. Cover for a few minutes over low heat. Then uncover and continue stir -frying until potatoes are soft, but have not lost their shape.