Recipe: Batata shaak, or Gujarati potatoes

A versatile potato dish that comes together in minutes and can be eaten on its own, paired with other vegetables, or even stuffed inside dosas.

Batata shaak – or rai no papeto as it’s called back home – is part of our regular menu rotation. Growing up, my family (with the honorable exception of my more sensible mother) truly believed that eating potatoes meant we had our 5+ for the day.

Potato is known by many names in India. Some communities call it batata and you may have also heard of aloo; we Parsis call it papeto.

Name aside, this simple batata shaak is a unique dish that comes together in less than 20 minutes and is perfect for the office or school lunch box. Its beauty lies in its versatility. You can eat it as is with hot roti, stuff it into dosas or sandwiches, or use it as a tasty base to sneak in other vegetables. Once you have the base ready, you can add peas to make aloo matar or cauliflower to make a simple aloo gobi; stir-fry it with cabbage to make cabbage nu shaak; or, the Parsi favourite, cracking an egg to make papeta per eedu.

With this dish, the world is your batata.

BATATA SHAAK

Serves 4

  • 4-6 large potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of ghee
  • 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 to 20 curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • A handful of chopped cilantro

Optional extras

  • 2 green chillies, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon amchur dry mango powder
  • Pinch of grated ginger or ginger paste
  • Squeezed lemon juice

Wash the potatoes and peel them if desired. Cut them into small cubes and store them in a mixing bowl filled with water so they don’t start to brown.

In a large saucepan (big enough to hold your potatoes and give you room to stir), add 2 tablespoons of ghee and let it heat up.

When the ghee is hot, add the mustard seeds, the green chillies then the curry leaves one after the other. Beware, the tadka (spice infused oil) will sputter and protest as the curry leaves come in. Once the leaves become crisp, lower the heat and add your potatoes.

Sprinkle with turmeric powder, amchur and ginger powder if using, and salt. Mix well.

Add about 1/4 cup of water to make sure your potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pot, lower the heat and cook the potatoes for about 13-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook the potatoes to your liking – I prefer them just cooked rather than doughy.

When the potatoes are tender, your batata shaak is ready. Mix the last tablespoon of ghee, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle with fresh coriander, and give it a final mix.

Serve the potatoes with fresh, fluffy rotis.

Tips and variations

  • If you wanted to create cabbage shaak, you would add about 1/4 head of shredded green cabbage when the potatoes were half cooked.
  • To make aloo gobi, follow the same steps but add a few small pieces of cauliflower to the oil along with the potato.
  • And, if you want to try a papeta per eedu, layer a small amount of cooked potatoes in a smaller pan. Make a few holes and crack 3 eggs. Think of it as a tastier potato frittata!