Thursday, November 25, 2010

Alu Seddho/Alu Bhaate -- Thanks for Mashed Potatoes

This Thanksgiving I am really thankful that BS does not have a Thanksgiving Feast at school.

Now don't get me wrong. Usually I have no problem with them, the feasts that is. Actually I love feasts more when they are hosted by a third party.

In all her pre-school years, the teacher would put up a sign up sheet behind the door a week before the party and the parents would pick anything from that list to get for the feast. The school was paranoid about food allergy in a good way and no cooked food from home was ever allowed. The list was always always made up of boxed or packaged items, juice, fruits and paper products. The school supplied the rest.

Her school since last year is no less paranoid about food and does not even accept home baked cake etc. for birthdays.

So last year when her teacher sent home a list a week before Thanksgiving with a tick and my name against Mashed Potatoes, I was flummoxed. With despair I looked at the Paper Products, Table Cloth, Juice boxes, Apple slices all there on the list but nary a tick for me on any of them but Mashed Potatoes.

Why me ? I said silently and soon after I said 20 "Hail Marys". I mean shouldn't I be thankful that after all it was only mashed potatoes and not a whole stuffed turkey.

And what after all is Mashed Potatoes ? Nothing but what in Bengali we call Alu Seddho and what I ate for breakfast with rice and ghee for the first eight years of my life until the doctor intervened.

Alu Seddho or Alu Bhaate with a hint of mustard oil, finely chopped red onion and green chili, served with steaming rice, light masoor dal and a spoonful of flavorful ghee is after all every Bengalis comfort food. My Ma could make it with her eyes closed. Why, even my Dad could make it with his eyes open and that speaks volumes about the ease of the dish.If I had doubts about mashed potatoes I would be putting my Bong upbringing to shame.

So I said "Hah" and promptly forgot all about it.

However as the day dawned near I started having my doubts. Logical doubts based on real life. Doubts like would BS's classmate take to mustard oil like fish takes to water ? Was it ok to put finely chopped raw red onion in food served to 20 odd kids, half of whom probably had never seen an onion in life ? What if their parents sued me because the green chili was too hot or the mustard oil caused them to sneeze ?

So, I sent her teacher a mail asking what kind of Mashed Potatoes they preferred, Asian-Indian or American-Indian ?

The teacher said I need not worry too much and I could pick any American recipe.

So, of course I googled and each recipe of mashed potato looked worse than the other. I mean, milk, heavy cream and cream cheese in your mashed potato ? Why would you need two sticks of butter to make a potato taste good, hello, who set up that rule? What was I doing here, trying to teach kids spell O-B-E-S-I-T-Y?

Chop potato in quarters. Boil in pressure cooker or in an open pan. You can also microwave. When the potatoes are done, cool and peel the skin. Mash the potatoes with a masher or your hands. Add few drops of mustard oil, very finely chopped red onion, very finely chopped green chili, salt to taste. Work everything together. Make uneven, rustic looking balls and serve with steaming rice and ghee.

So, there I am again, e-mailing the teacher, asking which exact recipe she wanted me to follow.

Was Alton Brown's mashed potatoes with garlic good enough ? Did she want cream cheese or just milk and butter was fine ? What potatoes did she think would cut the deal, Russet or Yukon Gold ? How many times should I wash my hand and was Bath & Body Anti-bacterial better than Purell ?Did she even know how much a bag of Yukon Gold cost ? I mean, what is wrong with Idaho, I make Alu Seddho with Idaho and they are very good.

At this point I am sure the teacher must have hollered a few choice words at me in confinement of her school's staff room. In a very polite mail, she suggested I just buy mashed potatoes at the super market and send it to school.

Trust me, till that time the e-mail arrived I did not know that they sold mashed potatoes in the Super Market. Yes, mashed potatoes in a tub or in a box, microwaveable and ready to eat. I could see before my eyes, Manju'r ma, my Ma's house help, losing an opportunity to be the next Martha Stewart simply because she did not know to package and market alu seddho. My eyes welled up at the opportunity lost and I cried fat tears right there at one of the aisles in the frozen section of Shop Rite or was it Wegman's.

Ok, I actually cried because there were so much to choose from. I came home with tons of mashed potato boxes, some with sweet potatoes, some with garlic and chive, some plain, some organic, some in tubs while others in flat boxes. The hubby not trusting my choices had made his own detour and came home with boxes which had dehydrated mashed potato flakes. Where do they need that now ? NASA maybe ?

Our dinner table overflowed with boxes of mashed potatoes of all kinds. We finally narrowed down to the kind we thought would serve the school right it's purpose and returned the others. Some for which we lost the receipt stayed in the pantry for the next 6 months till expiration date. Some stayed in the freezer and my Mom made delicious Alu'r chop with them.

And BS claimed she loved mashed potatoes the way her Didun made.

This year I don't remember the exact brand which we had sent to school and I would have to start all over again. But the school authorities had enough of my mails last year and this year second graders are not having a Thanksgiving feast.

Honestly, it is not my fault.


Ok, and today, at around midnight, I baked this zebra cake from this wonderful blog. The midnight part is not as important as the "I baked" part. It was an easy cake to bake and was quiet good to eat too. I found it a little less sweet for the kids liking so next time I am going to up the sugar. For now I did a cream cheese and chocolate frosting to enhance the sweetness.

Happy ThanksGiving folks, if you are celebrating. If not, just be thankful.


  1. hehe the post was a great read. I can totally relate to that. Why do they have to add cream, butter, cream cheese to make potatoes taste good. I mean for God sake, its potatoes, it will taste good if you just sprinkled salt and pepper on it and ate it. I never really appreciated the hype on mashed potatoes and in generally have no love for them. Can you, send the bought tub and alu seddho as complimentary next time? Its no harm tasting it right? I mean just a little?

  2. Enjoyed reading your post about mashed potatoes. Well....too bad the kids could not savour your Alu Seddho. Good for you, you don't have to go through the travails this year!

  3. is it a coincidence that I also dint know that mashed potato is laden with milk and cheese untill yesterday the masterchef Australia contestants were asked to make this. and that too as a skill test...I was laughing out lous when some of them could not do it properly...funny but seriously cannot eat that mush. I vote for our very own alu seddho....

  4. A brilliant post.....happy thanksgiving to you too bongmom.

  5. You made the mashed potato look so desi and easy to cook. Lovely read.

  6. Well along with roast chicken(yes the husband doesn't eat turkey:() and other American sides, alu seddho graces our table every thanksgiving! I won't have my potatoes mashed any other way though alu seddho does taste really good with brown gravy.

  7. Yummy mashed potatoes..simply delicious..

  8. we call this chokha,..;-) happy thankgiving,..cake looks yum too,..

  9. Ha ha poor teacher or should I say poor you ;-)
    All that misery for mashed potato.
    Here we have them atleast twice a week,like today having them with sausages for lunch.
    I have to say unlike you I naver had mashed potato untill i came here but then i found out from my sis that she makes mashes potato from the time she got marries but then telugu style which sh learned frm her hubby.

    I love that cale looks so good and you baked hurraaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy.

  10. You are funny! Cant get over the humor and the subtle sarcasm. I love alu sheddo with mustard oil, chilies and onion. The Mashed Potato is so bland even with the cheese and milk/cream.

  11. Hi,
    I always have this confusion when buying items for the school and my kid say that i have way too many questions for his teacher :(
    One suggestion, Please dont return the food stuffs coz they have to salvage them if the packed food comes in the salvaged items list. Every state law defines the list, I hope you dont mistake me for telling you this, coz I work with wegmans and i know what they do with the returned food items packed or not :) Just my 2 cents here
    Happy thanks giving

  12. Sandeepadi you just crack me up! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you too.
    Sutapa :)

  13. LOL!! Awesome write up and fab mashed potato picture! Enjoy the long weekend!

  14. I am so thankful to that whoever who started the recipe of mashed potato with mustard oil, chili n onions ... And also to you for making such a wonderful post for our humble Alu Seddho.


  15. As always, ROFL reading yet another hilarious post. Amazing how you can weave such a beautiful post on the humble mashed potatoes. Hats off to you!

    I was introduced to Alu Seddho after marrying a Bong. I only realized what I had missed out on for 20 years of my life! The recipe that you have blogged is the trademark Alu Makha recipe. I have another version which my Bong maid taught me. Need to boil Alu and dim (Eggs) and mash together. Deep fry 1 or 2 red chillies in oil till crisp, remove from oil, press wth hands into flakes and keep aside. Saute sliced onions in mustard oil till golden brown. Add mashed potatoes and eggs, salt and red chilli flakes. Keep stirrng on medium flame till they are mixed well and the mash turns reddish. (Potato:egg ratio could be 2:1 or 3:1)

    Try this if possible. Its too delicious.

    Missed you during your Puja holidays!

  16. Nothing beats the typical Bengali Alu Seddho. As you mentioned. :) We do get a dried version of ready to make mashed potatoes here , but it tastes awful. I use it to add it as an ingredient for my pancakes. Recently I did, Potato Keema Pancake and it turned out pretty well. :)

  17. I simply loved this. didn't know that one could make such a song and dance about the simple "ALU SHEDDHO" it's something I could survive on for years.
    There are immense possibilities - in place of simple mustard oil you could use pickle oil or Acharer tel. Other ingredients suggested are fried onions, grated ginger, garlic, boiled egg, dhone pata, diced tomatoes etc. In fact the possibilities are immense, my wife also prepares a variant where the mixture is lightly sauteed on a tawa (ektu tele niye).
    Thanks for the interesting bit on the humble alu sheddo which is a rage in our household with Kichuri.
    It's absolutely fabulous

  18. Mashed potatoes look yumm.. The zebra cake also looks great.

  19. lovely photo Sandeepa..I am from orissa and Alu bhaate is ery popular there also..thanks for sharing..


  20. I definitely liked reading this post! i'm glad you discovered the variety of mashed potatoes there are in this world... but in my opinion, your original choice sounded the best =)

  21. Such a lovely post! Funniest mashed potatoes I ever read:)
    Of course it wasn't your fault:):):)
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

  22. What a great read Sandeepa! I am with the other commentators though - a little of your Alu Seddho would have been nice to expand the kids' (and maybe the teachers') palates.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  23. Kulsum
    That mashed potato is good too, I mean with that kind of butter everything tastes good :-)


    ha, ha :)


    Actually it tastes good in good restaurants. When I think of the butter in it I panic but otherwise it tastes good by itself.


    Thanku, thanku


    It indeed is desi


    Now that sounds like a great idea, with mustard oil too ?


    Thanks :)


    yes, yes chokha. But isn't chokha a little more spicy ? I love chokha


    I like the American Mashed potato too, not always but when we are eating out and it comes as a side.

  24. Pree

    I like the mashed potato that comes with chicken or fish as a side, especially the one in Cheesecake factory. Also as someone said it tastes good with gravy.But really why do you need so much butter in there ?


    I really didn't know that. Usually I never return edibles because I don't buy things I wouldn't need. And honestly even in this case I think I returned only the dehydrated flakes box which is a dry item.
    But it was good that you said, I will make it a point to tell others not to do so.

    Sutapa, Abhi, satrupa

    Thanks :-)

  25. Seema

    Loved that. Will do


    That seems like a good idea


    Thanks and yes there are immense possibilities.

    Thank U


    is it exactly same in Orissa ?

    Peggy, Priya, Dipali, SS, GT

    Thank U, Thank U

  26. Loved your blogs....yesterday I actually cooked 2 of your receipes....begun diye maach and tomato maach....khub bhalo legeche....gobindo bhog chal diye....aaj Bati chochori......tks bong mom......from dc

  27. amazing post Sandeepa....very well written !:) had me in splits..:)

  28. Your blog is an absolute delight to read. I love alu seddho and add mashed hard boiled eggs to it sometimes. It tastes awesome :)


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