Potato and Tamarind Curry with Cucumber and Mint Raita

When I was a child, there were two things I wanted to be:

Jewish and Indian.

I was fahklumpt.

I read the Diary of Anne Frank and decided from that moment forward there were going to be some changes, much to the amusement of my parents – whose response was “You can do whatever you want when you’re eighteen.” Yeah. Right.

So I researched all the Jewish holidays, ate Matzo crackers and called the boys in my class “shmucks”.

I wrote a play depicting Anne Frank’s last hours, which I performed wearing my mothers peach nightdress (because that is what Anne would be wearing in a concentration camp) with the Theme from the Deer Hunter playing in the background on a scratchy seven single. I can guarantee you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – mainly because the audience – comprising of my mother, brother and our domestic worker’s son, Sandile, were laughing so hard they were crying.

I was not amused and quite frankly, disgusted.

I watched Yentl, like a thousand times, and longed to be Barbra Streisand singing ‘Papa can you hear me?’

why oh why was I born a shiksa?

And then I discovered Bollywood and bindis and my identity crisis continued. I went to my school’s cultural evening in a silver and red sari. I wanted nothing more than a big, fat Indian wedding.

Years later, my Indo-Jewish dreams are on ice…but hey, at least I can make a good curry.

This curry is so easy and so deliciously fragrant. The addition of tamarind paste – adds a subtle sourness that is contrasted by the sweetness of the coconut milk. This is a spicy, rather than hot curry, feel free to add a little more chilli powder if you like more of a burn.  We ate this curry with fresh, warm rotis and a cooling cucumber and mint raita. It would be equally good on its own or served with basmati rice.

Potato and Tamarind Curry with Cucumber and Mint Raita

Adapted from Fresh Living Magazine

serves 6

1.5kg potatoes, peeled and halved

60ml sunflower or canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2cm knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

12 fresh curry leaves

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2-3 tsp sugar

1 tbsp Tamarind Paste, mixed with a little water (the paste I used still contained pieces of fruit and so I had to strain it, before adding it to the curry)

1 tin coconut milk

Salt and pepper

Cucumber and Mint Raita

350ml plain yoghurt

half a small English cucumber, grated and excess liquid squeezed out

1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Boil the potatoes until just tender, drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for a few minutes until glossy, with a big pinch of salt. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a minute. Add the cumin, coriander, brown mustard seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, chilli powder, fennel seeds and curry leaves. Cook for 2 minutes. I had to do this process twice, as I ended up burning my spices – I suggest measuring them out into a cup and adding them to the onion mixture all at once. Add the tomatoes, sugar and tamarind paste to the pan and simmer over high heat for 3 minutes, then add 200ml water and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium.  Cut the potato halves into cubes and add to the curry mixture, cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally.  Serve with warm rotis and a dollop of cucumber and mint raita. For the raita, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and  refrigerate.  Allow time for the flavours to develop by making the raita a good 3o minutes to an hour before you intend to eat it. Both the curry and the raita, taste even more delicious the next day. This is a relatively healthy dish too – so you don’t have to worry about getting a big tuchas!



  1. How I remember you playing Anne Frank. In that nightdress crying in the corner. OI VEY! And me, next to the record player – ready to start the music in all the right places.

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