One simple chili can offer many different levels of heat.
Use it whole and unbroken for a wispy level of heat. Roast it to blacken the skin for a more pungent heat. Coarsely chop it, then blacken it for sweat-inducing heat.
The high-heat version heats this curry, but the potatoes tone it down for balance.
If new potatoes are not in season, use white or yellow-skin potatoes and cut them into 11/2- to 2-inch chunks. The cooking time should be the same.
2tablespoons vegetable oil
1teaspoon cumin seeds
6medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
6dried red Thai or cayenne chilies, stems removed, coarsely chopped (do not remove the seeds)
1pound new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1large tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
11/2teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
8ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds.
Immediately add the garlic and chilies. Saute until the garlic is lightly browned and the chilies blacken, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle in the turmeric, the carefully pour in the water. Stir to deglaze the pan, releasing any browned bits of garlic.
Add the potatoes, tomato, cilantro, brown sugar and salt. Stir once or twice, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring until wilted, 2 to 4 minutes per batch.
Makes 8 servings.
From Raghavan Iyer’s “660 Curries”