Aloo pie is another of those street foods in Trinidad and Tobago. It may not be sold by every doubles man, but where you see a doubles man with backup (a van or extra people with lots of coolers) he may well be selling some additional goodies, like aloo pie. It’s construction makes it another ideal receptacle for channa and chutney and served this way, it’s often more substantial than a doubles. While aloo pie clearly has its roots in our Indian heritage, by this name it is so definitely a trini food, that is has its own (small) entry on Wikipedia as such.
I have vivid memories of my grandmother making this (as well as aloo roti of course) and definitely my mother. It’s a Ramadan regular as well, usually in small sizes for easy sharing to large groups. What I don’t like about the street version is where they minge on the aloo. So you end up with dry fried dough, that you HAVE to fill with channa or lots of chutney for it to taste any good. Might as well be buying fry bake (which is all well and good if that’s what is being sold!). No, aloo pie by definition must have aloo in every bite. Savoury, maybe spicy, always geera-y ALOO.
The best purchased aloo pie I have had – was from a lady who sold them in UWI, usually around Nat Sci, Maria. I don’t know if she’s still around, but she used to sell out of a big black duffel bag and her pies were fat and stuffed. Greasy of course…it IS deep-fried, but what made it even better was the fresh grated mango chutney you could get with the pie. Half ripe yellow raw mango, grated and mixed with the best of seasonings and hot pepper, maybe a dash of vinegar?. There was a mix of sourness and sweetness to the mango, and the heat…oh the heat! The combination of deep fried plus pepper (these were the days when I had a loooow tolerance for pepper) guaranteed that the rest of the day I felt the burn, but I couldn’t pass it up. It was that good.
Biting into a mouthful of seasoned potato with the slight crunch of the mango…yum…fresh grated mango chutney is among my favourites, possibly because of this memory. I didn’t have the right mango to replicate this taste, so I tried another favourite – cucumber – not as flavourful as mango, but a nice combination of coolness and a bit of a crunch.
Recipes for aloo pie and cucumber chutney with photos below.You will find similar recipes in the Naps cookbook, and even the TriniGourmet uses more or less the same flour-baking powder-water proportions. The difference in this recipe is what I learned from my mother – a touch of yeast. It makes for a nice elastic dough when you let it rest a bit, that allows you to stretch it a bit more easily, so you can fit much more aloo inside! I also used a touch of oil or shortening, which is entirely optional – it’s not enough to really make it more greasy, after all it IS deep fried, but it does allow for a nice crispiness.
ALOO PIE RECIPE
5 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups water (approx – humidity and climate to be considered, I’m in humid tropics)
2-2.5 lbs potatoes (or 3.5 cups mashed – this is more accurate as my bowl had a measure)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped green herbs (chives/green onions, bandhania/chadon beni etc)
2 tsp ground geera (or more, I like a lot)
1 tsp salt
(a few minced bird peppers or some pepper sauce to taste)
oil for frying
1. Cook potatoes. I microwave them (washed and pricked) and let them cool a bit before peeling and mashing so I don’t burn my fingers (too much).
2. While potatoes are cooling, make the dough – mix dry ingredients together. Add water and oil, mix to combine. Knead on a floured surface for a couple minutes, sprinkle with flour, cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Your dough should be somewhat soft, but not overly sticky.
3. Mash potatoes (fairly smooth, chunky potato will make your life more difficult by piercing the dough when filling the pies). Mix in other ingredients and taste to adjust salt, pepper etc (I was fasting, so I relied on estimated amounts and the hope that the potatoes were not as bland as last week’s supplies).
4. Divide dough into even loyahs/balls (12 large, or up to 20 smaller for party-size), lay on floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
5. Flatten a loyah a little, either in your hands or roll out – not too thin, as you want plenty of dough thickness to be able to stretch and flatten later on. Try not to use too much flour that will fall off in the oil. If you’re making large pies, you should be able to fit 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of filling in the pie. Place the filling in the centre of the dough, and ease the ends of the circle around the aloo (trying to stretch the circle evenly) and close (seal with water if necessary).
6. Gently flatten the filled pie, taking care to evenly distribute the filling as you do. You may crimp the edges of the pie with a fork, for extra secure sealing, or prettiness. Prick one side of each pie with a fork about 3 or 4 times.
7. Heat about 3 cm oil in a heavy pan (medium heat). The oil is ready when a tiny ball of dough rises to the surface when dropped in, and sizzles but doesn’t brown instantly.
8. Gently lay pie in oil and as it rises, use your tongs or frying utensil to gently swish oil over the top – this is for even frying and swelling, as well as ensuring that the top of the pie does not remain uncooked and therefore more likely to burst as it swells in the oil. I use this method for fry bakes also. When the pie has swelled evenly and started to blister on the top side, and you can see the golden brown on the underside, flip and cook to the same colour on the other side. Drain on paper.
1 large cucumber, seeded and grated (peeling optional)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped green seasonings (your choice, but try to have bandhania/cilantro and chives)
1 hot pepper minced (or bird pepper, or a nice pepper sauce to taste)
1/2 tsp geera (cumin)
salt and black pepper to taste
dash of vinegar or lime
Mix all ingredients. Chill. Eat soon.
Note: Adjust seasonings to suit your own taste.
[Readers may note how prepared I am this year by actually posting Ramadan recipes (even Eid!) before Ramadan is even here. Insha Allah (God Willing) I am helping someone prepare for this 😀
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