Cooking with root vegetables: Potato Chaat and Carrot Top Pesto


by New Day Producers

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 26 at 1:03 PM

Award-winning cookbook author Diane Morgan has just released her 17th book and this one, she says, is dedicated to the "exciting underworld of root vegetables". Roots: The Definitive Compendium of More Than 225 Recipes is not only filled with different ways to eat practically every veggie on the earth that you can think of, but it also explains what they are and what to do with them.  She demonstrates how to make an incredible Carrot Top Pesto, which makes a delicious accompaniment for a vegetable platter or other dipping appetizers. She also shares her friend Seneeta's recipe for Potato Chaat with Cilantro-Mint Chutney. Who knew root vegetables could taste so good!

To watch some of Diane's how-to videos or for a schedule of upcoming appearances, click HERE.

Suneeta's Potato Chaat with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

A few years ago, SuneetaVaswani, my wonderful friend and colleague, led me and others on a culinary tour of India. We started in Delhi, headed to Agra and Jaipur, and then south to Kerala and Chennai. Suneeta warned us all that we would be hungry for Indian food after returning home, missing the vibrant spices and intoxicating flavors. She was right. I get hungry for Indian food often and find myself making Indian snacks, the street food of the various regions. I have adapted Suneeta’s recipe for potato chaat—alootikkichaat, as it is known in Delhi—from her amazing cookbook, Complete Book of Indian Cooking: 350 Recipes from the Regions of India.

Potato Chaat with Cilantro-Minto Chutney
Serves 6 to 8

2 lb/910 g baby new potatoes
3½ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
¾ cup/180 ml plain low-fat yogurt
About ¼ cup/60 ml water
⅓ cup/75 ml coriander chutney (see Cook’s Note)
⅓ cup/75 ml sweet tamarind chutney (see Cook’s Note)
2 tspchaat masala (see Cook’s Note)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ to ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
2 to 3 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
½ cup/70 g diced red onion
½ cup Punjabi spice mix (see Cook’s Note)
½ cup fine sev(see Cook’s Note)
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 Place the potatoes in a large pot, add water to cover by at least 1 in/2.5 cm and 2 tsp of the salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water just simmers and cook the potatoes, uncovered, until they are very tender when pierced with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes.
2 Drain the potatoes in a colander and let cool for 10 minutes or until just cool enough to handle. Working with one potato at a time, place it in the palm of your hand and press gently with the other palm to flatten, forming a patty about ½ inch/12 mm thick. (The edges will split and that is fine.)
3 Place the yogurt in a bowl and stir in enough of the water to make it a thin pouring consistency. Place the coriander chutney and tamarind chutney in separate bowls and stir in a little water. In a small bowl, stir together the chaat masala, cumin, the remaining 1½ tsp salt, and cayenne to taste.
4 In a large, heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add as many potatoes as will comfortably fit in the pan without crowding. Fry on one side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the potatoes to a warmed shallow platter, arranging them in a single layer. Fry the remaining potatoes the same way, adding more oil and adjusting the heat as needed.
5 Sprinkle the chaat masala mixture over the potatoes. Drizzle the yogurt evenly over the top and then drizzle both chutneys over the top. Scatter the onions over the potatoes, followed by the Punjabi mix, sev, and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Cook's Note:
Head to a well-stocked Indian grocery to pick up the chutneys, the chaat masala (spice mix), the Punjabi spice mix, and the sev(vermicelli snack).Alternatively, order them online from

Diane Morgan's recipe for Carrot Top Pesto:
I almost always buy fresh carrots with their feathery green tops attached. In the past, I would invariably cut the tops off and send them to the compost bin. Honestly, it never occurred to me that they were edible. But the tops of other root vegetables are edible, so why wouldn’t carrot tops be edible, too? One day I blanched the leaves, puréed them with a little olive oil, and then used the purée as a gorgeous green accent sauce for fish, much in the same way I use basil oil. My next idea was to make pesto, trading out the basil for carrot tops, which proved an amazing alternative. This recipe is an absolute keeper, and it’s satisfying to make use of the whole plant. I serve this as a dip with crudités, and often add a dollop on top of bruschetta that has been smeared with fresh goat cheese. It’s also perfect simply tossed with pasta.

Carrot Top Pesto
Makes about 2/3 cup/165 ml

1 cup/20 g lightly packed carrot leaves (stems removed)
6 tbsp/90 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove
1/4 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (see Cook’s Note)
1/4 cup/30 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, and salt and process until finely minced. Add the pine nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before using.

Cook’s Note
Toasting pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seedsbrings out their flavor. Spread the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, place in a preheated 350ºF/180°C/gas 4 oven and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the nut or seed. Alternatively, nuts and seeds can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Watch them closely so they don’t burn.