Baby potato roast: Little girls and cacti, old friends and potatoes!

“Anu aunty, is this you??!!” – am overjoyed to see the message on Facebook – from a little girl who’s been our neighbour some two decades ago and who has since emigrated to Canada – she and her little brother were two of the cutest little munchkins – therefore the joy of reconnecting! And the next sentence took me back all those years ago to when both the mothers and the doting grandmother would gather on the terrace in the evening to feed the four little kids dinner together – and this little girl – Tas – would be waiting to see if i’d bring “rasam” or anything else she loved!
Many squeals of excitement ensued over the catching up of old friends from long ago  and of course, the ubiquitous “how big you’ve grown and how tall Akif is and how’re the grandparents and the parents” kind of talk later, there was one added little message – “Please, Anu aunty. Can you post the recipe for the baby potato pulao that you used to make?” Wow – for a kid who left India when she was about 4 or 5 years old, this was SOME memory!
One evening when the kids were coming downstairs, Arch slipped and fell headlong into a cactus plant that someone had left on the landing. Abortive attempt to try and remove the rugae (the fine hairlike spikes on cacti) had us running to the doc who sent us to a surgeon who told us the only way was to pull out the darn things by using tweezers. Back home to borrow tweezers from neighbours, high beam torches too and well, have you ever sat up a whole night trying to pull near invisible hairy things from a little child’s legs and arms? Both parents were in no condition to go to work the next day! But we DID pull out all the hairy fellas! Might have pulled out some hair too – going by the squeals!
As a reward, the kids got baby potato pulao for dinner – am sure Tas identified with the “babiness” of the baby potatoes!
Tas, dear, this one is for you!
Baby potato pulao
Baby potatoes – 1/2 kg – boiled and peeled
Methi (Fenugreek) leaves – 1 cup full – washed thoroughly. 
Basmati rice – 1.5 cups
2 cups water 1 cup milk or coconut milk
Grind together for a wet spice mixture.
1 green chili
3 -4 flakes of garlic
1″ piece ginger
3 tbsp yogurt
Whole spices:
Dalchini (cinnamon) – 2″
Cloves – 4 or 5
Black cardamom – 1 – crushed
Cardamom – 1 – crushed
Biryani ke phool (paasi poo – a lichen which grows on rock) – optional – 1/2 tsp
Jeera (cumin) seeds- 1/2 tsp
Shahjeera seeds – 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg – 1 pinch
Turmeric – 1 large pinch
Saunf (aniseed) – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Oil- 2 tbsp
Onions – 4 sliced finely and fried separately – to garnish
Mint leaves – washed and chopped – 1 tbsp
Cook the basmati rice with the water, milk and the ground wet spice mixture and salt.
In a separate pan, heat the oil and ghee together and drop in all the dry spices. Stir on a low flame for a minute. Add one tbsp of the fried onions, the fenugreek leaves, potatoes and salt and cook, turning over occasionally. This should take about ten minutes. Mix with the rice and cover and cook for a few minutes more. Garnish with mint and fried onions. Fried cashews too- if you’re feeling festive. This pulao needs just a  plain raita to go with it!
And, oh, don’t go near cacti – they don’t go well with pulao!