In the quest to get more of the good stuff into us, I am increasingly asked for more interesting ways to cook and serve vegetables – and this dish is certainly one of them. With autumn on the way we will be waving goodbye to summer salads and saying hello to fresh and abundant vegetables like cauliflower and potatoes – but the boiled varieties just too boring for words. So say hello to crunch, flavour and wholehearted goodness and the wonderful world of Indian vegetarian cuisine.
Aloo gobi is a traditional dish from the Punjab made with potatoes, cauliflower and spices and eaten just about everywhere in the Subcontinent. That means, of course, that there are a million different recipes all based on the same theme of marrying potatoes with cauliflower in a turmeric based spice mix.
I’m going to give you the one that was taught to me by my Indian neighbour, Nalini from Delhi, more than forty years ago when I first came to live in Sydney. She cooked mostly vegetarian food every morning for her husband, a journalist, who then went to work after lunch to do the night shift on the Herald. She had a little boy, and me a little girl. We were both far away from home and lived in the same block of flats so we ended up keeping each other company and becoming firm friends. I think that delicious cooking smells, wafting down the stairwell, first drove me to her front door and how fortuitous that proved to be for she introduced me to the wonderful world of her family food; dahl – 10 different ways, homemade chapatis, yoghurt, pakoras, biryani, kidney bean and chickpea curries………………………..and all she wanted in return was for me to teach her how to make roast lamb “with all the trimmings”. What a bargain.
This also led to exciting excursions with her to the the “spice and rice” emporium in Bondi of Ezekiel Moses and Sons – known to everyone as Eazy Moses. Walking into this shop was like entering Aladdin’s Cave; hessian sacks full of all kinds of lentils and beans, every spice imaginable (sold by weight), different rice, flours, pickles and everything one could possibly need for an Indian Kitchen – it was heaven. Alas, now gone like all other grocers shops – sucked into the vortex of the Aussie supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths. Back to aloo gobi!
- 1 small, fresh cauliflower with all the stalks intact
- 500g waxy potatoes – you don’t have to peel them
- 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter). This has become rather expensive so I find myself, these days, using half butter and half olive oil. You could use coconut oil but the butter gives it a richer flavour that marries with the ingredients perfectly.
- 1 brown onion, chopped finely
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
- 1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
- 2 hot green chillies – take the seeds out if you don’t like them too hot
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Heat the ghee/butter/oil in a heavy bottomed wide pan – about 25cm.
- Add the finely chopped onion and ginger and give it a good stir around.
- As this begins to soften, add the mustard and cumin seeds and stir around until they begin to pop.
- Add the turmeric and finely chopped green chilli, stir, stir.
- Chop up the whole cauliflower, stalks and all, then the potatoes making the pieces of potato smaller than the cauliflower. It should be chunky, but as you want the whole thing to be cooked evenly you need to make the potato a little smaller because they take longer.
- Tip into the pan and stir on a medium heat coating the vegetables with the golden subzi (spice base). Add the salt.
- Once the vegetables begin to turn golden add one tablespoon water, put a lid on and turn down the heat.
- Keep stirring to avoid sticking and burning. Should take about 15 minutes to cook.
- Traditionally served with dahl, yoghurt and wholemeal chapatis.
Aloo Gobi – in the pan and about to be cooked.
NOTE: Aloo Gobi is also a fantastic way to add the health giving properties of turmeric to your diet which is better for us cooked than raw.