There are some foods that make you feel at home instantly, no matter where you are. Other than dal-chawal (lentils and rice), a humble aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) is what warms my heart on any day. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. Subtle spices and softly tossed potatoes and cauliflower florets are all you need to set up the dish. I enjoy it with hot parathas and a good helping of some fresh green chutney (coriander and mint condiment).
Every Indian household cooks aloo gobi in one way or another, though it is surprisingly thought to be a staple of north India. I grew up in Orissa, a state in eastern India where aloo gobi traditionally is cooked in a thin stew. But, that recipe is for another day. This version is a mushy dried gravy that goes very well with flat breads.
Tips on making this dish homelike, further in the post.
Like a lot of other vegetables, the adoption cauliflower was also through colonization. It originated in Cyprus and moved far and wide in Europe, and made its way to India in 1822.
What are some tips for making a homelike aloo gobi?
Here are some easy takeaways from my learning of making this dish over fourteen years now:
Always toss the potatoes and cauliflower in some oil before adding them to the onion-tomatoes masala. It's important to maintain the texture of the vegetables for this dish. The soggier you make your vegetables, the less better they taste.
Ginger, coriander powder, turmeric and some red chili powder are sufficient to give this dish its flavour. High-note spices like garam masala tend to overpower the humble flavours and tend to make the dish richer and heavier for the stomach.
The coarser the masala, the more homely the gravy feels! You needn't do fine chopping and grinding for the spices. Roughly chop the onions and tomatoes (they form the base of the gravy), use a pestle and mortar to crush the ginger and use it to pound some dry roasted coriander and cumin seeds too.
Never skip adding coriander leaves to aloo gobi in the end. It's not just for garnishing. Fresh coriander imparts a beautiful color to the dominantly yellow looking gravy, and also adds a hint of refreshing lemony aroma.
1 and 1/2 tbsp neutral oil
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
For the gravy base: 1 medium sized onion chopped, 1 medium sized tomato chopped, 1 tsp coarsely ground ginger, 1 finely chopped green chili (optional)
Dry spices: 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground coriander and cumin seeds, 1 tsp red chili powder
Few roughly chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Toss the vegetables:
In a wok or pan, add 1 tbsp oil and toss the potatoes and cauliflower florets until lightly golden on a medium flame.
Keep them aside in a plate.
Make the gravy:
In the same pan or wok, add 1/2 tbsp oil and add the cumin seeds.
When the seeds crackle, add the chopped onions.
Sauté the onions until pink, and then add the chopped ginger and green chilies.
Toss everything until the onions start changing color.
Quickly add the dry spices except the coarsely ground coriander and cumin seeds.
Mix for about 3-4 minutes or until the raw smell of turmeric disappears. Add splashes of water if the spices stick to the bottom of the pan/wok.
Add the tomatoes and mix everything together.
Add the coarsely ground coriander and cumin seeds at this stage when the tomatoes are squishy and juicy.
Mix again and then add some water and some salt. Cover the pan/wok and let the tomatoes cook for about 4-5 minutes.
Open and now add the tossed potatoes and cauliflower florets.
Add more water and salt to adjust the seasoning and consistency, and then cover the pan/wok again.
Cook until the vegetables are tender (not soggy). Open and add the fresh coriander leaves.
Enjoy it with your favourite flat bread and some chutney or pickle!