Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aloo gobi

This mixture of potatoes and cauliflower is one of the most popular and well-known Indian dishes, and if you ever make it, you'll understand why. It's simple, satisfying, and it fills your kitchen with delicious aromas while it's cooking!

The thing about Indian recipes is that there's almost never just one authoritative version. Everyone has their own particular mix of spices that they add, and the amount and type of spices used define the dish and make it unique to its creator. While this is great, it means that if, like me, you're a novice at making Indian food, you just have to experiment a bunch of times to figure out what spice blends work best for you, and you may run into some less-than-perfect combinations on the way!

It took me three tries to come up with a version of this that I really liked, and in the end it was the simplest version that won out. However, if you're up for it, I encourage you to experiment with your own spice combinations to figure out which Aloo Gobi is your favorite. If not, I can assure you that the recipe below is a good one and is unlikely to offend anyone's taste buds!

2 medium potatoes (the aloo)
1 head of cauliflower (the gobi)
1 smallish onion
A couple cloves of garlic
A knob of fresh ginger
1 spoonful of cumin seeds
1 small spoonful of coriander seeds
1 spoonful of turmeric
1 small spoonful of garam masala*
1 small spoonful of ground red pepper (optional - I left it out this time and then ended up adding some pepper later because I didn't think the dish was spicy enough)
Olive oil or other vegetable oil - olive oil isn't very traditional, but I tend to use it for anything and everything that I can
A spoonful of lemon juice

*Garam masala is a spice mixture that I like to add to just about every Indian dish because it tastes so good. Though you can buy it in many stores, I highly recommend making your own, as it will generally be more flavorful and last longer. To make mine, I dry-roasted some cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, chopped nutmeg, black peppercorns, star anise, and bay leaves, and then ground them all together. I used my coffee grinder for that and so I had garam masala-tasting coffee for weeks afterward. Not so bad, really!

Rinse the cauliflower and fill a large bowl with cold water. Add the lemon juice and place the cauliflower, head down, into the bowl. Let soak for half an hour. This step can probably be omitted, but if you're worried about your cauliflower being dirty, it's a good way to get all the bugs out. Gross, I know, but not as gross as finding a dead bug on your plate...

Grind the coriander seeds to a powder and set aside with the turmeric and chili powder. Peel the garlic and ginger, mince them and then crush them together into a paste. The garlic-ginger paste is very common in Indian recipes and often has green chili peppers added as well, though I didn't add them here.

Peel and dice the onion, and then peel the potatoes and dice them as well.

In a large pan, heat some olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and let them cook a few minutes until they start to sizzle. Once they start sizzling, add the onion and cook until it's translucent and soft. Add in the garlic-ginger paste, let cook a few more minutes, and then add in the potatoes and the turmeric, ground coriander, and chili powder. Let cook a minute or so on medium-high heat, and then add the garam masala. Add in enough water to cover the potatoes, let the water come to a boil, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Let the potatoes cook about 10-15 minutes while you prepare the cauliflower by washing it and dividing it into little florets.

Once the potatoes are halfway cooked, add in the cauliflower, cover the pot again and let cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring every so often, until the cauliflower are tender, but not mushy. Add the salt, stir, and let any excess water boil off.

Serve warm with roti (Indian griddle bread), rice, or whatever else you please. Also tastes very good after being refrigerated and reheated, so make even more than you think you should!

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