Alu-Gobi, Lightly Spiced


I made this take on alu-gobi a couple of days ago and here now in response to some queries is the recipe. This is, I believe, my third alu-gobi recipe and it is by far the simplest. (The other two are here and here.) It involves very few ingredients and very few spices. Sometimes I am tempted to launch a campaign aimed at getting Americans to stop associating Indian food only with big flavours. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of classic Indian preparations that involve big flavours—and god knows, I often fall prey to over-spicing things as well. But that expectation and the many dishes that feed it often completely obscure all the ones that aren’t BIG in that way but which are rather tasty anyway. A lot of Indian food is very subtle, even if that’s not its reputation. This alu-gobi is one such. The major flavour here is that of the cauliflower set off by some cracked coriander seed. A light tadka of hing, zeera and red chillies give it a bit of umami depth and heat, some amchur for acidity at the end and that’s pretty much it. There’s no tomato, no garlic or ginger and only a bit of onion. Give it a go, you’ll like it.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs cauliflower florets, the smaller the better
  • 3/4 lb potato, diced small
  • A small pinch hing
  • 1 tspn zeera/cumin seeds
  • 3-5 dried red chillies
  • 2 tblspns chopped onion
  • 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1 tspn coriander seeds, very coarsely ground
  • 1/2 tspn amchur/dried mango powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 -3 tblspns of oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • Salt

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or karhai/wok till shimmering (or in the case of mustard oil, till just beginning to smoke).
  2. Add the hing and the zeera.
  3. When the zeera splits add the dried red chillies.
  4. As soon as the chillies get glossy and begin to puff up (this will happen quickly, try not to let them scorch).
  5. Add the potatoes, mix in thoroughly and stir-fry till lightly browned and crisped (about 7 minutes).
  6. Add the diced onion, the coarsely ground coriander seed, the haldi and the salt. Mix in and saute for another 5 minutes or so.
  7. Add the cauliflower, mix in thoroughly and saute for another 5 minutes or so.
  8. Add the water, bring to a high simmer, cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  9. Uncover, let the water mostly evaporate, add the amchur, stir in and after a minute or so take off the heat.
  10. Serve with a mild dal and rice/chapatis and a spicy pickle on the side.

Notes

  1. A little chopped dhania/cilantro garnish will of course not be amiss.
  2. And you could certainly add half a cup of peas as well along with the water.
  3. The main note here is the tang of the cracked coriander seed, accentuated by the amchur. The flavours of the dish as a whole are clean and bright and light. That may not be what you associate with most Indian food but that’s a good reason to make dishes like this one.

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