Alu-Gobi with Ajwain


This is my fourth recipe for alu-gobi. As I’ve said before, alu-gobi is a category rather than a specific dish. My previous versions have included recipes for a rich version with a lot of gravy, a dry version with a lot of spices, and a lightly-spiced version with no tomatoes. In this version there is some tomato and a light hand with spices. The crucial variation here is the presence of ajwain among the spices. (You can find ajwain easily at your nearest South Asian store or your online retailer of choice.) More commonly used in dough—for samosas, pooris, parathas etc.—ajwain can also be used to flavour vegetable dishes. A little goes a long way as it is rather assertive, its herbal aroma and flavour a bit like a lovechild of cumin and aniseed. Here a couple of pinches are deployed early in the process and its flavour and aroma build and suffuse the dish as it cooks without completely dominating it. The dish comes together very easily and served with rice or chapatis/parathas/pooris with dal and a pickle is the very epitome of comfort food.

Ingredients

  • 2 large waxy potatoes, roughly 3/4 lbs total, each cut in half lengthwise and each half cut into a few small pieces
  • 1 lb or so of cauliflower florets
  • 3-5 dried red chillies
  • 1 tspn cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds
  • 2 big pinches ajwain
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 1 tspn grated ginger
  • 1/2 tpsn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato
  • 1/2 tspn jaggery/brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup water off the boil
  • 2-3 tblspns neutral oil
  • Salt
  • 1 tblspn chopped dhania/cilantro (optional)

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the cumin seeds.
  2. As soon as the cumin seeds begin to crackle a bit add the dried red chillies, the methi and the ajwain.
  3. As soon as the methi darkens slightly (very soon) add the minced onion and saute till softened and browned.
  4. Add the ginger and saute till the raw aroma is gone.
  5. Add the potatoes, haldi and salt, mix in and saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent anything from sticking/scorching.
  6. Mix in the cauliflower and continue to saute for another few minutes.
  7. Add the tomato and jaggery (if using), mix in and saute till you see some oil separating.
  8. Add the water, mix in, raise to a high simmer then cover and cook on a low simmer till the potatoes are just done.
  9. Garnish with dhania if using and serve with chapatis/tortillas or dal and rice.

Notes

  1. The spice mix here is relatively restrained as the intention is to let the ajwain take center stage.
  2. You could certainly add a bit more tomato if you like but again my goal here is to not dominate the ajwain.
  3. You could, however, make it less dry by doubling the water.

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