As nearly one third of the world’s cauliflowers are grown in India, it is no surprise to find it featuring in so many curry dishes. Perhaps the best known is Aloo Gobi, the hearty mixture of cauliflower and potato. Recipes abound: I offer my version, cherry picked from others. Don’t worry too much about your spice mixture. Some will include fenugreek. I use it sparingly: that and asafoetida are the two which more than any others will permeate your house for at least three days, no matter how good your extraction system. On the other hand, I am a fan of mustard seeds, even though some recipes omit them. All the versions which I know include curry leaves: fine if you have access to a decent Asian market, but elderly ones in jars aren’t worth it. Finally, don’t worry overly much about quantities of cauliflower and potatoes, just try to keep them approximately equal.
The first dish, however, isn’t Indian, but has a bit of a kick. It comes from Sarah Mellersh of Let’s Cook Scotland, cookery teacher extraordinaire. After doing a two week course with her a few years ago I came away with a folder of recipes thick enough to choke an elephant. I haven’t had a dud yet. It’s not often I do a three parter on a single ingredient, yet I’ve omitted much. For example, in Tuscany they boil cauliflower and broccoli to a mush and mash them with loads of butter and nutmeg. I haven’t mentioned fritters or stir fry dishes, or… But you get the point. If you have any favourites please send them to me at email@example.com
Sarah Mellersh’s Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard Dressing and Parsley
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into bite size florets; 1 400ml can chickpeas, rinsed drained and dried; 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil; sea salt; small handful of chopped parsley.
For the mustard dressing: 1 tbsp Dijon mustard; 1 tbsp grain mustard; 1 tbsp white wine vinegar; 60 ml good extra virgin olive oil (for dressings I use Orodeal); salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Mark 6. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas in the oil in a large roasting pan and a generous pinch of salt. (I was taught as a boy that a “pinch” was the amount you could hold between thumb and forefinger. Watch professional chefs. Their idea of a pinch seems to be the amount you can hold between thumb and all the remaining fingers of the same hand.) Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft and everything is dark brown. While the cauliflower is cooking make up the dressing by stirring together all the ingredients with a big pinch of salt and a good few turns of black pepper.
While the cauliflower and chickpeas are still warm, toss them with the dressing and the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry)
Ingredients (would serve 4 as a main dish, but I would usually serve this as a side)
1 cauliflower, cut into florets (about 400 – 500g); 400 – 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 3cm); 2 tbsp oil (to be authentic you would use ghee, but vegetable oil (not olive) is fine); 1 large onion, chopped; thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated; 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1½ tsp black mustard seeds; ½ tsp turmeric; 1tsp ground cumin; ½ tsp hot chilli powder; 4 curry leaves (optional – see above); 2 green chillies, split lengthways (leave the seeds in if you like); 250g tinned tomatoes (an annoying measure, as most tins are 400g, but don’t chuck the whole lot in – you’ll find something else to do with them); pinch of sugar; 400 ml cold water; salt.
In a large pan, heat the oil and gently cook the onion until soft (about 5 minutes). Increase the heat a little and add the mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, chilli powder, curry leaves (if using) and chillies. Cook for a couple of minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop, then add the tomatoes and sugar, and cook for a further five minutes, stirring regularly. Put the potatoes and water in the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave the pan uncovered – you want the net result to be quite dry – but stir from time to time. Chuck in the cauliflower and bring back to a simmer. Cook for a further 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, stir from time to time, and make sure it doesn’t stick. If the cauliflower and potatoes aren’t tender you may have to add a little more water, but no more than necessary. Some might remove the chillies before dishing up, but the Indians wouldn’t.