10 March 2010

Aloo Gobi

A dear friend asked if I could describe to her how I would go about making aloo gobi. There are a bunch of different versions, but I like a fairly simple one. Here was my reply:

There's three major methods, but I tend to use one or the other, depending on where I am, and what the intention is. Per head of cauliflower, you want about 3 medium sized potatoes, one medium sized onion, and 3 roma or 1 beefsteak tomato. The spices you want to use are cumin, coriander, and garam masala.

One method is to chop the potato, floret the cauliflower, get onions, ginger, garlic all minced up, and chop up some tomato and cilantro. Then, deep fry the cubed potato till it's tender, and crispy on the outside. Drain. Then, deep fry the cauliflower until it's browned. Pour out the oil from your pot, and leave behind a couple of tablespoons. Pop your spices, sautee your onions, and add in the chopped tomato. Cook them together for about 5 minutes or so. I wouldn't use tinned diced tomato, because it won't break down completely. When you've got your gravy formed, pitch in the fried vegetables, and stew everything together for like 10 - 15 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and cilantro, and cook another minute or so. Turn off the heat, slam on the lid, and let it rest for 20 minutes, while you clean up the enormous mess you've made, and put away the 30,000 things you brought out to make this mess. Pull out some flour tortillas, and use the method for making roti, so that you don't make an even more giant mess by making fresh made roti. Because this was a consdierable mess. Pour yourself some wine, sit down with your husband, and eat. For the next day or so, revel in the lovely smells that have permeated your house.

Then, there's the shortcut to all that deep frying. Chop your potatoes only. Toss them in oil, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. While the potatoes are roasting in the oven, floret your cauliflower, and toss that in a bit of oil too. Spread them out on their own baking sheet, and throw them in the oven when the timer hits 20 minutes. While those two are going, set a large pot on your stove. Leave the stove off. Chop up your onions, and toss them into the pot on the stove. See, this way, you don't dirty up any more dishes than strictly necessary. Trust me, it'll be fine. When all the onions are chopped up, sprinkle some powdered cumin and powdered coriander over the onions. Pour in a couple tablespoons of oil. Turn on the heat to screaming high. The oil will percolate through the onions, and the onion liquid will release quickly, making it so you don't need to add so much fat. While the onions cook, chop up your tomatoes. If you're using diced tomato from the tin, feel free to give them a couple of whizzes with the stick blender to chop them up nicely. Stir the onions every minute or two. When the onions are softened, add the tomato, and cover the lid. Cook covered for about ten minutes, stirring once or twice in between. By now, the timer should be screeching, and your roasted vegetables are ready. Wait until the tomatoes have had a chance to cook down, and become saucy. Add in the roasted vegetables, and stir well. Don't worry terribly if a couple of the potatoes or cauliflower florets break up a bit. It'll still be fine. Cover the lid, and let it stew together. Chop up some garlic, grate some ginger, and mince up some cilantro. When the vegetables have cooked for about 5 minutes in the sauce, open the lid, fling in the garlic/ginger, and add the cilantro. Turn off the heat, and slam on the lid. Wash up the baking sheets, and the cutitng board and knife. By the time you're done cleaning up, the stuff is ready.

The final method is to do everything on the stove, chopping as you go along. You need to be a relatively decent chopper for this to work out to your advantage. Chop some onions. Pop some cumin seeds and coriander seeds in just enough oil to coat the bottom of your pan. Add the diced onion. While the onions cook, cube the potatoes. When the onions are browned, add the potatoes. The reason you brown the onions instead of just letting them get soft is because in the previous two versions, the vegetables got browned. In this method, you're only really browning the onions. While the potatoes cook (over medium heat, please), floret the cauliflower. Chop the tomato, garlic, ginger, and cilantro. The potato cooking will give you plenty of time to chop up the rest of your stuff. The reason you don't add the tomato at the beginning is because you want the potatoes to get roasted a bit. When the potatoes are cooked through to your liking, add the cauliflower, poatotes, garlic, and ginger. Toss everything to combine. Cover with the lid, and let it simmer away for 10 - 20 minutes, depending on how al dente you like your cauliflower, and how big the florets are. If you like your cauliflower very crisp, go for even less than 10 minutes. Point is that you've got some wait time now, so go ahead and clean up behind yourself. There shouldn't be much clean up, beacuse this has become a stirctly one pot dish at this point. Take a peek into the pot about eight minutes in, and give everything a good stir. Let it keep cooking till the cauliflower is to your liking. Serve!

For all three versions, add a good heavy sprinkling of garam masala at the last minute of cooking. For all three versions, you may use 2 - 3 bay leaves and cook it with the onions. If you don't care for cilantro, use parsley or basil. For all three versions, add salt at the end, as the cauliflower will get mushy if you salt at the beginning. Of course, for all three versions, feel free to be generous with some chopped up chilie peppers to give it a kick.

The first method I would use if I'm trying to impress, and I'm doing a bunch of fried food anyway, so I don't have to worry about the deep fat frying being an issue. I've already got a cast iron skillet with hot fat, and I can afford the extra steps. The second method, I'd use at the restaurant, because throwing it into the oven means I don't have to babysit it on the stove. The third method I'd use when it's just me and Puppy, or me and a few friends over for a dinner and a couple of movies on the DVD player. To me, the third method causes the least mess, and I'm in the kitchen cooking other things anyway, so I don't mind that it takes a bit more of my attention.