My vegetarian/vegan friends sure have been helping me expand my cooking style lately. It’s easy to get lazy and put bacon in everything, as it guarantees a food success. But cooking without meat is a special challenge, because you have to rely on the actual flavors of things instead of delicious meat juice to flavor everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meatless dishes, but it is a challenge to make absolutely certain you don’t put any meat in things. I’ve been known to use bacon fat instead of cooking oil to saute onions, for example (yep, I keep bacon drippings in a jar in my fridge, and I actually owe an apology to the person who first told me to do that, because I insisted that it was gross, and it isn’t), or to use chicken stock to loosen a sauce. Cooking without those tricks is a new, and admittedly kind of fun, challenge.
But I do have a deep and abiding love for Indian food, which is mostly vegetarian. I love Indian food a lot. It is one of my answers to my mom’s favorite question to ask people: what three foods would you pick if you could have anything with you on a deserted island? The other two are Ya-Ya’s chicken caesar salad and a plate of pickled things, cheese and mustard. Anyway, back to aloo gobi. Aloo gobi is a classic Indian recipe featuring potatoes and cauliflower. Unlike a lot of curries, it is meant to be as dry as possible.
2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
4 big roasting potatoes, cubed into 1 inch pieces – more or less, not peeled, because don’t you know the skin is where all the vitamins are!?!
2 big sweet onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, cut into pretty circles (you can leave this out if you prefer)
1 piece of fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled and minced
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne or chipotle powder (you can leave this out if you prefer)
a few tablespoons of oil or butter
a handful of chopped cilantro
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees, and mix your powdered spices together in a bowl, and set aside. In a saucepan of some type, on medium heat, cook together the oil/butter, onions, garlic and ginger and jalapeno if using. Let these caramelize for awhile, until the onions are translucent and browning around the edges. Be careful at this stage, burnt garlic is gross.
While that is cooking, bring a big, oven safe pot or dutch oven with enough water to cover your potatoes to a boil. You can put the potatoes in while the water is cold and bring it to a boil with the potatoes in the pot, or wait to add the potatoes until the water is boiling, depending on whether you like to be scalded with boiling water or not. Cook the potatoes until they’re tender, probably 10-15 minutes. When they are a hair under tender, put the cauliflower in with them. It’s probably safe to turn off the heat and cover the pot, until the cauliflower is tender too, maybe 5-10 more minutes. When everything in there is tender, drain the potatoes and cauliflower, then return the pot to the stove, uncovered. This lets the heat from the veggies inside cook off any water left in the pot.
At that point, dump the onions/garlic mixture into the potatoes and cauliflower, and mix everything together. Next, grab the bowl of mixed up spices you made, and start sprinkling that over the veggies, mixing as you go. The point is to have everything well coated with the spice mixture, which is why it is also important to mix the spices together before you put them on the veggies- you don’t want a piece of cauliflower coated completely in coriander powder, now do you.
When everything is well mixed together – stick the pot in the hot oven and cook it for a few minutes, probably 7 or 10. When there’s some browning happening on the top of the potatoes/cauliflower, it is time to take it out. Mix in the cilantro, and serve with chutney and rice, roti or naan.
Aloo gobi is REALLY tasty. Like everything with a lot of flavors, it only gets better as it sits in the fridge. This recipe makes a lot of aloo gobi- enough to feed 4 people at dinner, and have leftovers for a few days. Aloo gobi goes really nicely with a chutney, as the flavors in it are very potato-y, not sweet or tangy at all. The spice from the jalapeno is a good complement to the starchiness of the potatoes. Aloo gobi is delicious, easy, cheap, and great for leftovers. What’s not to like? Potatoes? Good. Garlic? Good. Cumin? Good. No meat? Good, surprisingly.