Please Note: This Article was published earlier this month on India Food Network Blog, August 2015 issue.
I vividly remember my after-school meals. I would knock off my shoes, throw away my massive bag, run to the kitchen in my parrot green uniform and plant my chin to lean over the kitchen counter. My mom would be busy making hot rotis by the stove, and I could smell the aloo-gobhi topped with fresh coriander as I waited for my roti while holding a steel plate. Not much has changed, even today when I get the whiff of my mom’s aloo-gobhi, the child in me runs to the kitchen and waits in anticipation for my hot roti.
When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me her little tricks and tips of cooking this vegetable or that as I stood in the kitchen with my plate. “Always cook cauliflower with adrak (ginger)” she would say. “Gobhi and adrak are perfect partners, aloo-gobhi can never be made without it”. It was my mom who taught me never to add water while making dry preparations, but to cook vegetables slowly in their own steam. This allows the vegetables to release their own flavor. She taught me about the “perfect partner” of every vegetable that she cooked.
At that time it never made any sense to me. I never really understood why pumpkin is cooked with methi seeds or why bhindi was always cooked in panchphoran, or why it’s necessary to add hing in cabbage sabji. While it’s easy to assume that one flavor compliments the other, the science behind my mother’s cooking was far deeper.
You see my mother grew up at a time when onion, garlic and tomatoes were not that common in Indian cooking. Her grandfather, an Ayurveda doctor had told the women of the house that each vegetable must be cooked keeping mind its digestive properties, and based on which herb or spice would compliment flavor as well as help in digesting the food better. Every vegetable is cooked with a specific type of spice in order to aid its proper digestion and assimilation in the body.
The reason why cauliflower must be cooked with ginger, or a cabbage sabji must include hing, is that both vegetables cause flatulence meaning a bloated stomach. To prevent this bloating we add ginger to cauliflower because the digestive properties of ginger aid in the proper digestion of cauliflower and prevent you from feeling bloated.
Indian cooking is based on such simple principles that revolve around the nature of ingredients, understanding of digestion and assimilation as well as on geography and climate. Every recipe has a science behind it, and every household carries a legacy of cooking styles that maximize flavour and health benefits from an ingredient.
Cauliflower for instance, is a winter vegetable in India and ideally should be eaten in the winter season. It can be paired with ginger, hing (asafetida) or cloves for better digestion. The best way to cook cauliflower is to allow it to cook in its own steam. After sendha namak, or pure Himalayan pink salt is added to the tempered cauliflower, cover the vessel with a fitted lid. The moisture released by the cauliflower is trapped in the vessel as steam, which cooks the cauliflower while keeping the entire flavor from escaping. You need to have patience, keep the heat as low as possible, do not uncover and do not add water in a hurry. Check the cauliflower after about ten minutes, once it is soft turn off the heat.
Here’s my version of mom’s classic Aloo-Gobhi. I hope that you will try it, do let me know if you enjoyed it.
Adraki Ghhuti Gobhi aur Lachha Aloo Recipe
This recipe is loaded with herbs, green chillies full of antioxidants and ginger, cumin, bay leaf that aid in better digestion. Grated cauliflower reduces the time of cooking while preserving the taste and nutrition in the vegetable.
You will need
Cauliflower, grated; 2 cups
Ginger, grated; 1 tablespoon
Sendha Namak (pink salt); 1 teaspoon
Ghee; 1 tablespoon
Cumin; ½ teaspoon
Bay leaf; 1 no.
Turmeric powder; 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder; 1 teaspoon
Chilli powder (optional); ½ teaspoon
Coriander Leaves, chopped; ¼ cup
Green Chilli, chopped; 1 teaspoon
Potato, cut into thin strips; ½ cup
Amchur (dried mango powder); ½ teaspoon
- Mix the grated cauliflower and ginger in a bowl with ½ teaspoon sendha namak. Allow them to release their juices.
- Lightly apply a thin film of ghee on an iron pan and allow it to heat.
- Roast cumin and bay leaf lightly on the pan until they turn a shade darker.
- Add in the mixture of cauliflower and ginger along with the moisture in the bowl.
- Add in turmeric and coriander powder and mix well.
- Turn the heat as low as possible (keep a heavy bottom pan under the vessel if necessary). Cover the cauliflower vessel with a fitted lid. Allow it to cook for 5 to 7 minutes without opening the lid.
- After 5 minutes, open the lid and stir. Check if the cauliflower is soft and mushy, entirely cooked through. Add chilli powder if you wish to.
- Mix in chopped coriander leaves and green chillies into the cauliflower.
- In the end, mix ½ teaspoon of ghee in the cauliflower.
- For the Potato lachha, heat up a tava and line it with a thin film of ghee.
- Add the thin strips of potato to the pan and roast them until they are crispy.
- Lightly toss them in sendha namak and amchur.
- Top the cauliflower with the lachha potato and serve hot with rotis.