Does the world really need another aloo gobi recipe? Not really. Does it need one from a 40-something white man from the American South? Definitely not.
Why write this up then? Because I’ve just been completely disappointed by every recipe I’ve seen for this beautiful potato and cauliflower dish. For me Indian cuisine is all about flavor. So when most recipes are little more than lightly-spiced steamed cauliflower, I am motivated to take action.
Often, aloo gobi will be a bright yellow from turmeric. I omit the turmeric from the main dish. Instead I use spiced ghee, butter browed with spices, to impart the wonderfully earthy flavor of turmeric while avoiding some of the bitterness. The result is that the yellow is more muted.
I use fresh tomatoes, which is not uncommon. I do fry them out making the final “sauce” a little pastier than is typical. Aloo gobi should be pretty dry. It should not have a gravy.
The other thing that makes me crazy is when the potatoes and cauliflower are falling apart. So not only do they not have flavor developed, they quickly turn into a mush on the plate.
I avoid the mushiness and build flavor by roasting the cauliflower and frying the potatoes in the spiced ghee. Using waxy potatoes like red or gold potatoes also helps them maintain their shape.
One note on garam masala: you should make your own if you can. Garam masala is the base flavor of the dish. The store bought stuff is often old and has lost a lot of flavor. Even beyond that, commercial garam masalas in my opinion are not roasted enough or even at all in some cases, failing to unlock most of the flavor. If you do use commercial garam masala the recipe will work fine it just won’t have the same depth of flavor. I would avoid adding more to compensate.
Although far from typical, I really enjoy this version of aloo gobi. I hope you do, too.
- Pan suitable for oven roasting
- ~8qt pan, pot, or dutch oven
- ~1/2 cup Spiced Ghee or plain ghee (use vegetable oil to make vegan)
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 1/4 lb of waxy potatoes such as red or gold
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves of garlic, grated on a microplane (preferred) or finely chopped
- knob of ginger, roughly thumb sized, grated on a microplane (preferred) or finely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes or 1 large one, seeded and chopped
- 1/3 cup of frozen peas
- 1.5 tsp. whole cumin
- 2 tsp of whole coriander or 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 2–4 whole red peppers or 1 tsp of ground red pepper (vary to desired heat level)
- 4 tsp Garam Masala (split into two equal portions)
- Cilantro, chopped
- Kosher salt
Heat oven to 425ºF.
Assemble all of your ingredients. This is particularly important as at some stages of the preparation, things must happen quickly. If you’re faffing about looking for your spices the dish will burn.
Seed the dried red peppers and grind with whole coriander in a spice grinder if not already ground.
Break cauliflower down into slight larger than bitesized florets. Place in a oven-proof pan or baking dish. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the spiced ghee and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Roast in the oven, toss occasionally for 35 minutes or until the cauliflower is brown and tender, but not mushy.
Heat your pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Cut potatoes into wedges.
Add about 1 tablespoon of the spiced ghee to the pan. Working in batches, brown the potatoes in the ghee on all of the cut sides, turning as needed. Add a pinch of salt to each batch. Tongs work well for turning the potatoes. You may need to add more spiced ghee between batches. Be careful not to over-crowd the pan or the potatoes will not brown and will start to steam. We are not looking to cook the potatoes through. We are browning them to give them a richer color and flavor.
In the same pan that you cooked the potatoes, add another 1–2 tablespoons of ghee and let it heat up for a few seconds. Throw in the whole cumin seeds. They should immediately start to crackle and pop. If they do not you may need to increase the heat. After 10 seconds of crackling add the thinly sliced onions.
Fry the onions, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, about 13 minutes. Throw in the garlic and ginger and cook for about 20 seconds if grated or 1 minute if finely chopped. Add the ground red pepper, ground coriander, and half of the garam masala, stir rapidly for 5 to 10 seconds, then quickly add the chopped tomatoes. It is extremely important to do all of this quickly or things will burn and you’ll have to start over. The spices in particular will quickly burn.
Cook the tomatoes down until they form a thick paste and start to fried. Add the fried potatoes, about 1/3 cup of water or vegetable stock, and 1.5 tsp of kosher salt and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. You are looking for little to no resistance when poking one of the potatoes with a paring knife. If the pan gets too dry and pasty before the potatoes are done it can burn, so add a little more water if necessary.
At the end you are looking for a fairly thick paste coating the potatoes. If it is too wet, continue to reduce down until it thickens.
Add the peas and the remaining garam masala. Stir and let cook for 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower, and mix thoroughly. Bring the cauliflower up to temp, about 1 minute. Cut the heat.
Serve with rice and fresh chopped cilantro sprinkled on top. Fresh riata is also great with the dish.