The comforting potato and cauliflower curry (aloo gobi) may have originated from Punjab’s fertile land, but it has become a well-loved vegetarian dish throughout India. Savory, inexpensive, and filling, this vegetable curry is a staple in northern Indian households.
Traditional aloo gobi is prepared with a combination of spices, chili, tomatoes and the holy trinity of Indian cuisine: garlic, ginger, and onion. Ground spices like turmeric, coriander, and cumin are sautéed in hot oil before the potatoes and cauliflower are thrown into the masala (spice mixture). A little liquid is added to the dish, leaving it fairly dry with bold, intense flavors and textures. Aloo gobi will convert dedicated carnivores to eat their vegetables, and like them too.
In the cooler months in Amritsar, we had gobi coming out of our ears. I remember pulling a few scarecrows down as a child so the black crows could share the garden’s bounty.
This hearty and easy-to-make dish does not have a common recipe and varies in each region. Some call for the potatoes and cauliflower to be fried first. Others blanch the florets or mix indigenous ingredients like grated coconut, curry leaves, or curry powder—which might raise the eyebrows of a few Punjabi grannies.
Whatever version you make in the end will surely be a fond reminder of home.
(serves 4 as a side dish)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or any neutral oil) or 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion (chopped)
3-4 garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
1 medium-sized piece ginger (grated)
2 large tomatoes (chopped) or 1 tbsp tomato puree/paste
1 long chili (chopped)
2 large potatoes (cut into chunks)
1 head cauliflower (cut into florets, slightly larger than the potatoes)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt and pepper to taste
juice of ½ lemon or lime
1 bunch of fresh chopped coriander (cilantro)
- In a wide, lidded saucepan heat oil or ghee over a medium fire. Saute onions and fresh chili and cook for eight minutes, or until soft and golden brown.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook for two minutes.
- Add the dry spices and sugar. On a lower flame, cook for a few minutes before stirring in the tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, then toss in the potatoes and cauliflower. (Cutting the cauliflower into slightly bigger pieces will have allowed it to cook evenly with the potatoes.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover with a lid for half an hour on a low flame, occasionally stirring the vegetables until tender. You may need to add water, but this recipe is meant to be a thicker, dhaba (roadside restaurant)-style curry.
- Remove from heat when the vegetables are cooked, squeeze the lemon over the dish to add zing, and top with fresh coriander.
- Serve with your choice of Indian bread, basmati rice, raita, a chutney or pickle.