"Remember the five constant spices in every Punjabi dish - salt, turmeric, red chilies, coriander powder and garam masala" - Krish from 2 States (Chetan Bhagat)
If you are introduced to a story via a visual platform, flipping the pages may sound not so exciting or so I thought and wanted to try another book of the same author and read "2 states". Personally, I think it is an ok book with some good moments so it promptly fell into my 'travel read' category. In this literally exaggerated personal story of the author, the 2 main characters are from 2 different regions in India, how they fall in love and how they get married after convincing both sides of the family about their true love. Hard to believe in Today's India. Except for the fact that it is his personal story, there is nothing new that is not already talked about before. I will take DDLJ over this book any day if you are talking about a convinced parent. I will not go into the story but tell you something that piqued my foodie brain a little. Krish, the protagonist (or hero since these seem to be written mainly for movies) is from Punjab and while working in Chennai and trying to win his girl friend's family, constantly misses his buttery naan/roti and his mom's Alu-Gobi as he floats in Sambar along with the idli/dosa. On the other hand, when Ananya (female lead :-)) who lacks basic skills in cooking tries to cut Gobi for his favorite Alu-Gobi, Krish's mother sniggers at her lame attempt. Food forges an unmistakable identity every where.
Well, now you know why I blabbered about books in general and Chetan Bhagat in particular and his "2 states" - as always it leads to a recipe :-). I have had Alu-Gobi in many places before and have always liked the mild flavors that seem to magically come together along with the comforting texture of soft but not mushy Alu & Gobi. The dish is traditionally cooked by letting Alu & Gobi mingle with the masalas over low heat and long time. It takes effort to get them to cook to the right spot, so if you eat this dish in restaurants, you will find that they would have dunked the vegetables in hot oil partially to get the crispy texture but more importantly to speed up the cooking process. You can do that or follow the simple parboil method I will show you here. Great taste doesn't have to be high calories.
I tried my hands at posting Punjabi recipes here and here. Those have been our favorite at home and I make them often. When it comes to recipes that are not part of what I grew up eating, I hesitate a little since my sources may not always be the authentic sources and also I usually tailor them to suit my family's palates. Nonetheless, every recipe I post on my blog is made at home and something that we have enjoyed eating. So with a disclaimer on the authenticity, I present this very Punjabi Alu Gobi masala. It is a moist curry without flowy gravy, the spices used are minimal but impart a very delicious flavor to the curry. I served this flavorful Alu-Gobi with some roti and a very South Indian Majjige Huli, afterall it is a tale of 2 states isn't it? :-). Give this a shot in your kitchen and let me know how you liked it.
What do you need to make Alu-Gobi masala?
2 medium potatoes
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/4 cup frozen or fresh peas (optional)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1/2 Tsp grated ginger
1/2 Tsp crushed garlic (adjust to your liking)
1 Tsp cumin
1.5 Tblsp oil
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
1/4 Tsp coriander powder
1/8 Tsp amchoor powder (adjust tangyness based on tomatoes)
1/4 Tsp garam masala
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
1.5 Tsp salt - divided use
chopped cilantro for garnish
How do you make Alu-Gobi masala?
- Peel and cut the potato into cubes. Add a little bit of water, sprinkle a dash of salt and microwave it for 3-4 minutes or until potato parboils. Remove and strain all the water, keep aside until ready to use.
- Wash cauliflower florets, sprinkle a dash of salt and microwave for 3-5 minutes, keep aside until ready to use.
- Heat oil in a wide pan, add cumin and let it sizzle.
- Add minced onion, salt and cook until onion is soft.
- Add ginger & garlic, mix it in and cook for a minute.
- Add chopped tomatoes and continue to cover and cook on low heat until everything in the pan turns into a mush and comes together.
- Add the dry powders and mix it in.
- Add the half cooked potatoes, frozen peas and par boiled cauliflower into the pan, mix gently to coat the masala on all the pieces.
- Cover, lower the heat to minimum and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but hold the shape.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy as a side dish with roti/phulka or naan.
- If you are using fresh green peas, cook them separately al dente before adding. Frozen peas do not need any extra cooking time and can be added directly.
- Traditionally, potatoes and cauliflower are cooked in the sauce itself to make every bite flavorful, however this takes long time and given the different cooking times needed for the 2 vegetables, you need to be on guard to get the right consistency.
- Par boiling the vegetables ahead of time with a sprinkle of salt prepares them well for the cooking process and helps absorb the sauce quickly.
- If you do not own a microwave or do not want to use it, boil water in a sauce pan, add a sprinkle of salt, add the potato chunks, switch off and keep it covered for 3-4 minutes before draining off the water.
- To par boil cauliflower, follow the same process but do them separately to get them out before they become too soft.
- Resturants kitchens usually dip the potatoes and cauliflower in oil (read deep fry) to get the crunch, extra taste and a whole load of extra calories. This is a time saver but I do not personally prefer it or recommend it to anyone unless you are on a diet that requires you to intake a few extra fatty calories. Go ahead and indulge :-)