One of the staple dishes at our house, while growing up, was the wonderful yet simple dish of aloo gobi - gently sautéed cauliflower and potatoes tossed in a aromatic melange of spices. It's certainly has got to be one of the most popular Punjabi vegetarian dishes, which rose to international fame in Gurindar Chaddha’s cult film Bend It Like Beckham. The film does not need any introduction as I am sure almost everyone has seen it.
A few months back my boss, Prof. TS, watched the film and became a fan. The following day he asked me if the Punjabi family - the Bhamras - embodied my family back at home! I had to laugh because it does not get more clichéd than that!
However, there is a certain truth in each cliché and I do remember my grandmother's (nani) credence was very similar to the unreasonable demands Jessminder's family put on her in the film.
Good Punjabi girls are not supposed to run around in skimpy shorts running after a ball, instead she should be charming, shy, dressed decently and know how to cook good down-to-earth Punjabi food. After all she has to fulfill her one purpose in life - marry well and cook a good aloo gobi for her husband. At the age of 15-18 I defied all of these clichéd notions with intrepidity. Luckily for me, my grandfather was mostly on my side!
Nani and I would often banter affectionately:
"Meeta stop running around half naked! Swimming, water-skiing - this not something for young ladies- beti" (Beti = daughter)
"But Nani I am on the swim team - I can hardly wear a salwar kameez in the pool!"
"Swim team, swim team! Forget the swim team. Has your mother taught you how to make dal or aloo gobi yet?"
"No nani - I am 16 I do not need to learn how to make all that Indian stuff!"
"All that Indian stuff? Ahaha, look here - angrez di puther - you are not only Indian but you are a Punjabi and you will learn how to make aloo gobi!" (angrez di puther = daughter of an English man)
"Not now Nani - I have to go to swim practice!"
From behind us I hear my Nana sigh.
"Gurcharan - leave the girl alone. If she does not go to swim practice how can she save the life of her drowning husband? She can hardly throw a life saving aloo gobi at him!"
That was my cue to freedom. With a quick hug and a wet kiss on his white bearded cheek I winked at my nana and left for swim practice.
Things change. Sadly, both my nana and nani are no longer here with us. I did learn how to make an aloo gobi. I can save my husband should he ever be drowning and feed him that damn good Punjabi aloo gobi too!
Recipe: Punjabi Aloo Gobi – Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes
Printable version of recipe here.
450g russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
450g cauliflower, cut into small-medium sized florets
400g canned diced tomatoes
200g frozen peas
5-6 inches long ginger, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil or ghee
- In a large skillet heat the ghee or canola oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and gently stir-fry until they begin to turn golden, approx. 1 minute.
- Lower the heat, add the potatoes, garam masala, turmeric and a pinch of salt. Carry on stir-frying until the spices cook and begin to smell fragrant – approx. 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower and toss to incorporated with the spices, then pour in the diced tomatoes. Stir once or twice, cover and allow to simmer over a medium heat for approx. 30-35 minutes. Stir occasionally. The vegetables should be tender but still firm.
- Add the peas about 10 minutes before the cooking time is completed and gently stir
- Sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve with hot rotis or naans.
- Once you have cut your potatoes into cubes, place them in a bowl of cold water. This will prevent the potatoes from turning brown. When you are ready to use, drain the water and pat dry with a few paper towels.
- Need for speed: use a bag of frozen cauliflower florets instead. Do not thaw them just add them to the skillet and proceed as directed.
I miss both the pillars in my life. My nana and nani were two opposites but both enriched my life in ways only grandparents can. I think my nani would have relished this aloo gobi. It is adapted from my mother's recipe who taught me how to make the dish after my nani passed away. It is typically made the Punjabi way - dry and with not much gravy. The cauliflower is tender and the potatoes hold their shape in the dish. The medley of spices bring an extraordinary highlight and the turmeric gives the dish a sunny yellow color.
More Bollywood Cooking from WFLH:
|Spicy Okra with Onions||Aachari Alu - Potatoes in Mango Chutney Sauce||Vegetable Paneer Frankies with Mango Chutney|
From around the blogs:
- Indian Spiced Millet And Black Bean Timbale – Tasty Palettes
- Indian Spiced Black-Eyed Peas with Tomato and Curry Leaves – Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Chettinad Mushroom Masala - Edible Garden
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