Aloo Gobi is one of the most iconic dishes originating from Punjab in Northern India. A dry curry of potatoes cauliflower and spices, this simple peasant dish has grown in popularity not only throughout India and Pakistan but globally as well. Naturally vegan, there are as many variations of this dish as the regions who adapt and cook it, but today I will show you how to cook the easiest, most authentic, traditional Aloo Gobi.
Without realizing, we have been cooking a lot of Indian Vegetarian recipes and tucking into those on most weeknights. In fact, with Diwali just around the corner, my cute menu board features mainly delicious Indian recipes. Doesn’t it look amazing resting on this glorious concrete benchtop in my freshly renovated kitchen corner? All our meals have a dry curry and I have made Aloo Gobi twice this week (and probably hundreds of times in my lifetime), so I thought I would share this cherished family recipe.
The Role Of A Dry Curry (Or Sabji) In Indian Cuisine
A simple homecooked meal in India on any given day consists of five main components. The first one is Sabji (meaning vegetables) and this is a dry curry or a stir-fry made up of seasonal vegetables. The next one is Dal (meaning lentils) which forms the wet component of the plate. Then there is a chopped raw salad, Roti (flatbread) and Rice. I grew up with this style of eating, my plate usually full of these five fresh, home-cooked components.
Typically if you were too busy to cook all five, you would either make Sabji and Roti or Dal and Rice. This combination makes it evident that a Sabji is for scooping up with Roti (flatbread) and Dal is meant to be eaten with Rice. In a plate, the Sabji takes precedence over everything as it is considered the healthiest element in the plate and a great way to incorporate seasonal vegetables in your diet on a daily basis.
A Traditional Punjabi Aloo Gobi
Aloo (potato) is used to make Sabjis all over India. It is cheap as chips, filling and easy to cook. It is usually always paired with another main vegetable. And its pairing with Gobi (cauliflower) is probably the most famous and delicious. A Sabji is usually dry and is cooked using a stir-fry/searing technique followed by a slow cook with a bit of moisture (either water or by adding water-laden vegetables like tomatoes).
I usually cook Aloo Gobi by feel, rather than adhering to strict times. A Sabji is probably easy to make because you cook and you check and you cook and check some more. And when it’s done, it’s done. It can’t get any simpler than that. The only thing to remember is that you need to cook ingredients in a certain order (to ensure that harder vegetables are cooked longer) and you have to resist the urge to add extra water as that can result in a mush at the end.
Taking Vegan Aloo Gobi further
The Guardian has an excellent article about the different versions of Aloo Gobi made by famous food writers and chefs and how they differ from each other. My version is as close to the Aloo Gobi I have had at hundreds of traditional Indian restaurants and roadside eateries in over two decades of living there. It is very close to my dad’s famous Aloo Gobi recipe as well. If done right, Aloo Gobi is a joy to eat. It is perfectly cooked pieces of cauliflower with caramelized edges, tender but firm potatoes – both dry enough to just eat with your hands. And a variety of spices teasing all your senses as you squeeze some lemon and tuck in with gusto.
Once you cook this delightful Aloo Gobi, you can make A Sabji Wrap by slathering some cashew cheese in a large flatbread and layering it with salad leaves, hot sauce and Aloo Gobi. You can also make Spicy Aloo Gobi Toasties by sandwiching this dry curry between two pieces of bread and cooking it in your jaffle maker. This Aloo Gobi also makes a mean base for a Veg Biryani. And finally, it also works really well in tacos!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon nigella seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 long red cayenne chilli, sliced*
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium potatoes (350g), peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
- 3 cups (450g) cauliflower florets
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon chat masala or amchur (mango powder)**
- 1 tablespoon kasoori methi***
- 2 tablespoons water
- Freshly chopped coriander leaves, to garnish
- lemon wedges, to serve
- Heat olive oil in a wide lidded non-stick cooking pan/sauté pan/dutch oven on medium. Add nigella seeds, cumin seeds, bay leaves, chilli, garlic and ginger. Sauté for a few seconds till the seeds start crackling. Add onion and cook tossing constantly until onions are caramelized.
- Add potatoes, cauliflower and salt. Cook tossing constantly for 8-10 minutes until both potato and cauliflower are golden and starting to brown.
- Add tomato, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, chat masala and kasoori methi. Mix well.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, add water, cover and cook on that slow heat for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. Check often and toss gently to ensure even cooking and avoiding the veggies from sticking and burning. If too dry, add another tablespoon of water. Check and add a bit more salt if required.
- Remove from heat, garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with lemon wedges alongside rotis or rice.
* Red Cayenne chilli is a thick long chilli with mild to medium heat. If you prefer your curry to not have this spice, just skip it or add only a couple of slices of the chilli.
**Chat Masala or Amchur (Dry mango powder) can be found at Indian grocers or specialty spice shops. If you can’t find these spices, just squeeze half a lemon to add the sour element.
***Kasoori methi is dried Fenugreek leaves. It has a bitter earthy flavour that imparts a delicious warmth and richness to this curry. You can also source this at Indian grocers or specialty spice stores.