There are certain foods that have the fascinating ability to transport me to another place and time. Sometimes it’s the taste of a fragrant, freshly baked slice of bread. One bite and I’m nine years old, back in my grandmother’s farm kitchen giggling with my cousins. Oh how I miss my cousins…
Other times it’s one sip of a cheap keg beer at a friend’s wedding causing me to remember my college days and all the (embarrassingly fun) moments with long-lost friends whom I’ll probably never cross paths with again (even you, crazy Toby!).
And then there is is this.
Just one smell of this simple and quick cauliflower preparation and I’m instantaneously transported back to India. And I’ve got to say, with the horrible winter we’ve been having here in Minnesota, I would definitely LOVE to be in India right about now! -50 degree F windchills do not make me a happy lady!
My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and loves to show her love through food. On our last trip to India, she would ask Baba to pick up cauliflower from the market so that she could make her sons a dish very similar to my version of gobi sabzi.
Piyush and Prithvish would gobble it up so quickly, anyone else would be lucky to get a taste.
Although this isn’t Maa’s exact recipe, it’s close. And don’t let its simplicity fool you. After all, the most loved food is almost always the least complicated…and trust me, this stuff is loved!
I started the dish by tossing
some a lot of mustard oil into a pan.
I used quite a bit more oil than I would regularly because I wanted the mustard flavor to really shine. It’s also how it’s done in India, and I was craving the real thing, if you know what I mean. None of this “skimp on the oil, save on the calories” silliness. Not this time.
Then I tossed a few curry leaves, a couple dried chilies and some panch phoran into the oil.
Panch Phoran is a mixture of 5 seeds common in Bengali cooking. It consists of mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella/kalonji (onion) seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds all in equal parts. It is typically used whole and is rarely used as a ground spice.
Panch Phoran is lovely tempered in mustard oil (another Bengali staple!) and is often used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Not to mention (ok, I’m mentioning it…), it also helps to make a darn awesome mango-date chutney (recipe coming soon)!
Think of it as the “Bengali Garam Masala.”
After the panch phoran began to crackle and pop in the oil, I added the chopped cauliflower
and stirred it well so that all the cauliflower was coated with the mustard oil.
Then I just sort of left it alone to do it’s thing, stirring whenever I thought of it or when I noticed the pieces beginning to brown and slightly soften. This took a good 15 to 20 minutes.
I finished off the dish with a good dose of salt (again, more than usual) and some ground black pepper. I also threw a handful of chopped coriander leaves into the mix, for good measure.
This simple sabzi (Indian vegetable dish) is something I’ve really been looking forward to sharing with you all. I hope you give it a try, and love it as much as we do!
Before I share the recipe, I would love to know, dear readers, what foods, if any, take you back in time? Please share with me in the comments, I love to hear from you all and hear about your experiences!
Gobi Sabzi: Indian Spiced Cauliflower Recipe
Be sure not to overcook this dish. The cauliflower should be a little browned and just slightly softened.
- 1 head of cauliflower (if using Indian cauliflower–which are quite small–use 2 heads), cut into small pieces
- 4 tbsp. mustard oil
- 1/2 tsp. panch phoran (may substitute garam masala–but the taste will be totally different)
- 4-5 curry leaves (optional, but recommended)
- 2 dry red chilies
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder (Adjust to suit your tastes. Sometimes less is more!)
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
- small pinch of sugar
- salt, to taste
- black pepper powder, to taste
- chopped coriander (cilantro), for garnish
- Add 4 tbsp. mustard oil to a heavy-bottomed pan or karahi over medium-high heat. Toss in 1/2 tsp. panch phoran, curry leaves and dry red chilies. Once the seeds begin to pop and crackle, tip in the cauliflower pieces. Stir until all the cauliflower is coated in oil.
- Add the chili powder and turmeric to the pan. Stir to combine.
- Cook the cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to turn a little brown, about 10-15 minutes.
- Toss in a pinch of sugar and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!