Aloo Gobi is a mildly-spiced curry from India. The dish is made by cooking potatoes (‘aloo’) and cauliflower (‘gobi’) in a tomato sauce that has been flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Although technically easy to make, the timings can be difficult to get right. Potatoes are firmer than cauliflower, which means that they take longer to cook. And, unlike cauliflower, then cannot be eaten al dente (raw / undercooked potato is unpleasant, and difficult to digest). If you add both vegetables to the pot at the same time, then the cauliflower will be mushy and over-cooked by the time the potato is edible. To avoid textural dissonance, you have three options:
- cut the cauliflower into slightly larger pieces than the potato
- add the potato to the pot first, and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes before adding the cauliflower
- pre-cook the vegetables separately, and combine at the end
Options #1 and #2 are not without risk – it may take a few attempts before you find the golden ratio that ensures perfect results every time. You will also need to add more liquid to the pot, which results in a watery curry that dilutes the flavour. This means that option #3 gives the best results. Using this method, the cauliflower florets are cooked in the curry sauce, which allows the flavours to soak into the crevices. The potato cubes are boiled in a separate pan, and then left to cool and firm up so that they do not disintegrate when stirred into the sauce at the end. To avoid this scenario, you should ideally use a way variety of potato.
Potatoes are classified according to whether they are waxy (Charlotte, Jersey Royal, new potatoes), or floury (Desiree, Estima, King Edward, Maris Piper). Waxy varieties are higher in starch and lower in moisture. This gives them a firmer texture, and makes them suited to dishes where the potato needs to hold together or crisp up. Waxy potatoes are good for fries, potato salads, and Spanish tortillas. Floury varieties are lower in starch and higher in moisture. This means that they break down when cooked, resulting in a light and creamy texture with rough, broken edges. Waxy potatoes are good for mashed potato, baked potatoes, and roast potatoes.
Because the curry already contains carbohydrates from the potatoes, you don’t need to serve it with rice to create a filling and complete meal. I often eat it with a three-egg omelette instead. So this is a particularly good recipe if you are trying to gently re-introduce carbohydrates to your diet. Aromatic seeds like fennel and cumin aid digestion, which means that gently-spiced curries can be a good gateway back to carbohydrates. If you struggle to digest legumes, then you can leave out the peas (although peas are considered the easiest legume to digest).
Tips & Tricks
- Cook the potatoes and cauliflower separately – this allows you to cook both to the perfect texture (neither overcooked and mushy, nor undercooked and hard)
- Leave the cooked potato to cool – this firms up the texture, and stops the cubes from disintegrating when they are stirred into the curry
- Cover for most of the cooking time – this traps steam to help the vegetables cook, and stops the liquid from evaporating before they have finished cooking
- 500g waxy potatoes (Charlotte, Jersey Royal or new potatoes), peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 head of cauliflower (750g net weight, which will yield about 325g florets)
- 2 onions (260g)
- thumb-sized piece of root ginger (20g)
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 5 tablespoons cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
- 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds)
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 400g (1 can) tinned chopped tomatoes
- 125g frozen peas
- Cook the potato. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes, salt and 1/2 of the turmeric. Cook until the potatoes are tender, but still holding their shape – about 12 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
- Prepare the vegetables. Meanwhile, remove the leaves and stalk from the cauliflower and discard. Chop in half lengthways, then cut out most of the hard core. Chop into small florets. Trim the ends off the onions. Cut in half lengthways, then chop into fairly thick slices. Peel and mince the garlic, and peel and grate the ginger.
- Fry the whole spices and onion. Heat the cooking oil in a heavy-based casserole / deep-sided saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, and fry until they begin to pop – about 1-2 minutes. Add the nigella and fennel seeds, and fry for 1 minute. Add the onion and salt, stir, and cook until the onion is translucent but not brown – about 8 minutes.
- Fry the aromatics and ground spices. Turn the heat down to medium, and then add the garlic and ginger. Fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and burning. Add the cumin, coriander, chilli powder and the rest of the turmeric. Fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Simmer the curry. Add the cauliflower, and toss until evenly coated in the spice mix. Add the tomatoes. Cover, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook until the firmness of the cauliflower is to your liking – about 25 minutes to achieve fork-tender results, and less for an al dente texture.
- Assemble the curry. Stir in the peas and potato. Cover, and cook until warmed through – about 2 minutes. Transfer into a serving dish and serve hot.