At the movies: Aloo Gobi

Potato and Cauliflower Curry
Potato and Cauliflower Curry

When I think about my favorite food-related movies, one of the first to mind is “Bend It Like Beckham.” What? What does a movie about girls playing football/soccer have to do with food? Well, there’s an iconic line in the movie when the protagonist, Jesminder, says, “Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?” Jesminder is a bit of a soccer fiend, but in order to play she has to overcome stereotypes about women’s roles in her culture —say, as makers of aloo gobi (a spicy potato and cauliflower).

As the oldest and only girl in my family, I sympathized with Jesminder’s plight, to be sure (I heard “Young ladies don’t scuba dive”), but the aloo gobi reference really hit home when I found Director Gurinder Chadha’s “how-to-cook aloo gobi” featurette at the end of the DVD. She provides a wonderful peek into her family and her kitchen technique when she makes aloo gobi with her mother and aunt “supervising” in the background. I laughed so hard I cried the first time I saw this because it reminded me so much of cooking with my own mother — me trying to take shortcuts and improvise, mom insisting it had to be “done the right. way.” Aloo gobi has been one of my favorite dishes for over 15 years, and the dish on the screen looked so good that I wanted to try Director Chadha’s recipe. I took notes on the recipe and technique directly from the DVD, pausing and writing, rewinding often to capture it just so.

This is the recipe I use every time now, and it’s what we had for T’s b-day dinner last night. It’s a nice balance of heat (we only use 2 serrano chilies) and spice, and definitely my favorite use of cauliflower! If Indian cooking is new to you, this is a good introduction because it doesn’t require some of the more exotic spices (like fenugreek, kalonji, or brown mustard seeds) in other traditional recipes. If you’re leery of peppers and heat in your food, try using hot paprika instead of sweet paprika and leave out the serranos altogether, but some small measure of heat is necessary to balance out the dish. Enjoy!

Aloo Gobi

ALOO GOBI
(as prepared by Gurinder Chadha)

Ghee or unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Medium cauliflower, quartered, then sliced
2 large potatoes, quartered then sliced
1 TBL cumin seeds
1-3 green (serrano) chilies, sliced
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
3-6 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp sweet (regular) paprika
3 canned tomatoes, and juice
handful cilantro, chop stems and pick off leaves for garnish
1 1/2 tsp garam masala

Heat ghee, add cumin seeds, then onion and cilantro stems. Cook until translucent (“creamy golden”).
Add chilies, turmeric, salt. Add paprika, then tomatoes. Stir in.
Add ginger, garlic cook about 1 min.
Add potatoes, cook 5 minutes
Add cauliflower and 2 TBL water, cover and cook 10 minutes.
Add garam masala cook 10 more minutes until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy.
Add cilantro leaves. Cover, turn off heat and leave 10 minutes.

Serve with naan or basmati rice. We had this with vindaloo (meat curry) and tarka dal (spiced lentils). Also excellent cold the next day as a sandwich or tortilla wrap.

Go, Broncos! (SCU)