In the magic of Indian cookery, spices are like the kiss from a fairytale princess. They turn ordinary things into royalty. In our aloo gobi recipe, their wizardry transforms potato and cauliflower into one of the world’s great curries.
Because it’s so popular across India and Pakistan — and everywhere else it’s enjoyed — aloo gobi has become one of those dishes that varies delightfully according to where you eat and who made it. It can be generously sauced or fairly dry, and anywhere from mild to hot
It’s grand when served as a side dish, but equally good as a main course with flatbreads or rice. That’s where it partners really well with relishes like a nicely potent lime pickle or mango chutney.
It’s also flexible and accommodating. You can tweak to your liking the amounts of spices you use. Maybe a little more cumin and cilantro. Maybe less of both. The same goes for the fenugreek, turmeric, garam masala, and freshly grated ginger.
And then there’s the chili. Without dramatically altering aloo gobi’s character, you can choose from a wide selection across the heat range. That’s because potatoes and cauliflower are so good at staying in the spotlight when there are chilies on the stage. In this recipe, I used green serrano peppers, but would be happy to swap them for, say, a little habanero or bird’s eye. It really depends on who you’re making it for.
Speaking of which, that’s another great thing about aloo gobi. It’s vegetarian. And, if you skip the butter that I love to use for melting down the onions and garlic — and, ahem, crowning the basmati — it’s also vegan. For dedicated meat-eaters, that means aloo gobi is a grand dish to serve to all your pals.
Choosing the potatoes and treating them right
This is about the only thing with aloo gobi curry where it’s wise to follow a couple of sensible rules. First, not too waxy, not too starchy. You want an all-purpose potato that fits somewhere in between. The potatoes need to keep their body and absorb just enough of the flavors from the spicy sauce.
Firm, waxy potatoes will tick that first box but not the second. And a floury, starchy potato will tend to fall apart and lose itself in the sauce. Middle ground is what you want — the sort of potato that’s just as grand mashed as it is front-and-centre in a fine potato salad.
And, rule number two, once they’ve been peeled and cubed, it pays to soak them for a little while in some cold water. This pulls out some surface starch and lets the chunks firm up a bit more. That’s dandy because it’ll cut any tendency to absorb the oil in which they first get fried hot and fast.
The tomatoes in our aloo gobi curry
For me, aloo gobi is such a great curry that I prefer to serve it as a main course — with buttery basmati rice. So, to create enough spicy sauce to pair happily with that divine rice, our recipe uses a couple of cans of tomatoes and their juice.
If you want to make your aloo gobi as a drier side dish to accompany something that’s already got plenty of its own sauce, use one can of tomatoes instead of two.
Aloo Gobi With Buttery Basmati Rice
For the aloo gobi
- 4 serrano peppers roughly chopped, seeds and all
- 1 pound potatoes peeled, roughly cut into 1-inch, bite-size cubes/chunks, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes and then thoroughly drained
- 1 head cauliflower about 1 ½ pounds untrimmed weight. I trim off about a third of the stalks, and carefully break the florets into pieces a bit bigger than the potato chunks.
- 2 cans peeled plum tomatoes 14-ounce cans, juice and all
- 1 yellow onion medium-sized, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated. I keep mine in the freezer — it’s really easy to grate it, skin and all.
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground sea salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil I use the odorless cooking variety
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice approximately the juice of 1/2 of a lime
For the rice
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 heaped teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
For the aloo gobi
- Set a big skillet (I used a deep, 12-inch one) onto a high heat and add the coconut oil. When it’s good and hot, add all the well-drained potato chunks. Give them a good stir, so they all get a good coating of the oil. Now let them fry on that high heat for about five minutes.
- You’re aiming to give them a fairly even golden color all over, so you’ll need to turn the chunks over a few times as they fry in the hot oil. Good. Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the chunks and set them aside. Try to leave as much oil as you can in the skillet — that’s where the cauliflower’s heading now.
- Turn the heat under the skillet back to high, and add all the cauliflower flower florets. You want to stir-fry these for about 3 minutes, so they take on some deep, golden char — not all over like with the potatoes, but just on those edges that sit naturally flat in the skillet. As soon as that’s done, turn off the heat. remove the florets with a slotted spoon, and set them aside with the potatoes. Time for the sauce.
- You’ll now need a saucepan that’s big enough to hold the potatoes, cauliflower, and their sauce. Set the pan on a medium heat and add the butter. When it just starts to foam, add the onion, garlic, chili, and salt. Stir well, and drop the heat to low-medium. Let the mix fry gently so that the onions soften and just begin to brown a little — and I mean just a little. That’ll take about 7 minutes with some attentive stirring. Good.
- Add all the spices but not yet the garam masala. So, that‘s the cumin, cilantro, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, and black pepper. Stir the pan well and let it cook over that low-medium heat for another 3 minutes. Then stir in all the tomatoes and their juice, and turn the heat to medium-high. As soon as the sauce begins to bubble, drop the heat to low and cover the pan.
- Let it simmer gently on low for ten minutes so that the tomatoes start to soften, and you can easily break them up with a spatula. You’re not aiming for a smooth purée, but rather for the sauce to keep a little of the tomatoes’ body.
- Now add the potatoes and cauliflower to the pan. Stir carefully to cover them in sauce, but stir carefully — you want the potatoes and cauliflower to remain as whole as possible. Now add the garam masala, cover the pan and let it slowly simmer away on that low heat for another ten minutes. Give it a few careful stirs as it cooks just to keep the sauce from catching. Finally, add the lime juice and give the pan one last careful stir. Done.
For the basmati rice
- This is easy — simply follow the instructions on the pack. That usually means covering the rice in a pan with water and a heaped teaspoon of salt. Bring the pan to a boil, drop the heat to low and cover the pan, so it barely simmers for about 7 minutes. The rice will absorb all the water and be just al dente. Grand. Turn off the heat and stir the butter gently into the rice. Done. Turn the rice into a pretty serving dish — it’s time to serve your aloo gobi.
- I like to plate the aloo gobi for each diner and then allow them to help themselves to the buttery basmati.