It was recently our 26th veganniversary so I thought I’d celebrate by paying tribute to one of my favorite dishes. I was introduced to Indian food when I was about 18. I had been vegetarian for a few years by that point but my diet was pretty limited. I didn’t think about it much.
It just so happened that the guys I carpooled with to work -- yes, I was a peanut vendor at Cubs games at Wrigley Field that summer -- were a little older and had a more well-traveled palate. (This was the 1980s.) On the days that we drove, the Berman brothers would occasionally look at each other and the rest of us smooshed in the car and say, “Indian?” That meant that on the way home, we’d stop on Devon Avenue for Indian food.
From that first whiff of curry, Indian food really hit the spot for me. The breads! The spices! The aromas! The curries! The variety! The potatoes! The breads! (Did I already say that?) Being able to order anything on a menu in the 1980s was a pretty monumental experience for me and it satisfied a hunger I didn’t even know that I had. Indian food - south Indian or north Indian, I don’t care, I love them both equally - has had a special place in my heart since I was 18 and to this day, it is both my celebration food and my comfort food.
Speaking of comfort food, I don’t know if you could get much better than aloo gobi, a tender, mildly spiced blend of potatoes and cauliflower. I chose to use tomato sauce in this instead of the more traditional tomatoes as I prefer the flavor and, hey, it’s the dead of winter as I write this but that is your choice to make. Otherwise, this reminds me very much of the aloo gobi that first won my hungry heart in 1985 or so.
Extra lovely? That gorgeous condiment jar and tray by my friend Shuba Iyer, a talented vegan activist and ceramic artist. You can find Shuba's creations on Etsy and Instagramto support and follow the work of a talented vegan artisan. We love these pots and they really bring to life the Indian dining experience.
2 tablespoons neutral oil 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 1 yellow onion, diced 1 serrano chile, sliced 1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste (or a mixture of minced garlic and ginger to taste) 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon coriander 2 teaspoons garam masala Tablespoons of water as needed to keep from sticking 3 cups potatoes, peeled and diced 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets 1 cup water or vegetable broth 15 ounces tomato sauce or 2 tomatoes, chopped Salt and pepper to taste Rice to serve
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan with a lid. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cover and cook until the seeds are done popping. Add the onions, pepper, garlic-ginger paste, and spices, stirring to incorporate. Add water as needed to keep from sticking to the pan. Cook for three or four minutes.
Add the potatoes, cauliflower, water or broth and tomato sauce or tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20 - 25 minutes.
Serve with rice, optional cilantro and Indian pickles.