this holiday season, we took a big trip to visit my father's extended family in new delhi. how to sum it up? it was a long, enjoyable, relaxing, exhausting, confusing, inspiring, and culinarily unparalleled journey. two weeks of vegetable curries, paneer scrambles, green red and black dals, rice and naans = a small, yet flavorful slice of heaven.
my mom and i watched in awe of three dishes being prepared: mung dal (green lentils), saag paneer (spinach with cheese), and gobi matar (cauliflower with peas). once we'd returned to the states and made a valient, albeit ineffective effort to speedily conquer our jetlag, we tried our hand at the latter two recipes.
the thing is: we hadn't taken any notes while we'd watched the dishes being made the first time. so when we went to replicate, we cooked from memory and from feel, tossing spices in and tasting continuously as we went. and somehow, we managed - according to my father, with his refined palette - to make something pretty frickin' tasty.
today's recipe is the cauliflower with peas one, best served with a side of dal, basmati rice, and a hot roti. i cannot recommend this dish enough, especially for anyone inexperienced or unfamiliar with traditional indian spices. it only takes about 30 minutes total, from chopping to sauteing to devouring. what more, it uses just 3 spices (cumin seed, coriander, and tumeric), and it's super flavorful without being spicy.
it's also sure to impress any dining partner.
adapted from memory
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 cups peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons oil (olive, sesame, or whatever you like)
1 small red onion, sliced or minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
freshly ground pepper
fill a large pot with water, salt, and bring to a boil. add cauliflower florets and boil for 3-4 minutes. the florets should be partially cooked but not completely done. remove and put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. frain in colander and set aside.
heat oil in a pan over medium high. toss in a cumin seed – if the seed starts to wiggle around, the oil is hot enough. lower heat to medium, add all of the cumin, and stir for 30 seconds. add onion, garlic, and ginger. sauté for a few minutes. add 1 tsp each of turmeric, coriander, and salt, and sauté for another 2 minutes.
add in cauliflower and gently toss to coat. cauliflower should be a yellow-ish color from being coated in the oil and spices. at this point, i added in another 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, coriander, and salt and tossed.
cover the pan and lower to medium-low heat. cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. add peas and toss to coat. turn heat to low, cover pan, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. cauliflower should soft but not mushy. grind some fresh pepper over it, and salt to taste.