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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cauliflower in a gravy of poppy seed n yogurt

On Christmas Eve while I was at the market I was checking out the fresh crisp cauliflower hanging around, needless to say I was attracted to them. So I ended up buying two of them. At this time of the year  the cauliflower has a very nice taste n texture when you cook them or bake them, now we get cauliflower all the year around but there is quite a difference in texture n taste between what I get in summer and in winter, I always happen to like the winter version more.  Walking back home I was trying to think what should I do with them, I wanted to do something that is rich and yummy, something that also suits the festive spirit. And at this thought of mine the cauliflowers nodded too.
Back home I pulled a recipe down from my notebook of sketches n cooking, a recipe that I had written down from my sisters mother-in-law’s cooking notebook while I was at her home. The recipe is Bengali in its origin, so the Bengali name for this recipe would be “Doi Posto kasha Phulkopi”.  Here I was staring at the page, running in my mind how can I improve it or change it according to my taste and I ended up changing it a bit based on my experiences in cooking. The result was lip smacking- big proof was my mother asked me to make it again next day on Christmas. Wallah!
So I thought I must share this recipe with you, my dear readers…and I sincerely hope that someday you will make it too and experience this taste. Now for this recipe we need to make some paste of poppy seed, for that we need a heavy stone grinder or a mortal n pestle made of stone. I use a traditional stone grinder which I Know as “SIL-NORA”. The weight should be heavy, for it makes it very easy to make the paste while you rub the poppy seed between the stones or bang them in the mortar n pestle, if you have a light wooden mortar n pestle it probably won’t work. If you have even 2 stones, one flat and big, the other small you can do it even there! Try it…it should be fun J

The recipe: you will need

                         1 medium/big cauliflower                               1 big/1 ½ medium size red-onion
                         2 1/2 tbsp poppy seed                                     2 medium cloves of garlic
                         3 heap tbsp of plain yogurt                             ½ - 1 inch ginger
                         1 medium size tomato                                     2-3 dry red chilly
                         1 tsp whole cumin seeds                                 1 dry bay leaf
                         1 green cardamom                                           1 inch cinnamon sticks
                         2 cloves                                                               2 pinch of pink rock salt
                         Pinch of sugar                                                   Flavorless vegetable oil for deep frying
                         Salt to taste

First of all just cut or break the cauliflower in big florets, wash and dry them  well if needed, we are going to deep fry them so it is better to pat them dry. While they are drying heat 5 tbsp of water and soak the dry red chilies in that water for about 5 mins, you will see they will get soft. Next chop the onion roughly, now grind them to a paste where there are some smooth part and some chunks left. You can do it in a mortal n pestle or stone-grind them or just put it in a blender.  Next in the same way make a paste of the soaked red chilies, then the ginger n garlic to a paste followed by the poppy seed until you get a smooth paste of poppy seed. If you are using a blender it is not going to work with poppy seed, best is to use a heavy mortal n pestle like made of stone or a stone grinder and use sprinkle of water in between while making them to a paste. In case you don’t have a heavy stone grinder soak the poppy seed in warm water for an hour and then approach them with a mortal n pestle, it will be easy…a blender won’t work so fine on them but it will produce a coarse paste of them which will also do. Beat the yogurt until it is quiet smooth, mix 1 tbsp of water smoothly. Next chop the tomato.

Now in a deep wok or in a deep fryer heat the vegetable oil, make sure the oil is not too high or the floret will brown too quickly, next drop in the florets like 5-6 at a time and keep them at a rather medium heat for about 5 mins, what are we looking for is that they will have light brown color outside and the stalks will be little tender, when done take them off on kitchen paper.

When all the florets are done, heat up a pan and use 3-4 tbsp of the same oil. When the oil is quiet hot reduce the flame to a low, add the whole cumin seeds, slightly crushed green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and cloves, let them be in the oil for about 30 seconds while they release their flavor and the cumin seeds will sputter up. After that add the onion paste, saute it in a medium low flame , add another tbsp of oil if you feel they need it, give them about 6 -7 mins and they will start to  brown slightly, when they are slightly brown add the ginger n garlic paste along with the red chili paste. Keep the flame low at this point and give them 2mins. Next add the poppy seed paste and mix well, give another 4-7 mins until the poppy seed paste starts to release oil from the sides and starts to go light brown, as you are frying it you will see the whole gravy now has started to release oil from the sides which is what we are looking for. Now we are ready for the yogurt part, take the pan off the heat and add 1 tbsp of yogurt, mix well, next add another, then another until you have used all of it. Now place the pan back in low heat and give it around 5mins, you will see that the gravy again starts to release oil from the sides after about 5 mins, meanwhile add the chopped tomatoes, 2 pinch of sugar (if the yogurt is quiet sour you need to adjust the sugar according to it), 2 pinches of the rock salt and season with salt to taste. Now add the cauliflower pieces and mix well with the gravy cover with a lid and give it around 5-7 minutes. We are now very close to getting done so put the flame off and give it 2mins of standing time.

By now your kitchen must be filled with that aroma of this dish, and it’s moments like this that I pause for a moment, smell the air and it feels lovely.

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