If you’re going to eat vegetarian, Indian food is the way to go. This dish is packed with so much flavor that you don’t even notice that it’s meatless. I love cauliflower (although that wasn’t always the case), but if you’re on the fence about it, throw it in a skillet with some garam masala and you’ll make up your mind real quick. Chickpeas too can be a little bland on their own, but in this case they’re perfect. They’re just a little crunchy, even when cooked, so they balance out the tomatoes and cauliflower perfectly. And there’s just something about indian spices – they make even the simplest vegetable seem exotic and interesting. When I first started cooking on my own I never would have used so many strong spices in a single dish – I would have thought they’d all just run together and overpower my food. Coriander and cumin and garam masala and chili powder and ginger- it sounds like a lot if you’re unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, but they all play off of and enhance each other so well that you end up with layers and layers of flavors that all contribute something unique to the dish. It’s like when you hear an orchestra rehearsing before a performance – as they’re tuning up individually or running through they’re own parts it’s like a bunch of ally cats howling out back, but when they come together and play as group, each instrument and part highlights the others and then you have music.
I found this recipe on Pinterest – which is not at all surprising when you think about the amount of time I while away there. It’s not too hard to make, but I did make a few changes. The recipe calls for blanching the cauliflower in water before adding it to the curry to finish, but I roasted mine instead. I love roasting vegetables – I like to think it brings out the best in them. They get a little caramelized, the flavors deepen, and they have a little crunch. Also, instead of plain chili powder, I used Aleppo pepper instead. It’s awesome if you haven’t tried it (hot and the tiniest bit sweet) but really I just like to say it. Aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper. Try it. You’ll like it, I promise. To eat I mean.
The only other thing I changed was to use chicken broth instead of water (and I’ll just cower behind my cutting board until the cacophony dies down). Yes, I know it’s supposed to be vegetarian, but I’m really not one, so I added chicken broth for a little more depth. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I did, and enjoyed it too. So there.
Anyway, the point is that this dish is really really good. Even if you’re not a vegetarian. Even if you prefer more mild seasonings in your food (and by that I mean bland. Don’t eat bland food, it’s just not worth it). If you’ve never tried a curry before, this is a good one to start with. Aside from the garam masala (although even that you can find in many an ethnic Wal-mart aisle) most of the spices are familiar and easy to obtain, and if you really want to add some more substance to this (I found it to be a satisfying and filling meal, but I’m on a going-to-the-beach diet, so I may not be impartial) you could add some chicken if you really wanted to and it would probably be very good. So go out and be adventurous. Enjoy!
Also, please admire my new bowls. Aren’t they cool? I really like them.
Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
(Serves four to six)
1 whole cauliflower
2-4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions
4 cloves of garlic
½ tsp chopped fresh ginger – I used 1/4 tsp dried, since I forgot to buy fresh and it was fine.
2 tsp ground coriander
2 star aniseed
½ tsp ground chilli
4 curry leaves
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
1 (14.5 oz) can of chopped tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can of chickpeas, drained
Fresh chopped parsley for serving.
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove the stalks from the cauliflower and cut into large florets. Place in a large bowl and add a couple of tablespoons olive oil, just enough to barely coat the florets. Salt and pepper a little and roast in oven for 12-15 minutes, until the cauliflower is browning a little and is just tender enough to pierce with a fork. You may stir it around a few times while it’s roasting. When done, remove from oven and set aside.
While the cauliflower is cooking, cut the onions into small pieces. Peel the garlic and chop fine.
In a large pan, melt a little butter (I used about 2 tbsp) then add the onion, garlic and ginger if using fresh (if not, add the ginger with the other spices) and sauté until golden brown, several minutes. Add the remaining spices and cook for a further five minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and stir well. Then add the cooked cauliflower. Add 100mL of cold water* and bring to a simmer for five to 10 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked through.
I chopped a little parsley to top it with, which was not in the recipe, but I liked it.
*I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t tell you how much 100mL was to save my life. I just filled my empty tomato can about 3/4 full and called it good. Then I realized that my pyrex measuring cups have mL on them. Oh well.