Sunday, 27 February 2011

Phulkopir Roast (Roasted Cauliflower)

My friend dea_chan recently posted about the delicate upsets of eating too much meat, and I really do empathise. Eating habits in perceptibly cold countries do rather revolve around animal proteins, frequently at the cost of a decent vegetarian cuisine. "The things she can do to a potato!", an astonished friend said, after tasting a perfectly simple niramish aloor dom (a potato curry with peas and tomatoes).

So I think it's time for more vegetarian recipes on this blog, and I mean weal twasty fwood, not just steamed and broiled greens (though I love steamed green beans in butter, myself. Mmm!). To begin with, and by request of my lovely friend D, let's have: phulkopir roast. This was a signature dish of my great-uncle, who left us recently. However, his recipe clashed with his sister my great-aunt's, who is just as wonderful a cook as (if not better than) her brother was. So I'll provide both recipes now, and add indiv. pictures later :-)

You'll need:
Cauliflower, one whole -- cut into large florets. An average-sized cauliflower in Calcutta should yield about five florets, in the US about nine or ten.
Ground cumin, half a teaspoon. The flavouring should be very light.
Whole-milk yogurt, not strained.
One onion -- my great-uncle added onions halved or quartered, but I prefer to mince or even coarsely paste them.
Quarter a small onion -- chopped small.
Two tomatoes, if you want a rich flavour, or one if you just want a light tang.
Garlic, minced (optional).
Ginger -- minced or pasted (optional but recommended)

Don't bother blanching the cauliflower first if you have a pressure cooker or thingy, wha'd'you call it... a crockpot.

Marinate the cauliflowers in yogurt, salt, a touch of turmeric, half a spoon of ground jeera, a little oil, and coarsely pasted onions. You can add other flavour-enhancing things of your choice: I'm never quite sure what kind of alcohol enhances the cauliflower's flavour the most (none, I suspect), but lemon juice always helps.

Let it stand for about an hour.

In a pressure-cooker (or a slow cooker), heat oil flavoured with a small dollop of ghee. Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Fry on medium till the onions change colour and you can smell the frying garlic and ginger. Now add the roughly chopped tomatoes. Let them cook for about three to five minutes (though in most US stove-tops, it takes about seven or eight minutes to achieve the same effect).

When the tomatoes soften a bit and some of them take on a darker colour, carefully life the cauliflowers from the marinade and place them in the oil. Toss them a couple of times. Not strictly necessary, but I like doing it. Add the rest of the marinade. Toss a couple more times. Swirl out the marinating bowl with a cup or so of water and add this water to the pot. Add sugar if you like a slight sweet aftertaste (I do).

Put the lid on and cook on medium, reducing it to a simmer when you can hear the cooker wounding up for a whistle. The simmering will prolong the whistle by several minutes, and create enough pressue inside the pot to cook the cauliflower quite thoroughly in just one round. It will also preseve a thicker gravy.

My great-aunt loves this recipe, yes, but she makes a different roast with shorshe bata, freshly-ground mustard paste. She cuts cauliflowers into tiny florets, blanches them in hot salt-water for ten minutes, washes off the salt in cold water, then folds them in with mustard oil, mustard paste (with a green chilli), a little turmeric, a touch of sugar. No salt, because mustard is always ground with salt and water (or it turns bitter). Then she wraps it in kawla or kumro pata (banana or gourd leaves -- the latter is edible) and cooks them pretty much like this.


Dea-chan said...

Rimi, I love you. You are one of my go-tos for vegetarian, simply because Indian so often is! We went to a Thai place to grab a quick bite for lunch today, and they had TWO VEGETARIAN DISHES. One was "Vegetarian Fried Rice" and I forget what the other was. Quite unremarkable, apparently. ... I'm sure that most of Thailand is not rich enough to have meat with every meal, but why is that all they cook for us?! Curse this culture that feels it isn't a meal/celebration/night-out without meat!

Rimi said...

Oh, I really do think the climate has something to do with it. In our heat, we would (and do) actually fall ill if we eat too much meat. Red meat especially.

Also, meat can be cooked without a lot of seasoning, whereas vegetables really can't, unless you just eat them boiled or raw (potatoes are an exception). So I think hotter climates, where flavouring herbs were far more abundant made greater use of vegetables (think Italian food vis a vis north/western European cuisine).

But I'm glad you like the new vegetarian turn we're taking.

Joychaser said...

i just made this! i'd've never thought of marinating phulkopi! genius! i used a dutch oven, and kind of fried the phulkopi a bit before adding the marinade and water. it got done pretty quick and the kopi was soft and buttery! mmm.