Many years ago, cauliflower was still a seasonal vegetable in India. But thanks to supermarkets, there are no seasons any more! The first sight of cauliflower in my Mother’s kitchen would be right during Durga Puja, actually the sixth day (Shoshti) of the 10-day celebrations. Cauliflowers would be expensive then, because it was the start of the season. But she would get a pair from the local vegetable market, just so we could have a traditional vegetarian pujo meal of luchi, phulkopir dalna, polau, begun bhaja, cholar daal, tomato’r chaatney, etc. She would dice these plump, pearly white heads with some potatoes and keep aside to cook for lunch that day. The whiff of the Phulkopir Dalna (Cauliflower Curry) would fill our home. It was a surround sound of cauliflower and spices that would wrap us up in a wonderful way. The lunch on Shoshti was probably a rare day when all of us enjoyed a meal without any meat!
But Bengalis love adding fish to many vegetarian recipes. The taste I savor in my mouth (and memory) of a “fishy” cauliflower dish are either Rui Maach with chunks of phulkopi in it or shrimps in a cauliflower curry.
In honor of the supermarket’s seamless / season-less bounty and a trip down memory lane, I made this Alu Gobhi (Potato Cauliflower) with Shrimps cooked in a gravy of tomato, spices and my favorite flavor of ginger!
Ingredients for Chingri Alu-Phulkopi Dalna (Shrimp and Potato-Cauliflower Curry) are:
2-3 medium size potatoes
1 medium size tomato (ripe!)
2 tablespoon ginger paste
Handful of chopped coriander
Few green chilies
250 grams prawns (headless-tailless)
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon
2 bay leafs
2 tablespoons mustard oil
Pinch of sugar
Cut the cauliflower in chunky flowerets and dice the potatoes in quarters. In a pan or wok, heat the mustard oil and add the cumin seeds, stick of cinnamon, cardamoms and bay leafs and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and potatoes and fry for a few minutes.
We need the vegetables to caramelize at the edges. Give them enough time on medium-high flame to get their color. Now add the spices – ginger paste, coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and green chilies. Mix all the vegetables well and keep frying for 5-7 minutes. Now add the chopped tomatoes.
Let the tomatoes cook with the vegetables on medium heat before you add enough water to drench everything. Season with salt and sugar.
Cook till the cauliflower and potatoes are done but not mushy. All that water you have added should have also turned into a nice gravy. At this time, the vegetarian Alu-Gobhi is ready.
But from here, you can do two things. No, actually three! Garnish with freshly chopped coriander, or add half a cup of green peas and cook for five more minutes or do what I did, add about 250 grams of raw shrimp and cook with the vegetables for 5-7 minutes. You will see the shrimps turning pink in color and curling up. That’s when you know they are done.
This Bengali version of Alu-Gobhi (with shrimps) met my stomach with some plain Basmati rice. That’s probably the best way to serve it. Unless you are making phulkas!