Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gobi Bhaath (Cauliflower Rice) - Subtle and mellow on spices, huge on flavors

Cauliflower or Gobi is a winter vegetable in India, I find it in all seasons here. Small insects inside the florets are expected norm in Indian cauliflowers and that is why they are dunked in hot salt water before cooking, here the florets are all insect free and ready to use. If inclined, I can even get a chopped and ready to use packet of Cauliflower florets, though I prefer to get a nice, fresh head of the vegetable and cut it myself :-).

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers" - Laurie Colwin

Cooking for me is all about memories and reminiscing the experiences, every dish I cook brings back something from the past and hence it never tastes the same even if I follow a recipe to the tee. But it is also about making new memories and experiences as we journey along in life, agree?
We went to watch a movie called '100 foot journey' yesterday, DD was reluctant to accompany since it promised to be a gastronomically inclined movie. For all the passion I have in cooking and food in general, my only child doesn't exhibit the same traits. I am a totally positive person and think that she is a late bloomer :-), we will wait and see. While she enjoys good food, she doesn't dissect to smell, taste and enjoy every morsel like I do. On the good side she is happy with most of what she is fed.
Back to the movie, it is full of food, in every conceivable way :-), why not since it tries to show case Indian and French cuisines, right?. There is a funny feud very well portrayed by 2 actors I love to watch (Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory and Ompuri as Papa Kadam), and the rest of the cast is great too. The blaring music, bold flavors and bright colors of Indian cuisine & culture contrasts completely with the subtlety of the French food, and the two groups end up just 100 feet apart from each other. While one is native and established with a Michelin star, the other is uprooted from familiar territory and trying to find a home in an unknown country, the only common thread is food. But food in the two camps is totally desperate in the ingredients, way of cooking, serving etc. War breaks between the two establishments, until Madame Mallory finds the potential in the young cook (not chef mind you!) of the newly arrived family and takes him into her fold. The movie touches Michelin starts (if you are a foodie, you definitely would have heard about this) and the innovations that turn cooking into a science in the race after the twinkling stars. He brings her 2 stars within a year and goes off to bigger adventures (no spoiler alert, go watch the movie if you are piqued :-)). Like Papa says, "breaks do break for a reason", they find their heart's desire in that quaint village and discover compatibility where none seemingly exist at the beginning of the story.
But the movie is also about finding the best mushrooms by the side of the stream in the village, feeling the sea urchin and being able to imagine its taste when cooked, looking deep inside your heart and using the wisdom of generations before, feeling & smelling a spice box that has been in the family for generations, making food with your loved ones and enjoying it. I relate more to this type of cooking than the scales & measurements. I am not averse to invention but I want to understand the taste of the familiar first before I go after the unfamiliar. For me recipes in books do not mean a whole lot until they come into my heart and into my pots (lines shamelessly stolen from the above mentioned movie :-)). I love to cook feeling every ingredient. Whether you spoon in spices (Papa) or sprinkle them (Madame Mallory), ultimately it is all about food that touches your senses and brings you visions of home.
I made this cauliflower bhaath (or Gobi bhaath as we call it) for our brunch yesterday. Like I have said before, this vegetable got into my repertoire only after marriage. Amma makes Gobi bhaath using her 'all purpose podi' which is a family favorite. While I make it that way sometimes, I also make this flavorful bhaath that we enjoy. Spices are mild in this recipe, at best sprinkled (I can see Papa Kadam scoffing at it :-)) and do not over power the taste of the vegetable. Gobi itself is cooked tender but does not fall apart and remains moist with the juices of the masala. It is a perfect lunch box item and a full blown meal if you add a yogurt based raita on the side. I do not typically add potatoes but it is definitely an option.
What do you need to make Gobi Bhaath? 
1 medium sized head of Cauliflower/Gobi
2 cups rice (Basmati preferred)
2 small bay leaves
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp garam masala powder
1 Tbsp oil
To grind: 
i/2 cup onion chopped roughly
1/2 cup tomatoes cubed
2 green chilies
1 inch piece of ginger
Dry roast & powder:
2 pieces of 1 inch long cinnamon
2-4 cloves
2-3 pieces of mace
1 green cardamom
pinch of nutmeg
8-10 black pepper corns
How do you make Gobi Bhaath?
  • Chop and separate the florets of Gobi. Keep them dunked in warm water with a little bit of salt for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Take them out, clean once under running water. 
  • Soak rice in 4 cups of water for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Take a big pot that can hold all of the gobi, add water to submerge all the pieces, add 1/2 Tsp salt and 1/4 Tsp turmeric powder, cover and let the water come to a roaring boil softening the pieces. 
  • Switch off, drain all the water and keep the gobi until needed. 
  • Dry roast the spices listed under 'dry roast and powder', use a cast iron pan and on medium heat, roast the spices for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Take them to a blender and powder them coarsely. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients listed under 'To grind' and make a smooth paste. 
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or pressure cooker. 
  • Add the ground masala paste and fry for 2-4 minutes or until the raw smell reduces. 
  • Add the par cooked gobi florets along with the bay leaves and mix them well to coat with the masala. 
  • Drain water from the rice, wash it twice in running water and add it to the pan. 
  • Add 3 cups of water (remember the ground masala adds to the liquid content), garam masala and salt. 
  • Stir in gently to mix, cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked and fluffy. 
  • Switch off and let it stand for 5-10 minutes before using a spatula to fluff up the rice. 
  • Your fragrant gobi masala rice is ready. 
  • I served it with a simply delicious tomato-onion raita made with fresh tomatoes from the backyard. 
Notes: 
  • Take care not to over cook gobi pieces the first time, they will continue to cook along with rice. 
  • Cut gobi into big pieces so they do not disintegrate on cooking. 
  • You can add par cooked potato pieces & green peas to the rice. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving. 
  • If you like crunchy gobi pieces in the rice, cool the par cooked gobi completely, roast them in a couple of tbsp of oil until they are cooked and crispy, add these to the rice before serving and fold them in. 

3 comments:

Priya Suresh said...

Am yet to watch the movie, this gobi bhaath is just inviting me, full of flavors.

Haffa Bexi said...

Lovelyyy.. Welcome to my event "Back to School Lunch Ideas" & participate with ur lovely recipes :)

sashi said...

Nagashree, true words from a true chef. I guess the love for cooking gushes through in those sentences. As you said cooking is all about memories. Those memories add that extra tang to the dish. Same food in a different situation might not be as tasty. Looking forward to more of your recipes.