I am not very good at making Indian food. Among other things, I never seem to remember what spices go together; what should be cooked stove top vs. the pressure cooker; what should be soaked prior to cooking; etc. In essence whenever I do make something Indian, it always tastes the same no matter the grain, lentil, or vegetable type because I only use cumin and turmeric; the two spices that I love and am never intimidated to use. On a monthly basis, I’d say that I cook Indian food may be 2 or 3 times. If my family still reads this blog, I can just see some of them having a heart attack by this revelation. Well, not to put them in a coma too but I can’t remember the last time I made roti!
I was watching Michael Pollan’s Cooked on Netflix the other day when he said something along the lines of people in India being most resistant to giving up eating Indian food ( in lieu of pasta and other simply prepared foods) even when their life gets too busy to cook. Their solution is to find women in the community who are willing to do the cooking and deliver the hot meal just in time for lunch or dinner or whatever. Also, the new modern Indian generation sees eating western junk food as a status symbol and a “cool” activity. I defer to my friends who still live there to confirm the latter but the general message resonated with me so much so that I called my mom trying to figure out what Indian food I can cook without getting flustered in exactly 10-minutes which is the amount of time I have with Arjun running around.
The type of Indian food I like is the simple home made stuff (not the fancy cream heavy curries often found in restaurants). In fact when I was pregnant with Asha and Arjun, I craved my mom’s home cooked food ALL THE TIME. My mouth would literally salivate from a childhood food memory and I would get teary eyed wishing my mom was there to make it for me. And no matter how good the Indian restaurant, there aren’t many I am aware of that serve the traditional Gujarati (from the State of Gujarat) meals.
In an attempt to some day have my kids also wish for my cooking and to not suck at being an Indian, I have decided to up the ratio of making traditional Gujarati food versus the other stuff. The first recipe I tried was spiced cauliflower. I used a frozen bag which didn’t require any chopping; an added bonus.
These are the instructions from my mom and I can confirm that they delivered beautifully:
- Steam/Defrost the frozen cauliflower for 2-minutes in the microwave.
- Meantime, chop an onion in small cubes; roughly a cup. (I used a leek instead because I didn’t have enough onion).
- Heat some vegetable/canola oil. I use the expeller pressed canola oil which I buy in smallest size available to make sure it doesn’t sit around and get rancid.
- Add black mustard seeds (health benefits), hing, and chili powder.
- Add onions and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the steamed cauliflower chunks.
- Add turmeric, salt, and a little more chili powder.
- Cover and cook for 12 minutes on medium-low flame
Notice the lack of measurements. That’s how these homey recipes seem to go I think. I just eyeballed it and used about 1tsp of all spices and probably double the salt. The active time was 10 minutes (which included chopping onions, steaming cauliflower, heating oil, etc). I heated frozen roti made by my mom-in-law because let’s admit it, I am ambitious but not all at once.
The saak, which is what the cooked cauliflower is now called, was tasty and good. It was flavorful without being overwhelming. Arjun liked it and so did Asha which again was an added bonus.
I don’t know what it says about me when I am more influenced by something a white guy says on TV than my own mom who, bless her heart, has been trying to tell me for years that Indian food is easy to make and that I should cook more of it because of all the health benefits in the spices and such. Please accept my apologies mom.