Cooking Together

‘Cooking Together’: Alu Bhobi Bhaji (Cauliflower and Potatoes with Tomato Sauce)

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

This dish is easy to make in a big batch. You can prepare the sauce on your day off and then finish the dish in minutes on your busy work day.  

For a dinner party, make the entire recipe a few days ahead of time. After rewarming, the dish tastes just as good as freshly made.  In addition to being an attractive entrée, the main ingredients going into this dish are very healthy.

Photo by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.

Potatoes are packed with antioxidants that can help prevent us from some illnesses. They are a natural source of prebiotic that help us in digestion. Potatoes are a great source of vitamins C and B6 which can help us fight viruses and maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Cauliflower contains unique antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and protect us against cancer and heart disease. In addition, due to its versatile texture, some high-carb or glutenous items that cannot be used in certain diets can be replaced with cauliflower.  

Tomatoes are rich in potassium and vitamin A. These nutrients are important in maintaining healthy bones and good vision. Most Americans do not seem to have enough of these two important nutrients. A diet rich with tomatoes can help with this deficiency. And, tomatoes’ specific antioxidants can help reduce the risks of prostate and pancreas cancers.  

Ingredients for tomato sauce:
1 teaspoon (or to taste) garam masala (see the instruction below)

2 large or 3 medium tomatoes (2 cups of chunks OR 

     2 cups of canned tomato chunks with their liquid)

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil 
1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced 

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root 

1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt 

¼ to ½ teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper

¼ to 1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves for garnish 

Ingredients for garam masala for tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cardamom seeds 

Three 2” long cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves 

Ingredients for the Bhaji

2 cups home-made tomato sauce using the ingredients listed above

3 tablespoons of safflower or olive oil

2 to 3 cloves of garlic 

½ teaspoon cumin seeds 

2 to 3 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into quarters

            (2 to 2½ cups after cutting them into small bite-sized cubes)

Half medium-size cauliflower, (2 to 2½ cups when cut into small florets)
½ to ¾ cup water

Salt and cayenne pepper (if needed) to taste 

Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

First, make the garam masala. Toast the spices in a hot griddle while stirring for a few minutes until they are fragrant. Then, grind them into a powder, using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. You will only use a teaspoon of this garam masala. The remainder masala can be saved in a glass jar to be used in the future.

Next, make the tomato sauce. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated.  If done ahead of time, rewarm it for 5 minutes. If using canned tomatoes, you will skip the next step of boiling tomatoes.  Just heat the canned tomatoes for a few minutes and set them aside.  If using fresh tomatoes to make the sauce, boil them in a pot of water for a few minutes until their skins split. Place them into a bowl of cold water and remove the skins. Chop the tomatoes into chunks, and set aside. Then, heat the butter or oil in a sauce pot and add the onions.  Stir fry them for a few minutes until the onions are soft, then add the garlic. Cook while stirring for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, salt and water. Add ¾ to 1 teaspoon of garam masala depending on your taste preference.  Simmer the sauce for 20 to 25 minutes over a low to medium heat until the mixture forms a smooth, thick, but pourable sauce. (Add a little bit more water, if necessary.) The sauce is now ready to be used or can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Next, parboil the potatoes. Place potato pieces in a pot of water that is enough to immerse them. After the water starts boiling, cook them only for 8 to 10 minutes until they are soft enough to be peeled. (Do not overcook, as the potatoes will cook more with cauliflower later.)  When the peels seem to be separating from the potatoes, remove them from hot water using a slotted spoon and spread them onto a platter to cool. Or dunk them in a bowl of cold water and quickly drain the water out. Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces and set them aside.

Remove outer leaves and the tough core of cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small bite-size florets and set them aside.

To finalize the recipe, heat 3 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and cumin seeds. Add the potatoes and cauliflower pieces. Stir fry them for 4 to 5 minutes so that the pieces are well coated with oil. Add the tomato sauce and stir the mixture gently with a wooden spoon. Next, cover and simmer the bhaji gently at a low temperature for 5 minutes. Then add the water and cook for additional 10 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Taste to correct spiciness and add more garam masala and/or cayenne and salt, only if needed. When the vegetables are soft and a thick sauce has been formed, the dish is ready to be served. Garnish the dish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice and/or bread. 

Photo by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.

Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Co-op., Green Apple Book Store, Rainbow Grocery Co-op, and at other local bookstores. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and teaches cooking classes. She shares her recipes via videos on YouTube. To view her cooking videos click Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s YouTube videos.

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