Garam Masala Tuesdays: Cauliflower in a spicy kerala curry paste

by Shumaila

I am sure by now everyone has rejoiced in the fact that Osama Bin Laden is dead and like me are eagerly waiting for the photographs to be doubly sure that he is actually gone. The news, no doubt, was and is great, but one also silently prays that his supporters do not retaliate in a violent way. For now, its a victory over terrorism.

Another thing saw its end in our kitchen today. My “Indian nod” Sardar got his head cut off today, thanks to my stupid carelessness. Some of you might remember him, from his brief appearance on last week’s Garam Masala Tuesday (GMT, here on). V and I loved this adorable wobbly head that imitated the famous Indian head wiggle (the nod that signifies both a yes and a no). And now, it lies with no head, no head wiggle, standing on the counter, headless :(! We might be able to fix it with some super glue but I think I might have permanently paralysed his head. Sigh!

One good thing that is happening though these days, is that I am getting sleep pretty early. Thanks to the jetlag, there is no more insomnia, no more staying awake all night, making frustrated noises, cursing my body for being so difficult- nope no more of that! yet.

And since I am sleeping early, it means I am getting up early too! Which means I get time to exercise in the morning! I had been doing some light yoga exercises the last week and now that I am more or less settled in after my long vacation (I will not say completely settled as I am yet to organize my closet), I thought to start some serious exercise. So I got up today and went for a jog and realised how out of shape I actually am. My first round- and I was huffing and puffing like a chu-chu train! Anyway, after the jog I felt so much better, thinner! Hopefully I’ll continue!

Coming to today’s GMT I thought to make this spicy kerala curry that I learnt from our cook back in India. The cook used the curry paste to make prawn curry but since, V is not gung-ho on seafood and the fact that he is a vegetarian on Tuesdays, forced me to make cauliflower in the kerala curry paste.

This dish is slightly time consuming, especially when it comes to the roasting of the coconut. But, believe me, the results are worth it!

Serve it with any Indian flatbread and you have a great Indian meal on the table. I had originally planned to make this with Kerala parantha or Porota but I did not achieve the results I was looking for. Well, hopefully I will have better luck next time.

Cauliflower in a Spicy Kerala Curry paste

Serves 2-3

For the Kerala curry paste:

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 bitter leaves (Kadi pata)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (I use the frozen kinds)
  • 1 cup spring onions (chopped from the white portion up)
  • 6 dry red chillies, soaked in warm water and later drained
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder (optional, depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 tsp oil (preferably coconut oil, but vegetable oil would also do)
  • 1 inch piece ginger, chopped
  • Water or coconut oil to grind the paste
  1. In a wok or pan, heat some oil. Once hot, add the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, ginger and the bitter leaves and saute for a few seconds.
  2. Add the soaked and drained red chillies along with the coconut. You can add the red chilli powder in case you would like the dish to be spicier.
  3. Roast the coconut, till it turns brown. This will take some time but keep stirring, making sure you keep scraping off the coconut that sticks to the pan. You will slowly see the colour changing from white to brownish-red. Take off heat once brown.
  4. Grind the mixture to a fine paste. Add some water so that it grinds. (A trick my mother saw for some other recipe and I thought I would try it here but forgot this time, is to grind the mixture with oil, preferably coconut here. I guess it should enhance the flavors more.) Keep aside.

Prepping the Cauliflower:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 cauliflower head, florets separated
  1. In the same wok that you used to roast the coconut mixture, heat some oil. I do not wash the utensil, and use the same one so that the cauliflower also gets cooked in the same masala (spices).
  2. Lightly saute till the cauliflower turns slightly brown. Remove from fire.

Getting it all together:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 bitter leaves (kadi pata)
  • 1 cup approx. tamarind water (I had a can of tamarind water so I used that, but you could also get the same results with a few pieces of tamarind soaked in 1 cup water. You might not need 1 whole cup, so decrease or increase amount accordingly)
  • The spicy Kerala curry paste made above
  • sauteed cauliflower florets
  1. Heat oil in the same wok. Once the oil is very hot, add the mustard seeds and bitter leaves.
  2. Add the paste and the cauliflower.
  3. Add the tamarind water, and cover the pan.
  4. Cover for a few minutes on medium-high to let the cauliflower become soft.
  5. Remove the cover and cook on high, drying out the water.
  6. Serve hot with any Indian flatbread or even whole wheat tortillas.