Recipe: Cauliflower Curry with Indian Spice Store Surprises

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One of my favorite activities when I find an extra hour is to spend real time lingering in a favorite ethnic market instead of just grabbing the one or  two items I need at warp speed and running out of the store .  On my last visit to my neighborhood India Spice Shop  I noticed that their inventory increased exponentially, beyond the original curated selection of South Indian products.  For the first time in a long time there were treasures to discover I’d never seen before. So I settled in and started going up and down the aisles like a weird food investigator.  Lucky for me the store is small.

I focused in on powered items in plastic bags and found two I’d never seen before.  One was red, looked similar to ground chile pepper but was chunky.  The label said Garlic Chutney. “Dried, in a bag?” I asked, and was told it was to sprinkle on rice or yogurt.  Yum.  It turns out it’s the perfect garlic, chile, and  (maybe a bit of sour in there?) amperage to add heat to already cooked food.  I am now an addict.  Of course I threw the label away too soon, but an online search reveals it was probably made with chile powder, ground coconut, sesame, garlic and tamarind. It’s for Maharashtrian cuisine.

Then I found Roasted Cummin Powder, a Sri Lankan dry masala.  I grabbed it without looking at the package and discovered at home that it contains: coriander, cumin, fennel, tumeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, dried ramp and curry leaves.  Wow!  A more complex, less “sweet” alternative to using garam masala in curries.

Keep reading for my Cauliflower Curry Recipe

So I did my usual curry thing.  Saute generous amount of onion in oil.  Add garlic and ginger once onion is golden.  Take out all my jars, bags of curry powders and throw in a little of this and a little of that.  “That” this time was the Roasted Cumin Powder.  Mix the spices with the sauteed aromatics until they are well fried  Add a 1/4 cup tomato sauce and 2 cups of water or broth.  Bring to simmer.  Add vegetable of choice.  In this case it was cauliflower, a yam I happened to have and a can of chickpeas.  Let it all cook at a simmer, covered until vegetables start to soften.  Remove cover.  I decided the Roasted Cumin Power would lend itself to the sour of tamarind so I added a bit of Tamarind Paste, to taste along with salt and pepper.  Then I continued to cook it at a lively simmer uncovered until the sauce thickened and tastes came together.  I served it with brown basmati rice, yogurt and a healthy sprinkle of the “Garlic Chutney”.  Maybe I’ll make that again tonight.