Tandoori Cauliflower Bhurji (Scramble)
Or equally, I could have titled this post, ‘An Ode to Cauliflower’. Brace yourself, I am about to sing cauliflower’s praises. Because I am not sure I love another vegetable as I love this.
Growing up, I was taught appreciation for all kinds of food, from the humblest vegetables to the finest basmati rice, freshest fish and everything in between. Nothing was ‘bad’ or ‘good’ and ‘everything in moderation’ was (& still is) the mantra. We were not vegetarians but vegetables were given the same (if not higher) status at the table as fish or chicken.
Nothing was wasted out of respect for the hard work involved in the production of food – from growing it to cooking it, and in case of fish/poultry, for the animal that lost its life.
Like most vegetables, cauliflower was a family favourite. But then it was possible to love vegetables because Mum was a genius at cooking them. And like all children, we were very good at taking her cooking for granted, until we ate badly cooked food outside of home – the soggy, tasteless vegetables in complete contrast to mum’s flavourful, carefully prepared dishes.
Mum would use every bit of the vegetable: The green, outer stems would be trimmed and peeled a little to remove the tougher bits and then cooked carefully with beans so they were tender-crisp and then simmer this mix in a coconut-roasted chilli- tamarind sauce. Some crushed garlic fried in oil until beautifully golden was added (with the frying oil) as the tadka, that quintessential Indian technique used as the final flourish.
The white, inner thicker stalks would be peeled, chopped and stir-fried with cumin, turmeric, green chillies and finished off with a squeeze of lemon.
And the florets, oh the things she did with the florets! From a simple stir-fry, aloo gobhi, battered & fried, stuffed into parathas, grated into balls for the Indo-Chinese dish Manchurian, she made it very difficult for us to dislike cauliflower or any other vegetables for that matter.
I feel blessed to have inherited approximately 237 ways of cooking cauliflower from her. That number would have been higher if she’d baked it. That job, it seems, she’s left to me and I am rising to the challenge, or so I hope.
This recipe came about when I was trying to roast a batch of vegetables for a ratatouille and I decided to roast a cauliflower too for good measure. All that remained to be done once it came out of the oven, charred and looking rather spirit-less, was to revive it with a punch of flavours.
It was so delicious that I looked for excuses to make it again and again. I made it for people who I loved, those I liked and even those I didn’t like very much, just so I could validate my need to eat it.
And you know the recipes are a true success when people who hate cauliflower tell you how much they loved the way you cooked it.
Note: You may think the quantity of cauliflower that I have specified seems too much for two people, but just wait until it comes out of the oven all shrivelled up after giving up its moisture to the cause that’s the steam in the oven.
Tandoori Gobhi Bhurji (Roasted Cauliflower Scramble)
- Oven or air-fryer
- 700 g cauliflower, cut into florets about 2" in diameter about 1 very large cauliflower or 2 small
- 3+1 tsp oil (unflavoured)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 0-1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp chaat masala
- 1 tsp aamchur (dried mango powder)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- chopped coriander leaves for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cover a large baking tray (or 2 small) with foil if necessary. Wash and dry the cauliflower florets* thoroughly. (*Look, can we just call them cauliflorets from here on? It's so much more elegant & easier on the tongue. Also, it saves me some extra typing, ha ha)
- The cauliflower needs to be properly dry otherwise it'll steam instead of roast in the oven. Thinly slice each floret vertically.
- Transfer to a large bowl, add 3 tsps of oil and a large pinch of salt. Toss well to combine, then spread out on the baking sheet(s) in a single layer (important). Roast for about 20 - 25 minutes until cooked and charred at the periphery. The adjoining photo shows the cauliflower at about 18 minutes, you could allow it to char a bit more than that.
- In a frying pan, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil over a low heat, then add the turmeric and the kasuri methi. Stir quickly or they'll burn. Quickly add the cauliflorets, increase the heat and fry for a couple of minutes.
- Now add the remaining spices and toss well to coat. Taste and adjust the salt, sourness and heat according to your preference. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and garnish with the coriander leaves.
- Note: You could make a minty variation of this. Use dried mint instead of the methi and fresh mint instead of the coriander leaves.