My father was employed in the defence and the nature of his work was such that he would be transferred very often from place to place. This gave my mother, my sisters and me exposure to nearly all the States in India. I have the almost unique distinction of having studied in nearly twelve schools if you count montessori!Like most children of defence staffers I have passed my entire student life shuttling from one Central School (Kendriya Vidyalaya – Zindabad!!) to another in different States. The experience enriched my life more than any lesson or book ever could. We underwent practical lessons in adaptations and adjusting to new surroundings. The most valuable lesson I learnt was that ‘change is a reality in Nature and life, and no one or no phase will ever last’. This one truth has made it easy for me to accept facts of life and move on smoothly. Another postive thing that came out of the constant move was that I learned to cherish people, momentos and memories at a very young age. Even today my mind is organized into neat little folders. Each folder is etched with the year and the place my father was stationed in and contains vivid visuals of the time spent there – images of my friends, relatives, household helpers, pets we had (we had three cows at one time), teachers, the house, the lanes and the gardens are still fresh in my mind even though we do not have photographs of all the times.In today’s post I am unfolding one of these little folders from the year my father was stationed in Jabalpur. This folder opens up involuntarily whenever I cook cauliflower in the winters – not the small, loosely packed flower but the larger, juicier variety. The memory adds a flavor and taste that words cannot justify. Because of the extreme winters I always loved North India more than the South and when my father was transferred to Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh I had the joy of receiving the best of both worlds. Madhya Pradesh is located in Central India and enjoys the cool winters of the North (sans snow!) and is geographically and culturally a little closer to the South, Maharashtra rather.Jabalpur was then a small town – at least it seemed so to my eyes. As adolescents our world generally tends to limit itself to our peer group. I always thought Jabalpur consisted of just two colonies. One was the Cantonment/Defence areas and the other was the Heavy Vehicles Factory township. Since my friends only comprised of girls and boys from army background and since we did not really need to venture to town I did not know that there existed a thriving civilian population in Jabalpur. We did know that almost 25% of Jabalpurians were made up of African and Iranian students. They were the rich lot then. It is only of late that I have realized that this town where everyone seemed to know everyone was quite spread out even back then!Our quarters in Jabalpur was a large bungalow – a remnant of the British era. The Government had kept much of the ‘saheb’ fanfare alive by providing sprawling lawns in the areas surrounding the bungalow and a plethora of domestic helpers. My father was very interested in gardening and the lawns gave him a chance to indulge in this hobby. We grew a variety of vegetables in the backyard like cauliflowers, radish, carrots, different tubers, beans as well as lovely flowers such as balsams, clock vines, crested cockcomb, periwinkles, peace lilies, dahlias, chrysanthemums, gerberas and so many more that I cannot even identify. The garden was tended to by our maali with tender love! I remember him picking flowers every morning and making beautiful bouquets for the vases in the living room.
During the season of potato harvest my mother used to clean up one part of the extra rooms and store small hillocks of potatoes. The baby potatoes took up lesser space and were used up in making tandoori aloos which we consumed in dozens! A major part would be distributed amongst the helpers. The season I loved most was winters when we would sit in the backyard or the front gardent soaking up the warmth of the morning sun. I also loved wearing colorful sweaters knitted by my mother. Cauliflowers grew by the dozen during winter and covered the garden in neat chequered pattern. We would look up the garden everyday to sight these beautiful clouds of cotton wrapped on all sides in layered gowns of green leaves. It was a sight to behold. Since then I have not seen cauliflowers as white or as large or as tightly held. We had an overdose of aloo-gobi rasedar or aloo-gobi sukha(dry) or gobi parathas almost every other day. Funnily enough I have never got tired of the taste and still love cauliflowers!! Only I try not to add potatoes and tomatoes most of the time. Another way I love cauliflowers is tandoori gobi. This dish too is a leaf from my Jabalpur days!
I had this subzi in my pictures folder for a very long time. It seemed too simple to be accorded space but then as the above thoughts and memories bombarded my mind and fingers I realized that they do need a special post because the dish is very special to me! This is how I make it these days. The addition of peas complements the sweetness and the juice blends with that of the cauliflowers very well. The cauliflower in turn soaks up the flavour of the dhania powder and amchoor. When you bite into the flowerets you can taste the juice and the other spices all at the same time.
Dish: Cauliflower and green peas dry curry – Gobi Matar ki sukhi subzi
Time taken: Very quick if the cauliflower is fresh and juicy
The appeal : The colour!
Serves: 3 persons
Cauliflower – 1kg
(Break into small flowerets and keep the stalk aside – you can use it up in the parathas)
Peas – 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp.
Carom seeds – 1 tsp. (Do not omit this – they have a lovely flavor)
Fennel seeds – 1/4 tsp.
Freshly pounded coriander powder – 1.5tsp.
Freshly pounded cumin seed powder – 1/4tsp.
Turmeric powder – 1/4tsp.
Chilli powder – To taste
(keep it a little high as the sweetness of peas and cauliflower will supress the zing)
Dry mango powder – 1/8tsp. or more as per taste.
Dry fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) – 1 tsp. (optional)
Coriander – chopped rough – 1tbsp.
Mustard oil – 2tbsp.
Heat oil in a wide wok to smoking hot and put off flame. Heat again to medium hot and crackle cumin, carom and fennel seeds.
Add the cleaned, washed and drained flowerets and mix well. Add 1/2 of the total salt needed. Cover and cook on medium flame stirring every once in a while so that cauliflower sweats and gets half cooked.
Now add the peas and cover and cook till done to a bite. Add the spice powders, adjust salt and saute well till the powders are incorporated evenly.
Add the kasuri methi and saute for another minute. The vegetable should be completely dry and the flowerets a little brown.
The burnt ones taste very good! Great with rotis and rice.
One kg of cauliflower after discarding stalks and reduction in quantity will not serve more than three people!
Even if I made more I would only find an empty bowl when I return from work because both Jr.H and Jr.P.