You’re Just a (Cauli)Flower from an Old Bouquet
Since I moved to London in October I have lived in the predominately Pakistani East End neighbourhood of Upton Park, or, as my friends and I lovingly refer to it, Upton Parkistan. I live in a house share with Indian and Pakistani housemates and have learned a lot of new things since being here. I’m going to share one of those things with you now.
This is the rough recipe for Pakistani Cauliflower Curry, as taught to me by my lovely former housemate, Hana.
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets with stems sliced thinly
- 1 onion, sliced into long, thin pieces
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1-3 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 heaping tbsp tumeric
- 1 heaping tbsp chili flakes
- 1 heaping tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garam masala, heaping
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 jalapeño or large green chili
- Water, as needed
Use a massive head of cauliflower or two smaller heads. Remove all leaves from your cauliflower and cut it into florets, tossing them into a large, empty pot as you go. Cut off any manky bits that you don’t like the look of. Use the stems, just slice them thinly.
When all your cauliflower is prepped and in the pot cover it with water, give it a good swirl to rinse it, and drain completely.
Slice your onion into long, thin pieces. Add it to the pot.
Dice up your tomato(es). You want to use one large tomato or a couple of smaller ones. Add them to the pot.
Stir to mix the contents of your pot altogether.
Cover your pot and set it over low heat. I can’t stress enough how low it should be. Medium-low is the highest it should go during this whole process. We want the vegetables to release their moisture into the pot and for them to cook in their own liquids.
As the first round of veggies cooks on the stove, round two of prep begins! (HORRAY!) Peel and dice one large or two to three small potatoes into small pieces.
Check on and stir the veggies on the stove periodically. They should be releasing moisture, and therefore reducing in size. The moisture should be gathering at the bottom of the pot and your vegetables should not be sticking. If they are, the heat is a bit too high/there is not enough liquid because the heat’s too high and it’s burning off. If this is happening, turn the heat down a touch and add a splash of water to the pot.
You want them to cook and slowly reduce. Re-cover your pot after each stir. This part takes time. You may want to have something around to occupy your time because after all your veggie prep is done there’s not much to do except pick your nose. I usually watch the Justin Bieber documentary at this point, but that’s just me.
Once they’ve cooked down, add your potatoes and the tumeric, chili flakes, and salt. You can use more or less of the spices, depending on the size of your cauliflower and your sensitivity to spicy foods. Eyeball it and use your own good judgement.
Use heaping spoons of everything.
Stir your seasoning in. If your veggies ever seem to be getting too dry, add splashes of water to the pot to keep things moist and moving.
Put the cover back on and leave over low heat until the potatoes cook, stirring periodically.
Once your potatoes are cooked, add the olive oil to grease things up and a sprinkle of garam masala, about 1/4 tsp or so. This is when the magic happens.
Cut open a jalapeño (or large green chili) lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through. This will allow it to flavour the curry subtly. Add it to the pot and stir altogether.
A prize goes to whomever gets the pepper in their bowl. (The prize is the pepper.)
Place the lid back on and give the curry a bit more time on the stove to let the new flavours blend. And that’s it! You’ve been curried.
This is very much something you make by feel. The more you make it, the more your instincts take over and guide your hand with the amount of spices you add. I make it so often now that I don’t measure anymore, I just eyeball it like Hana did when she taught me. If you try it and it doesn’t have enough kick for you, add more chili flakes or some chili powder. If it has too much kick, you’ll know for next time.
Serve with chapatti or pita bread.
This has quickly become one of my favourite things to eat. Before moving to London I had never tried curry of any sort, and now there is always, always, a container of cauliflower curry in my fridge, ready whenever I need an easy and ridiculously delicious meal.
My time in Upton Park has been…interesting…thus far, but had I never come here I would not have learned to make genuine Pakistani curry from a wonderful Pakistani girl. And that’s made everything else totally worth it.