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Aloo gobi is a traditional, spicy dish that originates from Northern India but also is popular in other regions. It is made primarily of cauliflower, potatoes and onions that are mixed with spices and slowly cooked until done. No liquid — or very little liquid — is added to the dish, leaving it mostly dry with a very intense flavor from the spices that are roasted in the pan. Like many other Indian dishes, most of the cooking takes place in the first few minutes of the recipe, followed by long periods of slow cooking. Completed aloo gobi is almost always served with less spicy accompaniments such as bread, rice, cucumber salad or carrot chutney.
The flavor of aloo gobi, which literally means "potatoes with cauliflower", is mostly reliant on the spices that are used. Main spices used include cumin seeds, coriander, red pepper, turmeric and fenugreek. They are fried in hot oil in a pan until they have released their flavors and become aromatic, greatly increasing their intensity. If the spices are overcooked, which can occur very quickly, a sharp, bitter odor will result, making them inedible.
Another important ingredient in aloo gobi is a special combination of garlic and ginger. They are placed whole on a board together and then diced at the same time into a smooth paste, sometimes with water or salt added. The garlic-ginger paste is then put in a container and refrigerated for anywhere from one hour to a week or more. This paste is used very often in Northern Indian cooking and has a more subdued flavor that using freshly and separately chopped garlic and ginger. The refrigeration or freezing of the paste allows it to withstand cooking for a longer time initially so it can be fried in oil with the other ingredients.
Just as the spices have finished cooking, diced onion is added to the pan with the ginger and garlic paste and some garam masala, a mixture of ground, toasted spices. After the onions have cooked, cubed potatoes are added to the aloo gobi and stirred until every surface is covered in the bright, pungent spice mixture. The pan is covered so any steam created by the potatoes will be captured and used to cook the tubers.
The cauliflower is added after the potatoes are mostly done, and the pot is covered again. Traditionally, no liquid is added to aloo gobi, meaning the surface of the potatoes and cauliflower will be coated in a dry spice mixture that some people might find too intense to eat on its own. Water or tomatoes can be added to help mute the strength of the spices, though this is optional rather than traditional.
Once completed, aloo gobi can be topped with fresh cilantro and lime juice and served with rice or Indian bread. Any side dishes that can be used to temper the heat of the spices, such as a cucumber salad, are usually welcome. A bowl of yogurt or a cold salad also could be served with the dish.