There are few dishes which, no matter what, I would want my mom to cook. One of those dishes is the Phulkopi-r roast or cauliflower roast. Winters for me, is incomplete without cauliflowers and particularly, this dish.
Since marriage, a lot of recipes have got exchanged between the two women across the opposite banks of Ganga (Madhushree being a Bangaal although has no audible evidence of her origins other than the food habits, and Ma is from Bankura, the red soil district from West Bengal). Very interestingly, both these ladies have traveled to different places during their growing up years. This has changed their perception about food and both have influences of various places in their cooking, making it more interesting. It never reminds me of any particular place or region. So my kitchen always has varying glimpses of Goa, Bihar, North East, Coastal India and sometimes, Europe in the food they prepare.
It is a known fact that all home cooks have some signature dishes which no matter what, cannot be replicated by anyone else. If there is one such dish which I can relate to my Ma, then it is the Phulkopi-r roast or Cauliflower roast which she makes. This dish has memories of childhood winter Sundays and the family lunch. The recipe was passed on to Madhushree too, and she made this few times but in my opinion, it missed the magical touch of Ma. Last year, when Madhushree and Tugga were away to Mumbai to attend a marriage ceremony and I was attending the Kolkata Literature Meet, Ma made this once again. She rarely goes to the kitchen these days and when she made this on the coldest day of the season, it was an emotional rush for me. For Ma, she missed Baba the most who used to love this unconditionally.
This happened sometime in January. And now, we could convince Ma to make it once again the minute the mercury hit 22 degree C. In the last 40 years of my life, I never bothered about the origin of this dish in our household. This time, I asked Ma. Apparently, Ma had learnt this from my Thakuma (father’s mother). What a wonderful feeling it was when Ma fed Tugga his lunch with the phulkopir roast and I am sure, Baba was happily smiling somewhere.
It took me 40 years to ask Ma from where she had learnt this recipe – it seems that she had learnt this from my Grandmother. I tried to visualise how a recipe got passed between between two women of different generations, different background tied by a common thread. The common factor being- Baba.
Phulkopi Roast/ Cauliflower Roast
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
|Cauliflower/Phulkopi||I large||Ginger Paste||3 tsp|
|Cumin Powder||1 ½ tbsp||Coriander Powder||2 tbsp|
|Turmeric Powder||2 tsp||Asafetida/ Heeng||2 tsp|
|Kashmiri Red Chili powder||2 tbsp||Chopped tomatoes||3/4th Cup|
|Bay Leaf (dried)||1 no||Cardamom Green||3 nos|
|Cinnamon Stick||½ inch||Cloves||3-4 nos|
|Salt||To taste||Sugar||1 tsp|
|Mustard oil||3 -4 tbsp||Green Chili||2 nos|
|Cashew Paste||2 tbsp|
Just bit of a note before I start the process. This recipe is a pretty traditional Bengali recipe and I have picked it up from my mother in law. Although it is called a roast, which typically means putting in the oven, this recipe was developed at time when ovens were usually not a part of Bengali kitchen. Hence it was and still is cooked on flame. In Bengal, we traditionally use a heavy iron wok to cook most of our food. I have done this recipe also in a wok.
- Cut the cauliflower into large florets and then thoroughly wash them under running water.
- In a large vessel, boil some water and then dip the florets in the hot water. Turn off the heat and let the florets remain submerged in the hot water for about 10- 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, drain the water.
- In a bowl, take all the powder ingredients, ginger paste, salt and 3 -4 tbsp of water to make a smooth paste.
- In a wok or a frying pan, if you wish, heat mustard oil till it starts to smoke and then add the bay leaf, cardamom (smashed), cinnamon and cloves. Once it starts to brown, add the masala paste.
- On a medium to a low heat, cook the masala until the raw smell goes off and oil starts to release.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes on high heat. Sprinkle some water in case the masala sticks to the bottom and keep stirring.
- Then add the cauliflower florets and give it all a good stir. Check the seasoning and add more salt if required.
- Now all you have to do is continue cooking on a medium to low heat while covering the wok with a lid. From time to time, you need to uncover and give a stir and check on the cauliflowers.
- After about 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the size of the florets, the cauliflower should have softened. At this point, add the cashew paste and sugar and finally let it simmer for about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Add some slit green chilies in the end and turn off the heat.
- Serve it with some steamed rice or paratha.