As much as I’d like to boast and say this was my idea, it wasn’t. I chanced upon the recipe on Vegan Richa’s, whose blog takes a vegan approach to lots of Indian dishes, a number of which are traditionally made with dairy. Being vegan and with my Indian-ised diet, boy am I thankful for veganized Indian recipes! The sound of this dish and its accompanying photos tempted me, but the list of simple ingredients (most of which can easily be found in a well-stocked Indian cuisine friendly pantry) was what sealed the deal, despite the finicky-sounding prep work of blanching the whole cauliflower, sauteing the gravy and finally baking the entire thing for 45 minutes. And OMG am I happy I made this!
Hold your horses, I’ll elaborate in a while.
I was lucky this recipe actualised – found some really fresh cauliflower in the supermarket (yknow, without those black spots, nice white color) shortly after being enticed by this, promptly bought it, and before I could become distracted as usually is the case by some other recipe in the spur of the moment (read: few moments before cooking time), I went straight into prepping for this dish.
I assembled all the ingredients quite robotically, like I said, there isn’t much to do save for chopping up some garlic, ginger, onion and tomatos. And frankly I still didn’t know what to expect up till the moment the saute-work was done and I was ready to begin blending in the cashews and coconut milk. Added salt, sugar as per recipe, took a taste and OMGOMGOMG. I took another taste, and it confirmed my first reaction — this is one of THE recipes you serve up to staunch meat-eaters, to friends who’ve never heard anything (good) about vegan cooking or veganism, the kind of recipe I may need to add to my arsenal in order to win out at the extended family table during potlucks, or even just to gain some respect with silently skeptical family members who’ve hitherto never really given a shit about my food.
All these thoughts (hallucinations?) raced through my mind as I try to deconstruct the taste. Mainly, it tastes so damn good because of the cashews and coconut cream combination (original recipe uses coconut milk). The gravy tastes like restaurant-style, no holding back, with full-fat cream/butter/ghee added into the mix for that rich, sometimes cloying taste, but ultimately delivers that full-bodied taste you look for in an Indian stew.
I’ve always pitied the fact that vegetable korma is a dish just too lengthy to enjoy making, but this, oh this, it’s slyly giving me a shortcut to getting a rich gravy without even earning it myself. Unbelievably good.
Next thing I think is I can’t wait to share it with absolutely everyone, even my sis who constantly laughs at me for being a nut in vegan/Indian cuisine. I suppose this recipe has made me a big-hearted person. This is one of those dishes simply too good to keep to myself.
Blending was a bit of a messy affair since I only had an itsy-bitsy grinder to work with, that dripped annoyingly every time I unscrewed the lid to pour out and blend another round of gravy. I substituted about half coconut cream and half water for the coconut milk and the consistency of the gravy was about right — smooth and drippable, slightly thicker than pancake batter.
Then into the oven cauli and gravy went for 45 minutes. The smell went something like this: the flavor of the original gravy except it permeated the air, and more intensely buttery like baking some badass non-vegan, very meaty.. stuff in the oven. It smelt like something everybody looks forward to on a special day like Sunday dinner, or like something really good Mom only makes on occasion that nobody wants to miss. Yea, I’m pretty sure it smelt like that.
All the while, I can’t believe there’s no dairy in this thing! Serve it to a meat-eater and I bet he/she will sit right up and say ‘Gosh this is really good! What’s in it? Vegan? Wow, tell me more about this vegan cooking bro!’ Serve it to a vegan and he/she might shoot you a dirty look for planting something unsuspecting in there. Wow, the hallucinations baked cauliflower give me..
Okay, enough babbling. On to the taste-test. I heaped more of the sauce onto the baked cauli before serving as the recipe suggested. The knife literally sank through like cutting soft butter. Sadly though, my cauli wasn’t as flavorful as I expected it to be from 45 minutes of baking. I suspect firstly, I’d forgotten the salt when blanching and secondly, perhaps been too stingy with the coating of gravy such that the roasted flavor I was so looking forward to wasn’t discernible. The gravy that had dripped to the bottom however, caramelised and was delicious. I’m only sad that my baking dish wasn’t large enough for more of the gravy to pool and crisp up at the bottom.
Still, My mom confirmed my initial thoughts about this dish. She immediately started going off about other things we could possibly have with this gravy. I was thinking perhaps using the gravy as a coating for roast vegetables, the idea of biting into gravy-encrusted veg still very much appeals to me, while mom thinks just using it as a gravy topping for broccoli or a dip for crudites would be great. This mahkani gravy is very very more-ish and very filling because of the fat content. Coupled with the kind of crazy flavor, I think makes it very suitable for a role in a party appetizer since too much of it becomes cloyingly rich and makes it difficult to have space for other dishes.
When I’m making this again, which will be soon I’m sure, I might chop up the cauliflower to see if the larger exposed surface area will make my cauli more crispy.