Better Than Takeout: Roasted Cauliflower Tikka Masala and Matar Ka Nimona

Cauliflower Tikka Masala and Matar Ka Nimona (Vegan) - Potatoes in a Green Pea gravy

EDITED 3/10/18 - Cauliflower Tikka Masala comes out great using vegan cashew yogurt in place of regular yogurt and cream. Recipe has been updated with the vegan options.

As we continue to convert, ever ever so slowly, to cleaner eating, I've been finding various ways to dress up the magical blank canvas that is cauliflower. High in protein and fiber, but lacking in flavor, it takes some creativity to make it a star instead of a side show.

What better way to infuse flavor, than in a rich Indian curry!

I've been working on a recipe for Tikka Masala for several years, as it's a family favorite for takeout. It is a rich tomato curry with a marinated and roasted component. It's probably the most popular Indian restaurant menu item in America. It's like the gateway drug to Indian food, for any newbie we've taken out with us.

I got the seasoning right, through research, trial and error, but as with most home versions of restaurant dishes, I struggled to get the texture just right. With the confirmation of the family taste-test, I've finally gotten as close as ever with  my version of Tikka Masala! 

In this case, I've treated the cauliflower as I would paneer (cheese that my kids and I love). I smothered the cauliflower with spicy lemon yogurt marinade, which settled into the nooks and crannies of the florets. This added even more flavor to every bite. 

Matar Ka Nimona, a North Indian curry of blended green peas
On this particular day, I made a big batch of ginger garlic paste and had everything chopped up, so I made a second curry. The idea was to do something green, for a flavor and color contrast. I love that this recipe for Matar Ka Nimona, from the Pepper On Pizza blog, has a sauce made from peas. It's so pretty! If you like aloo matar (a go-to in our family when you have almost run out of fresh produce except the basics) and you like thick gravies, you'll love this one. It was a totally new dish, being that it's from Eastern Uttar Pradesh (a most northern and densely populated Indian state that I know almost nothing about). Rave reviews from the in-laws! 

If you do happen to cook Indian dishes at home, try this tikka masala recipe. It's as close as I've come to restaurant quality, in my experiments. Let me know what you think - it's always a work in progress!

Cauliflower Tikka Masala

Servings: 4

Total Time: 1 hour
Author: Deena Mehta


For Cauliflower:
½ head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste*
¼ teaspoon garam masala spice mix
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
1 teaspoon Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), crumbled
¼ cup plain yogurt (or vegan yogurt- preferably cashew yogurt)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt, to taste

For Sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste*
1 large plum tomato, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf (the Indian version: tej patta or malabar) optional
½ teaspoon Kasmiri chili powder, more to taste if desired
salt to
1 teaspoon coriander powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or vegan yogurt, preferably cashew yogurt)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
¾ - 1 cup water
1 tsp Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), crumbled
salt to taste

*For ginger garlic paste: buy ready-made or make a big batch. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle to grind, use a chopper or food processer to grind equal amounts of garlic cloves and peeled, sliced ginger. Add a little vegetable oil and kosher salt so that the mix gets finely ground like paste. In a pinch, finely chopped garlic and ginger will do, but a more smooth paste is ideal.

1. Heat oven to 425F / 220C. Combine the marinade ingredients and toss with the cauliflower. Spread on a lightly oiled sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes or until brown, turning once or twice. Remove when tender and set aside.

2. For the sauce, heat oil in a deep saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds. When lightly toasted, fragrant and crackling, add the onions. Cook until translucent and browning, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

3. Add ginger garlic paste and cook 2 mintues, then add the tomatoes. Cook well, until the tomatoes break down , about 3-5 minutes.

4. In a food processor, add the contents of the saucepan and the tomato paste and grind until smooth. Add back to the pan.

5. Over low heat, add the bay leaf, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Cook for 5 minutes and mix in ½ cup water. Raise heat and bring to a boil.

6. Add the cooked cauliflower, dried methi, and more water if needed. Cover and cook a few minutes, before adding cream (or vegan yogurt). Season with salt to taste.

7. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with naan or rice.


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