How do no-onion-no-garlic dishes make up for the missing flavors of onion and garlic, the essence of most Indian curries?
This is a thumb rule that "pure" vegetarians (no-onion-no-garlic eaters) will tell you –
- Substitute garlic with asafoetida.
- Substitute onions with nigella seeds.
No, the tastes are not the same but these are equally strong flavors that balance the gravies. Here’s an aloo tamatar sabzi (potato-tomato curry) with no onions or garlic, using that very tip.
- Potatoes – 3 large, boiled and cut into large pieces
- Tomatoes – 3 medium-sized, chopped
- Water – 1 cup
- Nigella seeds – 1 heaped teaspoon
- Asafoetida – 1 pinch
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Red chili powder – 1 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
- Salt – 1 teaspoon (adjust to taste)
- Mustard oil – 2 teaspoons
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When smoking hot, splutter the cumin seeds, then add nigella seeds and asafoetida.
Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt. Mix and cook covered for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the tomatoes don’t stick to the pan.
When done, add red chili powder and a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, reduce heat and cook covered for five minutes. Check if the gravy is the consistency you like and the salt is all right – a potato dish generally needs more salt than usual.
To thin the gravy, add more water. To thicken the gravy, crush a few of the boiled potatoes into it.
Stir, cook covered for another five minutes and switch off the fire. Let it stand for 15 minutes so that the potatoes absorb all the flavours.
I add the red chili powder later and not with the turmeric, as I like its flakes to look bright red in the finished dish. Adding it earlier tinges the gravy a deeper color.