This dish comes from the royal court kitchens of Uttar Pradesh, where it was a favorite of state banquets, high society, and Mughal emperors. At that time, food wasn’t just food, it was a way of showing off. It is still a great dinner-party dish today: a head-turner at the table and great fun for your guests to pull apart slowly. This dish goes well with court jesters and goblets of wine.
NOTE: Kasoori methi are dried fenugreek leaves, which add an earthy tanginess to rich tomato sauces like this one. If you can’t find them, leave them out.
Serves 4 as a main course
1 very large or 2 medium heads of cauliflower (about 2¼ pounds in total)
salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 14-ounce cans of plum tomatoes
½ cup ground almonds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon kasoori methi
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground red chile
a handful of flaked almonds
a handful of cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and slice off a little of the bottom so that it sits flat. Rub the cauliflower with oil, getting inside all the nooks and crannies, and season with salt and black pepper. Place in a lidded ovenproof casserole dish, cover, and bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. When it’s bubbling, add the onions and cook for around 10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes by pouring them in with one hand and crushing them with the other, then fill one tomato can three-quarters full with water and pour that in too. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the ground almonds, cinnamon, kasoori methi, cloves, ground red chile, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then take off the heat.
After 45 minutes, test the cauliflower by sticking a skewer or sharp knife all the way through. It should be almost cooked, but not tender. (If it’s still very firm, put it back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.) Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and return to the oven, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes. Toast the almond flakes for a couple of minutes in a small frying pan over a medium heat until they are light gold, then put to one side.
Check that the cauliflower is completely cooked through by pushing a skewer down the center: it should go in with little resistance. When tender, remove from the oven, taste the sauce for salt and ground red chile, and adjust if need be. Scatter the flaked almonds and cilantro over the top, and serve with rice, dal, and a salad of your choice.