February 1, 2011

Amy’s Indian Food for Her Family {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}

aloo gobi

This is the latest installment of my Tales from the Trenches Series. An ongoing series where friends and readers share their stories and recipes about the great food they fit into family life. We all have tips and tricks to share with each other: when we cook, what we cook and how we cook the delicious food we love to eat. If you are interested in contributing a story and recipe please feel free to contact me. Today’s Tales from the Trenches is from Amy Roche.  Amy and her husband are originally from Minnesota, and now live in Pasadena, California.  After graduating from college in 1997, Amy went to California with Teach For America.  She still teaches in inner-city Los Angeles.  She is currently working half-time as a reading intervention specialist at an elementary school in East L.A.  They have one daughter, Camilla who is two years old and usually naps!

I hit the mother-in-law jackpot when I married my husband.  Grandma Coco as she’s now called, has all the qualities a daughter-in-law could hope for.  She’s outgoing, interesting to talk with, generous and she is by far the best home cook I’ve ever met.  She is the reason I now consider myself to be a “foodie.”

I married into an Indian family, and I didn’t know it at the time, but Indian culture revolves around two things: food and family.  I remember thinking it odd at first that my husband’s family talked so much about food.  At every family get-together his parents and sisters would go into incredible detail about the delicious meals they had eaten since they last saw each other.  My eyes would glaze over, but it was their way of catching up.  I puzzled at the way they would get menus ahead of time and then discuss them for hours before ever heading out to the restaurant.  Food is not a spur-of-the-moment thing for them, it’s the main event.

My husband and I met in high school, so Grandma Coco had years to introduce me to a wide variety of dishes and accustom my palate to a whole host of South Indian delights.  When things looked to be getting serious between Pat and me, she started instructing me in the basics: daals, chicken tikka masala, rice, chapattis.  As the years went on, she exposed me to a greater variety regional dishes and gave me many helpful kitchen tips.  The best advice she gave me for efficiently organizing my weekly menu was to plan each week thematically.  If you want Indian, plan out an Indian menu for the whole week.  Or if you’re thinking Italian or Mexican, plan out a whole week menu for that cuisine.  That way, leftovers combine nicely and any extra ingredients are more likely to be used up.

Mango Lassi

Before Grandma Coco, I was a girl who didn’t know the difference between an onion and a head of garlic.  Now I am a mother who can make my family biriyani, pork vindaloo, exotic chutneys and a wide variety of vegetable dishes-I can even make my own Indian cheese!

I’m so proud to be able to pass on a rich food culture to my daughter Camilla.  She loves eating Indian food, and in fact prefers it to almost anything else.  It is a cuisine that does require a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.  There are however quite a few simple, quick dishes that I can prepare during naptime or in a pinch when I get home from work.  The recipe I included here is really quite simple, and it’s one of my daughter’s favorites.  You can get all of the ingredients in the grocery store, except sambar masala, which can be found in any Indian grocery store.  It’s a worthwhile spice to have on hand, especially if you’re interested in preparing other Indian vegetable dishes.


Aloo Gobi

(Potato and Cauliflower)


  • salt to taste
  • canola oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
    6-8 small red potatoes
    1/3 cup frozen peas
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 onion, quartered and sliced thinly
    ¼ cup chopped cilantro
    1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    1 ½ teaspoon sambar masala
    ½ teaspoon turmeric powder


    Before you begin, boil the red potatoes whole, with skin on.  By boiling with the skin on, they don’t get too watery and the texture is just right to absorb the spices.  When fully cooked, remove and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and cut into halves or fourths lengthwise.  Set aside.

    Coat skillet with oil and let heat on medium to high.  When oil is heated, add cumin seeds.  Once you hear them popping, immediately add the onion.  Cook until translucent.  Then add pat of butter.  When melted, add in the sambar masala and the turmeric powder.  Stir a few times and add the cauliflower pieces.  Coat the cauliflower with the spices.  Sprinkle mixture with salt.  Cover and let sweat at medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Check to make sure it’s not burning.  Stir occasionally.

    When cauliflower is fork tender, add the potatoes.  Stir to make sure they are coated with spices.  Sprinkle again with salt and cover for about five minutes.  Add frozen peas and cover for another five minutes.  Check for salt.  I usually add another liberal sprinkling here at the end until the taste is just right.  When finished, garnish with chopped cilantro.

    Serve with steamed basmati rice.

    Naptime Notes

    Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

    Mango Lassi

    My daughter loves her aloo gobi with a mango lassi, a sweet yogurt based drink that is common throughout India and is incredibly easy to make.

    Add the following to blender and blend well for 30 seconds:

    1 cup plain yogurt (regular or low-fat)

    1 cup fresh or canned Alphonso mango (canned Alphonso pulp works too)

    ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder

    1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on your desired sweetness

    I sometimes add a splash of milk to thin it out.  I’ve tried using mangoes from Latin America, but the taste never came our quite the same.  When I can’t get fresh Alphonso mangoes, I opt for the canned Alphonso pulp, which is available at most grocery stores and at any Asian market.

    Naptime Stopwatch

    5 minutes for the lassi, 30 minutes for the aloo gobi.

    Naptime Reviews

    A delicious Indian dish to make at home!

    8 Responses to “Amy’s Indian Food for Her Family {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}”

    1. I love Indian food. For some reason I never make it. Think I’ve been inspired :).

    2. Laura Obringer says:

      I just had Aloo Gobi on Saturday but I’ve never made it myself. I can’t wait to try the recipe! Thanks!

    3. KP Laws says:

      This looks delicious. I love Indian food, but I’ve always been intimidated at the thought of making it. Not anymore–this looks easy, and I can’t wait to try it.

    4. Amira says:

      I Love Grandma Coco’s advice about planning a theme for the week! I’m totally going to start doing this!

    5. Arj4504 says:

      In addition to the recipe I like the tribute to Grandma Coco.

    6. arooli says:

      I am so excited to try out these recipes! Where can I get canned Alphonso mango?

    7. Susan says:

      Thank you so much for this recipe! I love your blog even though my babies are now 15 and 17.