Lucknowi Achari Gobi

Cauliflower cooked in pickling spices with turmeric, chilli and mango powder

Lucknowi Achari Gobi (2)

When I look through my book of hand written notes from my travels there are many stories and recipes I still have left to share. I suppose my space here gives me a chance to do that (albeit not as often as I’d like to!) I travel to India a few times every year not just with a view to explore the cities, vibrant cultures but also to sample the food and what it has to offer across communities and local homes. Some of the best meals I’ve eaten have been homemade by my family, friends & people I have met across the country. That said I’m a huge fan of street food and having grown up eating such a variety of delectable chaat in Mumbai, suffice to say I’m hooked for life. I know a lot of the chaat thelawallas and also places where to find the best aloo tikki, pani puri, bhel or sev puri. A lot of the chaat in Mumbai makes its way to the city with influences from UP (the state of Uttar Pradesh) and it’s no surprise if you ask a local Bombay street vendor where he originally hails from chances are he might say he has a connection to Allahabad, Lucknow, Kanpur or Benares. There different versions of chaat in a city like Mumbai, which you can find across the country. Pani puri in Mumbai is also known as Pani ke Patashe in Lucknow.

A recent trip to Bombay I visited an old college friend who promised me the best chaat I’d ever eaten would be at her home. It came as no surprise to me that their cook hails from Kanpur. He was more than happy to rustle up an absolute feast of Indian street bites for us and needless to say all of which was finger licking good. I went back for seconds and thirds! I got chatting with him. Suresh was proud of his culture and the food from the community he hailed from. Keen to show that he was equally versatile in other Indian dishes from his home state he spoke of some recipes he cooked for the family. While he was talking about it all with great enthusiasm, I wanted to make sure I scribbled down some of his tips on cooking on a piece of paper to try when I got back to my kitchen. His stories and dishes that he described were nothing short of inspirational.

As an ode to his hometown and to highlight the delicious flavours here is my recipe of Lucknowi Achari Gobi inspired by Suresh Talwar.

There are of course regional variations of Achari dishes. ‘Achari’ means pickling which is made using a mix of spices. And most vegetables, meat or chicken is used to make it. With the climate in so many northern states reaching a record high this is a clever way to preserve vegetables. And keeps for days after cooking too. I use mustard oil when making this cauliflower dish which gives it a gorgeous pungent flavour and hint of deep colour, so I’d urge you to get some for this recipe; although you can swap it for regular sunflower oil if you prefer a milder flavour. The balance of spices and flavour in most of my cooking is key and with achari gobi being a dry dish the acidity in this recipe is achieved by adding Amchoor (dried mango powder) which give it a delicious tang. Serve this dish with roti or pulao of your choice.


  1. Add the cumin, mustard seeds, fenugreek, fennel and nigella seeds to a mixer and grind to a coarse mix. Separately add the green chillies with a pinch of salt to a pestle and mortar and grind to a paste. Set aside. Blend the garlic and ginger to a smooth paste with a splash of water and set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan over a medium flame. Add the asafoetida and the coarsely ground spice mix. Fry for 20 seconds and add the onions cook them for 12 minutes stirring well. As they begin to soften add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a minute.

  3. Add the turmeric powder, stir well and add the cauliflower florets along with the coriander powder. Season to taste. Fry for a 2-3 minutes stirring continuously. Add 150mls water and the green chilli paste. Stir well and cook over a low heat with a lid on for 14 minutes. Stir a couple of times through the cooking.Lucknowi Achari Gobi

  4. Add amchoor powder and sugar continue cooking for a minute. Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve warm with roti, naan or pulao.