1. medium cauliflower (about 1½ pounds)
1/4 cup ghee, vegetable oil, or peanut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
2 teaspoons minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
About 1 cup grated onion
Scant 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coriander, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (page 342 or store-bought)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 green cayenne chiles, stemmed and slit lengthwise
Scant 1 cup water
2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves (optional)
Trim off the cauliflower leaves and the tough core. Cut into large florets, wash well, and set aside.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place a deep heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the ghee or oil, then add the cauliflower and cook (if it doesn’t all fit comfortably, fry it in two batches), turning the cauliflower florets every 2 to 3 minutes to brown them evenly, until they are touched all over with brown, 7 to 8 minutes. To keep the oil from spattering, keep the pot partially covered as the florets fry. Remove the cauliflower (tongs are the easiest way) and set aside.
Place the pot back over medium heat and toss in the cumin seeds and bay leaves. As soon as the seeds start to splutter, about a minute or less, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry briefly.
Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and turn light brown all through, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, salt, ground coriander,garam masala, cayenne, and turmeric and stir to blend in. Cook, stirring frequently, until you see the oil rise (you’ll notice a gleam on the surface of the flavor paste), 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chiles and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until they shine bright green with oil.
Add the water, stir well, and raise the heat to bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The flavor paste will be thick and wet. Add the cauliflower to the pot and gently stir and turn until well coated with the spice paste.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pot to seal and then put the lid on top (or seal it with dough; see headnote).
Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Release the steam by lifting off the lid, opening it away from you to avoid the hot steam. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
Spoon the cauliflower and sauce into a shallow bowl and garnish with the coriander leaves, if you wish.