Playing With Fire
'I adore any excuse to use a torch in the kitchen'
I came across an article on Epicurious about finishing dishes with ghee smoke. I don’t have a grill at home, and I always miss that kiss of smokey flavor you can only get cooking over charcoal, so this method was intriguing to me. The process involves placing a piece of hot charcoal in a metal dish (or half of a hollowed-out onion), pouring ghee over the charcoal to generate smoke, then trapping the smoke with a lid and letting it perfume your food.
You can heat the charcoal using a blow torch, brulee torch, or the open flame of a gas stove. I adore any excuse to use a torch in the kitchen, which makes this dish especially exciting to make.
The smoke is subtle, clean, and not overpowering. If you’ve ever had Japanese yakitori, it’s very much reminiscent of that moment. I’ve used this method on many a leftover to make them brand new — a wonder for someone who actually hates leftovers.
Dhungar-Smoked Curry Cauliflower
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
1 head (about 2 lbs) cauliflower
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 small red onion, chopped
kosher salt and pepper
1 tablespoon ghee
1 cup labneh
1 cup soft herbs, torn (cilantro, mint, scallions, parsley, etc)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pomegranate arils, optional for garnish
~2” piece of charcoal
Blow torch / brulee torch
Small metal bowl
Remove the core from the cauliflower and break into florets. Place in a bowl and toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Season generously with salt, pepper, and curry powder; toss to combine.
Heat a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped red onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and use a spatula to stir and coat in the olive oil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, letting the cauliflower brown in spots, until tender, about 10 minutes. Taste, adjust salt and pepper as needed. Turn off the heat.
Place a piece of charcoal in a small metal bowl. Use a blow torch/brulee torch to light the charcoal until it burns white all over.
Make sure you have a lid for the skillet nearby, the next steps go quickly. Using tongs, place the bowl with the charcoal in the center of the pan, pushing the cauliflower towards the edges to make space. Place a tablespoon of ghee over the smoldering charcoal and quickly cover the skillet with a lid. Let smoke for 10 minutes.
Spread 1 cup of labneh on the bottom of a serving platter.
Top with cauliflower, then garnish with herbs and sprinkle with raisins and pomegranate, if using.
This has been a fairly common technique used in homes in India to infuse smoke into dals and curries to replicate the tastes of the tandoor at home. Now, see it being used for non traditional dishes like infusing smokiness into yoghurt etc
We traditionally use this method to infuse a smoky flavour into biryanis in particular, at the last step , and also in homemade kebabs.