Gholpi is spicy stewed cauliflower often served as a vegetarian main dish along with warm bread. The cauliflower is spiced with advieh (a Persian spice blend), curry powder, turmeric, and a little tomato paste. It's so simple to make and cooks in about 25 minutes.
It’s a bold and tasty meal Khadija Hemmati, a Charlottesville-based chef from Afghanistan, considers easy enough to make for her family of six after a busy work shift. It’s also one she cannot imagine missing from the sofreh—a cloth laid on the floor for eating—on Eid el-Fitr, a festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Although gholpi is not traditionally served during Eid, it’s one that Khadija blurted out with sparkly eyes and a giant smile on her face when I asked her to teach me how to make her favorite Eid dishes. This is the recipe that we cooked together one Sunday evening—the one she learned from her mom and plans to teach her children one day.
Advieh for Seasoning
Advieh simply means “spice” and it refers to a blend of spices used in cooking across the Middle East. There are blends specifically used for rice, pickles, meats, or stews. Afghan households often make a large batch by grinding nuts, spices, seeds, dried herbs, and dried rose petals—it’s used as an all-purpose seasoning.
The advieh Khadija uses at home and in this recipe may be difficult to find in the U.S. It’s a homemade blend with almonds, walnuts, and dried garlic, cilantro, parsley, and chilis. It’s okay to use any blend you can find since variations are expected from family to family. Well-stocked Middle Eastern grocery stores will carry advieh or you can find it online.
Felfel for Heat
Felfel is ground red chili peppers that are akin to cayenne peppers, but not as spicy. Afghans often call it chili powder, but it’s not the same as the chili powder spice blend found in the U.S. You can find felfel online or use half the amount of cayenne pepper instead.
Start the Onions without Oil
Gholpi starts with sautéed onions. BUT! The onions are first cooked dry, without oil or any added liquid. They release some water as they cook, creating some steam, and keeping a lid on as much as possible will help trap the steam to soften the onions. Oil is added only after the onions have softened. This is a technique Khadija uses to ensure the onions don’t soak up too much oil.
Serve Gholpi with Bread
Khadija serves gholpi as a main dish with barbari, a Persian leavened bread that’s about one inch thick and often topped with sesame or caraway seeds, or lavash, a thin flatbread that’s the oldest known bread in the Middle East. The bread is used cutlery to scoop up the tender cauliflower florets and swipe the sauce.
More Ramadan Recipes to Try
Gholpi (Afghan Stewed Cauliflower)
Gholpi is typically made in a ghablama, a wide pan with curved sides that looks like a wok. You can use a wok or a large sauté pan.
Use any kind of store-bought Indian or Middle Eastern curry powder.
- 1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 Anaheim peppers, divided
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon advieh
- 1/2 teaspoon felfel, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 large cauliflower, cut into 2-inch florets
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Barbari or lavash, for serving
Cook the onions:
In a ghablama, wok, or large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, add the onions. Sauté them, without any oil for about 4 minutes, until they soften, keeping a lid on as much as possible to trap steam. It’s okay if they brown around the edges. If they start charring, lower the heat and continue stirring.
Stir in the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to sauté for about 2 minutes, until the onions are tender and translucent.
Add the peppers and seasonings:
Cut off the stem and thinly slice 1 Anaheim pepper. Add the sliced peppers, tomato paste, curry powder, advieh, felfel, black pepper, and turmeric to the cooked onions. Sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Cook the cauliflower:
Stir in the cauliflower florets, 3/4 cup water, and salt. Cover with a lid and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you can easily pierce the florets with the tip of a paring knife. Taste the sauce and season with more salt, if needed.
Meanwhile, char the Anaheim peppers:
Set a small frying pan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the remaining 2 Anaheim peppers. Do not move them until they start to char, then turn them every 2 to 3 minutes to char them all over. This will create some peppery smoke, so open your windows!
Transfer the gholpi onto a serving platter, being careful not to break or smash the florets. Set the charred peppers on top and serve warm with barbari or lavash.
Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
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