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Over the years, I have developed a recipe that is effectively aloo gobi and saag aloo mixed together: Potato, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach curry. (I used to make it with sweet potato, but to "please" all my diners, I've switched to regular potatoes...which is also more authentic.)

Anyway, the curry gravy is fried black mustard seeds, browned-off onions, ground fenugreek, ground turmeric, hot chilli powder, ground coriander, diced ginger, red chillies, dried curry leaves and chopped tomatoes. The vegetables are roasted and added to the gravy after it's stewed for a while (20-40 minutes, say). Then I mix through the spinach at the end.

When I first started making this, I remember it tasting better than it does now. It always tastes bland, nowadays. If there's any spice, it's mostly from the ginger; even if I minimise its quantity (or remove it altogether) and focus instead on the fenugreek and chilli. I roast the vegetables specifically for the Malliard reaction and to sweeten them up, but it doesn't help much. Often, the overwhelming flavour is the tomato, but the gravy dries out and burns if you don't use enough.

It's quite frustrating and, because there are so many variables, I'm not sure where I'm going wrong. I have tried adding more spice; it doesn't really make a difference. I have tried leaving the gravy to "infuse" for longer; that helps to a point, but with diminishing returns. My spices are just supermarket spices -- nothing fancy -- but relatively new, so shouldn't have lost their potency. Should I toast them first? Salting the vegetables doesn't make any difference. Some recipes I've seen post-fry the vegetables to crisp them up, but I don't see how that can work with a gravy-based curry.

What's the secret to a good vegetable-based curry?

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    There's probably nothing wrong with your recipe. Regular supermarket spices are just bland - their veg too, quite often. Get your veg from a local greengrocer & your spices online - I don't like advertising, but someone like 'spicesontheweb' or if you're feeling rich, 'seasonedpioneers' [both UK companies] , or if your supermarket has a good 'asian aisle' get them there rather than in the 'foreign food for english folks' aisle [apologies, no slur intended]. It's a world of difference. – Tetsujin Aug 16 at 19:03
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Here are some suggestions-

  1. I usually use freshly prepared spices. By this what I mean is I buy from the market not the powder but the whole spice. For example I buy green chillies from market. I dry them under sun, and then grind them for a fresh chilly powder. Also I use two types of chilli powers Kashmiri, for giving red color but it is not spicy and the spicy chilli powder. I also buy coriander seeds from market and grind them fresh wherever I want to make indian curry. The aroma while grinding is so strong compared to the powder packet spices from market, and obviously this enhances the flavour.
  2. Spices used initially, eg cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, I usually roast them and then grind them. This gives an amazing flavor to my curries. If you are not using these spices, I will recommend you to use them especially for Punjabi Graveys
  3. As you mentioned, you use potatoes. And you fry them before adding to curries. That's good. You can also make holes in potato so that some flavors penetrate inside the potato and it doesn't taste bland.
  4. Whenever I use onions, I chop them finely. This enhance the flavor to a great extent. As chopping them finely and then using them their surface area increases, increasing their flavor.
  5. I hope you use fresh tomato puree.
  6. Whenever you add spices like turmeric, chilli powder, then cook them little while and then you may add little water so that their flavours blend nicely.
  7. You can try adding some curd or cream to your gravy. However make sure to mix the curd well before adding.
  8. You can try add some cashew pastes, or muskmelon seeds to especially punjabi gravy
  9. Whenever buying vegetables from market, you should one with best flavors. Tomatoes should have sourness and curry leaves should have good flavor. You should smell them before buying.
  10. After I have prepared my gravy I usually give it an oil/ghee tadka. This enhances flavor to a great great extent. By this what I mean is that I heat some oil/ghee in a small pan, add Asofoetida(optional), cumin seeds, curry leaves chilly powder mix well and as they start to sprinkle I quickly pour this is my gravy. I hope these suggestions help. Will add more if I remember one.
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It's hard to say.

You probably do not salt/season enough.

Potatoes and cauliflower need (reasonably) a lot of salt.

If you have supermarket spices, maybe they are past their prime/stale, try getting spices from a smaller shop where there is a a bigger turn-over and try getting whole spices instead of powdered (?) and ground/crush them yourself.

You could also add some lime juice at the end of the cooking and also add fresh herbs (coriander leaves and stalks) to freshen up the dish.

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