Aloo Gobi

Cauliflower is so in right now. From pizza bases and buffalo wings to fried rice and nuggets, the humble cauliflower has been reinvented and is currently the trendiest vegetable around (move over kale). I’d like to point out I’ve been a fan from a young age (no bandwagon jumping here).

Cauliflower or gobi has been a regular part of my diet and in Indian cookery it’s used to make everything from curries and pakoras to pickles and paratha stuffings. Gobi Aloo is a quintessential Punjabi dish and ticks all of the boxes. With a super simple preparation and a limited number of spices, it’s unbelievably satisfying and really nutritious (without tasting like it!). Served up with some hot chapatis it’s a winner every time. Give it a go-bi! Sorry couldn’t resist…I’ll stop typing now. 

Gobi Aloo
Serves 4
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  1. 5 tbsp oil
  2. 1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing (optional)
  3. 2 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 2" ginger, grated
  5. 4 tbsp tomato passata
  6. 1 green chilli finely chopped
  7. 3 medium potatoes cut into bitesize chunks slightly smaller than cauliflower florets (I like to use red/desiree)
  8. 1 medium cauliflower cut into bitesize florets
  9. 1/4 cup peas
  10. 1 tsp salt or according to taste
  11. 1/4 tsp paprika
  12. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  13. 1 tsp garam masala
  14. 1/2 tsp amchur/mango powder
  15. Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
  1. Heat oil in a pan. Once hot add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. When they begin to splatter, add the ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes until light golden.
  2. Now add the pasata and chilli and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the potatoes, mix and place a lid on the pan. Cook on a low/medium heat setting for approx 5 minutes.
  4. Now, add the cauliflower florets along with peas, salt, paprika and turmeric. Mix together and once again place lid on the pan.
  5. Cook on a low heat setting for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. (Keep an eye on the pan -if the vegetables are catching, you can add a little more oil or a splash of water).
  7. The vegetables should be completely tender once cooked. Now add the garam masala, amchur and fresh coriander and place a lid on the pan again. Allow the flavour of the spices and fresh coriander to infuse for 10 minutes and then mix before serving.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Finish with fresh coriander.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog


Since I got married I have been learning my husband’s mother tongue of Bengali. I grew up speaking Hindi (and “Hinglish”); although both languages stem from the ancient language of Sanskrit, they are very different. My high school French teacher once told me I had a natural “flair for languages” but as an adult, it’s safe to say I have lost said flair!

It’s okay though. I have accepted that mastering the language is more of a long-term goal. I can say “I’m hungry” and “What’s for dinner?” – so important key phrases are in the bank. In the short-term, learning how to recreate my mother in law’s amazing Bengali dishes are more of a pressing matter (er priorities…hello?). 

Today’s recipe is not from her cookbook, but rather one that Jan, one of my cookery class students, asked me how to teach her. It’s a curry house fav in the UK and I found it fun to recreate at home. A dry, spicy chicken dish cooked with peppers and onions – it has crunch, colour and flavour all packed into one! Fun fact – the “jal” comes from the Bengali word “jhal” which means spicy (see I am learning!). Enjoy the recipe below lovely people.


Chicken Jalfrezi
Serves 4
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For the chicken marinade
  1. 500g skinned chicken thighs, cut into small bite-size pieces
  2. 2 heaped tbsp yoghurt
  3. 1 tbsp oil
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp garam masala
  6. ½ tsp kasuri methi/dried fenugreek (optional)
For the sauce
  1. 3 tbsp ghee or oil
  2. 2 green cardamoms crushed open (optional)
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1 onion, thinly sliced
  5. 1 1/4tsp salt
  6. 3 garlic cloves peeled and grated
  7. 2” ginger, grated
  8. 2 green bird eye chillies, finely chopped
  9. 3 fresh tomatoes, finely diced
  10. 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato purée
  11. ½ tsp garam masala
  12. ½ tsp coriander powder
  13. ½ tsp paprika
  14. ½ tsp turmeric
  15. 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  16. ½ red pepper thinly sliced
  17. Handful fresh coriander
  1. Pre-heat your grill at the maximum temperature setting. Place all "marinade" ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Now, place the marinated chicken on a foil lined oven tray.
  2. Grill chicken for 10-12 minutes until cooked (the chicken should be white all the way through once fully cooked).
  3. Remove from grill and keep aside.
  4. Heat the ghee or oil in pan on a medium heat setting. Once hot add the crushed green cardamoms and cumin seeds. When they begin to sizzle in the oil, add the onion along with ¾ tsp salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
  5. Now add the garlic, ginger and chilli and mix. Continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and purée to the pan and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes allowing them to completely soften.
  7. Reduce heat slightly and add the garam masala, coriander powder, paprika, turmeric and the remaining salt and mix well. When you see the oil begin to separate from the masala paste, add the grilled chicken and the sliced peppers.
  8. Mix well on a medium/high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh coriander. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog

Tadka Dal

The first week of August has come to an end and it has rained every single day since the beginning of the month. Why hello British summer, so nice of you to join us! (Said no one in the past 7 days). To be fair, I do like me some precipitation. Not only does it provide much needed moisture in my garden, it also proves to be an excellent topic of conversation when you are a) trying to break the ice with someone and b) need a filler for an awkward silence. Very handy indeed.

If it continues like this however, it does mean that my summer dreams of cooking up seekh kebabs, paneer tikka, afghani chicken, masala corn on the cobs & tandoori tiger prawns  (I have been compiling this list since January) on the BBQ, are well and truly over. 

It’s not all bad though, monsoon season in India results in comfort food galore (there is always a silver lining!). For me, comfort food stems from simple dishes done well. That brings me to today’s recipe of Tadka Dal. A buttery & spicy classic lentil dish that is super simple but oh so delicious. The word “tadka” refers to the tempering of spices in oil which is then added to the cooked lentils. My tadka calls for ghee, cumin, ginger & garlic which works wonders to add the perfect amount of richness, heat and flavour all at the same time…that is of course in my humble opinion!

When you make this recipe, I urge you to devour with rice or chapatis and eat with your hands. That’s right….stay away from the spoon people! The satisfaction shoots up to another level. Believe me. I hope you enjoy it – keep me posted on your thoughts!


Tadka Dal
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To cook the lentils
  1. 1/2 cup masoor dal*
  2. 1/2 cup yellow split moong dal
  3. 3 ½ cups of water
  4. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 tsp salt
To cook the tadka
  1. 2 tbsp oil
  2. 2 tbsp ghee (you can just use 4tbsp oil if you have no ghee)
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing powder (optional)
  5. 1 small onion, finely diced
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 2 cloves garlic, grated
  8. 1″ ginger, grated
  9. 1 tsp garam masala
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika or chilli powder
  11. 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
  12. salt
  13. 4-5tbsp tomato passata (You can also use tinned plum/fresh tomatoes blitzed up)
  14. 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  15. Handful fresh chopped coriander
  1. Wash lentils thoroughly. If you have a pressure cooker, add enough water so it is approximately 2” above the level of the lentils along with the turmeric and salt.
  2. Once the first whistle goes off, reduce heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Then remove from heat, keep the lid on and allow steam to escape naturally.
  3. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place washed lentils in a pan along with salt and turmeric with 5 and cups of water. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to bring to a simmer and a place lid on the pan. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender. If the water reduces before the lentils are cooked, you can add more.
  4. Whilst the lentils are cooking, heat the ghee/oil in a separate pan. Add cumin seeds, and asafoetida. When they begin to sizzle, add the onions along with the salt.
  5. Cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent and then add the garlic and ginger. Allow to cook until golden in colour. Now add the passata along with the chilli and cook for a minute.
  6. Lower the heat slightly and add the garam masala, paprika and amchur. Mix well and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until you see the oil begins to separate from the masala at the edges. Remove from heat.
  7. Once the lentils are cooked, add them to the masala sauce along with the water they were boiled in.
  8. Mix well and bring to a boil. If you think the dal is too thick you can add a little more water.
  9. Garnish with the fresh coriander. Taste for salt/chilli and adjust accordingly. Amchur adds tangy-ness. If you feel the dal is lacking slightly when you try at the end, add a little more! Remove from heat.
  1. *Measuring cups have been used here
  2. I have mixed two lentils here but you can use just one if you prefer. The masoor and yellow split moong variety do not need to be soaked before hand and cook quickly!
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog