Cooking vegetarian in Kerala

You might consider going all the way to Kerala to discover how to cook vegetarian food a trifle excessive, but I cannot think of a more enjoyable way to do so! We spent a week at The Pimenta on our foodie holiday. As a meat eater, it could have been a challenge, on the contrary, it was inspirational and I am determined to include far more vegetarian dishes in the meals I cook at home.

A market in Kerala

A market in Kerala

We discovered some wonderful and often unusual ingredients, but you can easily recreate many of the dishes we learnt. You’ll know how highly we rate Matthew’s Foods for spices and othe ingredients, so if you’re Edinburgh based, I suggest a visit before you start cooking. Otherwise, it is pretty easy to get most of what you need online. Your local independent greengrocer could well come up trumps for other ingredients. We discovered our favourite had curry leaves not on display, but ready for some of the restaurants they supply.

Top Tips

  • Always get all your ingredients weighed out and ready to use beforehand. Jacob taught us to lay them out in the order they would be used in the recipe – so much easier.
  • Do use freshly ground spices wherever possible, it makes so much difference
  • Do use coconut oil if you can. It cooks at a much higher temperature. Although it is called oil, in our climate it is actually solid.
  • Use the highest quality, locally sourced vegetables whenever you can, you will taste the difference!
  • Ginger garlic paste is a staple of southern Indian cooking. Grate or very finely chop equal amounts of garlic and fresh ginger root – can be kept in the fridge for a few days if covered tightly (check out our ideal gadget for this)
  • Be patient. A hard one for me, but cook ingredients a lot longer than you might here. We were taught to look for when the oil seeped back out of the mixture and the sound of cooking died down.
  • Use your heaviest bottomed pans and heat the pan before you add the oil, then make sure it is really hot before you add your vegetables.

The Pimenta Cauliflower Masala

It’s difficult to choose one of the recipes we learnt, but this one was special for me. I am not a fan of cauliflower, but when I tasted this I was bowled over!


150 gr washed cauliflower soaked in water
4 tablespoon (tbs) gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 tbs Cornflour
Crushed black pepper – large pinch

Coconut oil to fry (any type except olive oil can be substituted)
75 gr Onion
Curry leaf – 6-10 fresh leaves or 6 dried leaves
1 – 2 teaspoons (tsp) Garlic and garlic crushed together
Turmeric powder – pinch
1/2 tsp Chilli powder
1/2 tsp Coriander powder

125 gr Chopped tomatoes (tinned)
Salt to taste

Cauliflower Masala

First steps Cauliflower Masala

Prepare the Cauliflower

Mix the gram flour, cornflour and pepper together. Sprinkle over the cauliflower and mix well. Add enough water to make a paste and mix again to coat cauliflower. Heat oil in a deep pan when really hot, deep fry cauliflower to golden brown and cooked. Set aside

Making the Sauce - Cauliflower Masala

Making the Sauce - Cauliflower Masala

Prepare the Sauce

Heat the oil (you can use some of the oil used to fry the cauliflower). Add the onions and curry leaves and fry until it starts to brown. Make a space in the middle and add the garlic ginger mixture. Cook the ginger garlic paste without letting it burn then mix into the onion. Add all the other spices. Cook on a low heat until onions glisten and are cooked.

Assemble the Dish

Add tomatoes. Cook until the raw aroma of tomato has gone. Add salt to taste. Fold the cauliflower into the mixture and cook for a few more minutes before serving.

Serves 4 if served with other dishes.

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About Bread Baker Danielle

Danielle founded Edinburgh Foody in 2010. Having qualified as a professional bread baker in France in 2014, she is now on a new adventure in Gloucestershire. Check out Look out for occasional posts for Edinburgh Foody


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  5. Lucky you…I’d love to go to Kerala which I have heard is very lush.
    There are a few asian stores in Leith (near Matthews) that would stock your ingredients. I have even heard that Edinburgh has it’s own Keralan store (Janatha) but I’ve never visited so it may just be a myth to tease those on a spice hunt 🙂

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