Vegan Mofo 2017: Spice Rack (Masala Dabba)

The Vegan MoFo 2017 week 2 challenge is to describe vegan cooking behind the scenes. This covers all appliances, tips and tricks, secret ingredients a.k.a. spices. Every time I get my spice box (“Dabba” in Hindi) my children seem to think the food magically transforms from bland and plain to, colourful and flavourful “get in my mouth now” food! Indian cooking does rely on a myriad of spices wet and dry. Spices range from carefully preserved & dried to freshly picked off the plant.

All spices contain active ingredients by way of essential oils that offer typical flavours to the food. These active constituents are one of the key reasons spices are so good for our health in small quantities. Dry roasting spices before adding them to a recipe definitely helps bring up the spice quotient. I do tend to make small quantities of dry spice powder combinations that are used everyday such as Garam Masala and Kitchen King Masala that are stored in airtight glass jars in the fridge (please click on the spice powders for the recipes). Here’s a glimpse into my spice box holding some of the spices I use in my daily cooking. I tend to store turmeric in a glass jar to prevent staining, both in powder and paste forms, made from dried or fresh turmeric root pieces.



The main spices that live in my Spice Rack/ Masala Dabba (Hindi),

  1. Sea Salt (Namak) – I prefer sea salt as it is not as processed as table salt.

2. Black Peppercorn (Kali Mirch) – Contains “Piperine” as an active ingredient. Usually bought as dried berries.

3. Green Cardamom pods (Choti Elaichee) – The third most expensive spice in the world after vanilla & saffron,      and one of my personal favorites for savoury & sweet dishes.

4. Black Mustard Seeds (Rai) – Contain essential oils Sinigrin Myrosin which impart a typical mustard flavour.

5. Coriander Seeds (Dhania ke Beej) – Contains essential oil Linalool accounting for the distinctive flavour. Untreated (not radiated) coriander seeds can also grow into fresh coriander plants for a kitchen garden.

6. Carom Seeds (Ajwain) – Contains essential oil Thymol, which is known to be a germicide and helps with flatulence.

7. Cumin Seeds (Jeera) – Contains Thymoquinone, cumin seeds range from black to brown and are prized in Indian cooking for their slightly lemony undertones mixed with a warm nutty flavour.

8. Fenugreek Seeds (Methi) – Contains Trigonelline, and are commonly used in Indian pickles. The flavour is slightly sweet, with bitter & nutty undertones. Used commonly in Indian cooking as seeds and leaf forms, (both dried and fresh).


I hope this little incursion into my Masala Dabba is interesting and inspiring. I would love to know your favorite spices in the comments below 😊


Beetroot Kurma/ Korma – Onion & Garlic Free

Beetroot Kurma is a recipe my mum would often make as I loved beetroot as a child. The fascinating colour, the sweet flavour were absolutely enticing even back then. Now my children share my love of beetroot including, rubbing it all over their teeth to scare each other! Autumn’s settling in nicely with all the rain and windy weather we have had recently making me crave hot meals again. It does seem that we are back to that time of the year where warm and filling meals are back on the meal plan again. I found the cutest looking baby beetroot the other day and had to get them. This recipe comes together quickly on a weeknight and does not use onion or garlic and is delicious with flatbread or, rice Pulao dishes.

Vegan Beetroot Kurma

Onion and garlic free, gluten-free quick Beetroot curry in a delicious coconut gravy.

Priya: Priya
  • 1 cup Beetroot, steamed and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup Desiccated Coconut
  • 1 cup Warm Water
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Green Chili, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons Roasted Split Gram Lentils
  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Coriander, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Soak the desiccated coconut in warm water and set aside.

  2. Steam the beetroot to cook. Cool before peeling and cutting into thin wedges.
  3. Dry grind together the roasted split chickpeas, mustard and cumin seeds to a fine powder.
  4. Add in the coconut mixture and blend to a fine paste.
  5. In a pan, heat oil and add the spice blend.
  6. Mix in the turmeric powder and green chilli.
  7. Add the beetroot wedges and mix well.
  8. Season with salt and take off the heat.
  9. Garnish with coriander if using.



Mushroom Coconut Curry (Vegan, Gluten & Nut Free)

Sydney weather seems to be having an identity crisis! We swing from cold, rainy and windy  to, beautiful and sunny the next day. This delicious mushroom enveloped in (warm – your – insides) coconut curry dish is perfect for those windy nights where one needs comfort food that isn’t too heavy (after all it is still summer!). Tastes great warm by itself or, with some saffron Quinoa or, even the next day cold with a quick salad for lunch. It uses the Rogan Josh paste leftover from my Vegetable Rogan Josh. The comforting smell of the fragrant Rogan Josh Curry Paste with onions, garlic and ginger cooking, combines with the goodness of mushrooms, coconut and turmeric to make this super quick dish. I’ve substituted the mushrooms for broccoli and green peas in the past.

Mushroom Coconut Curry

Vegan, Glutenfree and nut-free.

Cuisine: Indian
Priya: Priya
  • 1 cup Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 medium Brown Onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced finely
  • 1 inch Fresh Ginger Root, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Rogan Josh Masala
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
  • Salt, to taste
  • Coriander Leaves, for garnishing
  1. Heat the oil in a big wok and coat the inside well.

  2. Add the onions and cook until golden.
  3. Mix in the ginger and garlic. Cook till the raw smell disappears.
  4. Stir in the turmeric powder and Rogan Josh paste.
  5. Add in the tomato paste at this stage and mix well until everything smells glorious!
  6. Toss in the Mushrooms and season with salt.
  7. Mix in the coconut milk and simmer on low heat until the curry sauce thickens (around 10 - 15 minutes).
  8. Happy cooking 😊
Recipe Notes

Substitute the mushrooms with any combination of diced frozen vegetables for an easy and quick weeknight curry fix.

If you enjoyed this recipe, then please try my Garlic Mushroom stir fry recipe out too!

Related recipe Mushroom Masala 🍄.

Vegan Kashmiri Rogan Josh Curry & Paste (Gluten Free)

“Kashmiri Rogan Josh”, a name that brings to my memories pristine snow-covered mountains and valleys with breath-taking natural beauty as far as you can see. I haven’t been to Kashmir for several decades now and all my memories are limited to when I was a little girl visiting the absolutely gorgeous landscape. My mother however, did bring back this recipe and made it quite often on colder nights to warm us all up. Authentic Kashmiri Rogan Josh is made without onion or garlic and, more importantly with no tomatoes! The gorgeous red colour actually comes from a herb called Alkanet, widely grown across India and some parts of Europe. I couldn’t find any locally so have substituted with sweet red Paprika. In my recipe, the meat traditionally used has been replaced by cubed vegetables mainly, sweet potatoes and eggplant lightly cooked in the Airfryer.  With a gorgeous coconut yogurt and spices gravy, this mouth-watering dish is definitely a keeper! 

For the Curry Paste,
  • Green Cardamom Pods – 8
  • Black Cardamom Pods – 2
  • Cinnamon Bark – 2″ piece 
  • Cloves – 10
  • Indian Bay Leaves – 4
  • Fennel Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Dried Ginger Root – 1 tablespoon
  • Black Pepper Corn – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Sweet Red Kashmiri Chillies, whole – 12 or, Sweet Paprika Flakes – 2 tablespoons
  • Garam Masala – 2 teaspoons. Click here for my recipe.
  • Lemon Juice – 2 to 3 tablespoons

Grind the dry spices to a fine powder and then mix in the lemon juice. Store in a glass jar in the fridge until ready to use.


Vegan Kashmiri Rogan Josh Curry

(Vegan, gluten free, onion and garlic free curry with sweet potatoes and eggplant.)


Oil – 1 tablespoon
Rogan Josh Curry Paste – 2 tablespoons
Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed into 2″ pieces – 1 cup
Eggplant, cubed into 2″ pieces – 1 cup
Coconut Yogurt, whisked – 1.5 cup
Fresh Coriander Paste – 1 tablespoon


Cook all the vegetable chunks in the Airfryer until lightly golden for 15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
In the mean time, heat oil in a deep pan.
Add in the paste and cook well.
Stir in the air fried vegetable pieces and coat well in the spice paste – oil mix.
Add the whisked coconut yogurt and simmer until the spices infuse into the veggies.
Take off the heat and mix in Coriander paste.
Serve warm with steamed rice or, flatbread.


Other chunky vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini or, even Seitan pieces would taste delicious.
Authentic Rogan Josh is made without onions, tomatoes or garlic.

Vegan Veggie Vindaloo Curry & Paste Recipe

Vindaloo” is a combination of two Portuguese words, “Vinho” meaning wine and “Alho” meaning garlic. Essentially a marinade combining the tartness of wine and heaps of garlic with meat from the colonial era in India, has now evolved into a mouth tingling, hot and spicy curry prominently featured on most Indian restaurant menus. There are at least a hundred versions of this gorgeous “Goan” curry and this is mine 😊. The sauce lasts in the fridge for a week and can be frozen into ice cubes for up to three months. I have used a mix of vegetables including potatoes, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, beans, mushrooms and peas with tofu. This sauce tastes awesome with diced tempeh or, shiitake mushrooms or, even Seitan pieces. Tastes best eaten warm with “Roti” or, Rice and, a fresh salad.

To make the Vindaloo Sauce,

Dry Spices:
  • Cumin Seeds – 2 teaspoons
  • Coriander Seeds – 2 teaspoons
  • Mustard Seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Fenugreek Seeds – 3/4 teaspoon
  • Green Cardamom Pods – 5
  • Black Cardamom Pod – 1, largish one
  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Turmeric Powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Hot Dried Red Chillies – 4 to 5 (reduce to desired hotness)
  • Salt, to taste 
Wet Ingredients:
  • Fresh or Dried Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
  • Brown Onion, peeled & roughly chopped – 3/4 cup
  • Garlic Cloves, peeled & roughly chopped – 2 tablespoons
  • Fresh Ginger Root, cleaned & roughly chopped – 1 tablespoon
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 2 tablespoons
  • White Vinegar – 2 tablespoons
  • Water – 1 to 2 tablespoons, only if required.
  1. Grind the dry spices to a fine powder and set aside. 
  2. Blend the wet ingredients to a smooth paste and fold the dry spice mix into the paste. Mix well.


Vegan, gluten & nut free hot spice paste to make the famous Indian Vindaloo curry. Recipe for curry follows.


Vegan Vegetable Vindaloo


  1. Mixed Vegetables/ Diced Tempeh/ Cubed & Pressed Tofu – 3 cups
  2. Oil – 1 tablespoon
  3. Onion, sliced thinly into crescents – 1 large
  4. Tomato, deseeded & chopped roughly – 2/3 cup
  5. Water – 1 to 1.5 cup
  6. Salt, to taste
  7. Fresh Coriander Leaves & Stalks, minced finely – 2 tablespoons
  8. Fried Shallots – 2 tablespoons


  • Heat oil in a deep pan and cook the onion until golden.
  • Toss in the tomato pieces and cook until softened.
  • Add 3 – 4 tablespoons of the Vindaloo Masala paste. Cook until the raw smell goes off.
  • Mix in the veggies/ Tofu/ tempeh and coat well in the above mixture.
  • Add 1 cup of water and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer on medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes. Add more water if required.
  • Check if the veggies are cooked but still firm and take off the heat.
  • Garnish with coriander and fried shallots, of preferred.


Garam Masala (North Indian Curry Powder)

Australia doesn’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving but, most retailers take advantage of the occasion to put up sales. I found a Tribest personal blender marked down and immediately ordered one! On unpacking, I found out that it also grinds coffee… which means it makes dry spice mixtures! My Garam Masala supply had dwindled so, I jumped on the chance this weekend to make more. Garam Masala also, called Curry Powder has several variations depending on the cook’s preferences and availability of raw spices. Some people roast their spices before grinding them, but I find grinding at room temperature the best after sun drying the spices for a couple of hours. My Garam Masala is always stored in air tight glass jars in the fridge and lasts for a good 2 – 3 months. Here’s my recipe adapted from my dear mother – in – law’s recipe for North Indian/ Punjabi Garam Masala.

 Freshly ground Garam Masala


Garam Masala

(A Traditional Family Recipe for a spicy curry powder.)


Cumin Seeds – 2 teaspoons
Coriander Seeds – 2 teaspoons
Whole Cloves – 1 teaspoon
Green Fennel Seeds – 1 teaspoon
Green Cardamom – 5
Black Cardamom – 2
Cinnamon Sticks – 3 to 4
Dried Mace Flower – 1
Star Anise Seed – 1
Indian Bay Leaves, dried – 2 to 3


Break the cinnamon, star anise, mace flower and bay leaves into smaller pieces.
Grind together to a fine powder.
Store in an airtight glass jar in the fridge.


My North Indian Garam Masala uses 10 spices and no turmeric as, I always have turmeric powder on hand.

Vegan Almond Spiced Milk "Thandai"

Welcome to my new home!

Thandai” is a delectable drink made with powdered almonds, spices and saffron for festive occasions and served at weddings as a welcome drink.  Usually made by reducing full cream dairy milk, I’ve substituted almond milk which provides a gorgeous texture to this drink, most non dairy milks work just as well. The dry spice mix stores well in the refrigerator up to 3 months.

We need,
For the dry spice mix
  • White Poppy Seeds – 2 tablespoons
  • Green Fennel Seeds – 2 tablespoons
  • Almonds – 2 tablespoons
  • Green Cardamom Pods – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Black Pepper – 1/4 tablespoon
  • Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tablespoon
  • Saffron Strands – 4 to 5
To serve –

Almond Milk – 1 cup + 2 heaped teaspoons of above spice mix
Sweetener Of Choice – 1 heaped teaspoon per cup

  1. Dry grind the spice mix ingredients into a fine powder and store in an air tight glass jar in the fridge.
  2. To assemble, add 2 heaped teaspoons of the spice mix and sweetener per cup of almond milk and bring to a gentle boil.

Thandai tastes delicious as a warm or, cold drink. The dry spice mix stores well and furthermore, used to flavour puddings – both Halwa and Kheer.

Tandoori Whole Cauliflower

Now, that Spring is officially here, it’s time to break out my favourite barbecue recipes! Sadly, our ongoing renovations mean we can’t use my beloved open air barbecue. Oh well, the oven will have to do! I found this humongous cauliflower at the local markets this weekend, which of course followed me home 😄!

This recipe is split up into two parts, firstly make the Tandoori seasoning and, secondly making a paste to coat the cauliflower with. This homemade Tandoori paste might not be as bright as the commercial one but, certainly delivers on the flavour. The paste tastes awesome on baby potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini pieces, tofu cubes and pretty much anything else!

For the Tandoori Seasoning, we need

  • Cumin Seeds – 2 teaspoons
  • Coriander Seeds – 2 teaspoons
  • Dry Ground Ginger, pieces – 2
  • Cloves, whole – 6
  • Mace Flowers – 2
  • Green Cardamom Pods – 4
  • Red Chillies – 2
  • Cinnamon -2″ piece
  • Dried Fenugreek Leaves – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Red Smoked Sweet Paprika powder – 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Salt, to taste

Roast the whole spices lightly until just warm. Cool well before grinding to a fine powder. Mix in the sweet paprika, turmeric and salt at the end. Store in an airtight glass jar, until ready to use.

To make the Tandoori paste we need,

  • Tandoori Seasoning – 4 heaped tablespoons
  • Ginger Garlic Paste – 1 heaped tablespoon
  • White Vinegar – 2 tablespoons
  • Coconut Yogurt – 4 tablespoons
  • Season with more salt if desired at this stage.


  1. Either break the cauliflower into large florets and coat with the paste or, steam the whole cauliflower for 10 minutes in a large saucepan, if using whole. Make sure to cover the edges and the lower part too.
  2. Marinate for atleast 1 hour up to, overnight in the fridge.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  4. If using any oil drizzle over the cauliflower before baking (I used nonstick spray).
  5. Bake the whole cauliflower for 40 – 50 minutes, until the top looks brown.
  6. If baking the florets then , around 30 minutes should be enough.

Check if cooked by inserting a fork in the middle of the cauliflower. Once cooked, the bits just flake off and smell heavenly.

We ate our Tandoori cauliflower with baked red onions and “Roomali” rotis!

North Indian Curry Powder (Kitchen King Masala)

A favourite aromatic spice powder is usually sprinkled on top of most North Indian dishes for a deeper flavour and rich aroma, usually associated with Moghlai and Punjabi food. This spice powder is really versatile and can be used in stir fries, pulao, lentil based dishes and even in salads as a seasoning. I tend to use a pinch of this spice mix to jazz up dishes, when cooking without onion and garlic for the flavour profile. Stores well in the fridge for up to 3 months, I tend to store my spice mixes in glass jars as they taste fresher and don’t stain the container.

We need,

  • Cinnamon Bark, broken – 2, 2″ pieces
  • Cumin Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Coriander Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Caraway Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Cloves – 8
  • Green Fennel Seeds – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Green Cardamom, whole – 8 pieces
  • Black Cardmom, whole – 4 pieces
  • Nutmeg, grated – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Star Anise Seed, whole – 2
  • Bay Leaves – 4
  • White Poppy Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Mace – 2 whole dried flowers
  • Dry Ginger Pieces – 2″ X 2 pieces
  •  Dry Red Chillies – 4
  • Black Peppercorn, whole – 6 to 8
  • Yellow Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Turmeric Powder – 1 tablespoon
  • Split Roasted Gram – 1 tablespoon


  1. In a dry pan roast the whole spices and gram lentils individually on a slow flame until aromatic.
  2. Cool the spices thoroughly before grinding  into a fine powder.
  3. Store in an airtight glass jar.

This also makes a great gift to give to friends for festive occasions in fancy little jars, with instructions for use. Enjoy!