Rajul is a Jain from Palanpur in northern Gujarat, but she lives in Bombay. Under the British, Palanpur was a princely state with a Muslim nawab, but Jains prospered there, eventually becoming leaders of the diamond trade in Bombay and around the world. Jainism is about as old as Buddhism, and its adherents are not only complete vegetarians but also often refrain from eating garlic, onions, and many other root vegetables and bulbs that require the total destruction of plants when they are harvested.

    This is a Palanpur Jain dish. It may be served with rice or Indian breads, along with a dal, a raita, and relishes. You could also serve it at a Western meal. I often mix it with cooked penne pasta and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

    I used fresh peas, as there was a profusion of them in my garden. If you use frozen peas, they should be defrosted thoroughly in warm water, drained, and added 3–4 minutes before the cooking is finished.

    SERVES 4–6

    • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 1¾ lbs), broken into 2 inch florets (a little over 1 lb)
    • 3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
    • Generous pinch of ground asafetida
    • 1 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
    • 1–2 fresh hot green chilies, sliced crosswise into thin rounds
    • 1 medium tomato (about 6 oz), peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
    • ¼ teaspoon nice red chili powder (optional)
    • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon peeled and very finely grated fresh ginger
    • ¾ cup shelled fresh peas or defrosted frozen peas
    • 2–3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, to serve

    1. Wash the cauliflower and put the florets in a large bowl filled with water. Set aside for 10–30 minutes while you set out and prepare the other ingredients.

    2. Put the oil in a large, preferably nonstick frying pan or sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the asafetida. A second later, add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they start to pop, in a matter of minutes, add the green chilies and stir once. Now put in the tomatoes, salt, turmeric, chili powder (if using), ground coriander, and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes, until the tomatoes thicken into a paste.

    3. Drain and add the cauliflower and the peas. Stir a few times, then lower the heat to medium-low. Add ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently, stirring now and then, for about 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Check the salt. If there is liquid left at the bottom of the pan, turn the heat up a bit and boil it away, stirring gently as you do this. Sprinkle the fresh cilantro over the top before serving.