Cooking enthusiast Monika Celly is sharing her passion for wholesome, nourishing Indian dishes with the northern Colorado Springs communities.

Celly learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, women whom she said had a special touch and a unique take on traditional Indian meals. Several years ago, Celly started a food blog to accommodate her friends who were always asking for her recipes.

“I used to have a (food) blog, and that was back in 2011,” Celly said. “My friends used to like my recipes and they would ask for my recipes so I thought, why not compile them in one place? I started that food blog and kids happened, life happened, and I was not much into blogging.”

Though her initial cooking blog efforts took a backseat, Celly continued cooking and sharing her recipes with others. She began teaching Indian cooking out of her home in 2017.

“I started (teaching classes) and that was mainly (because) I was looking for work options (that) were more flexible (and that) I would enjoy more,” Celly said.

Cooking had always been her passion, so Celly thought, why not teach what she knows and loves?

“I realized that people are looking for healthy Indian recipes and there are not many — in fact, there are (no) —cooking classes that I know of (in) Colorado Springs,” she said. Celly started teaching cooking classes and was delighted to receive such a positive response. “People are asking for all kinds of recipes,” she added.

Celly’s classes grew so prolifically that she had to move out of her home and into a professional space in October. She now rents space in Boz Catering Kitchen, 6628 Delmonico Road, and shares it with other caterers and cooking classes.

The popularity of her classes also called for a menu expansion. A quick glance at the online class schedule shows she is teaching everything from basic bread recipes to more complex meat dishes.

“When I started, I was offering a very limited number of recipes, but, you know I’m teaching pretty much everything,” Celly said — and this includes recipes for those with dietary restrictions.

“Most of my recipes are vegan and gluten-free,” Celly said. “That’s the beauty of Indian cuisine, we have so many recipes, so many foods which are naturally gluten-free and vegan, like, we don’t have to create a special recipe. They have been there for (so) many years, thousands of years.”

Celly offers her students and online patrons pre-packaged spice kits to take the guesswork out and make Indian cuisine more accessible to novices.

“They are pre-measured spice (kits) which we use in our recipes and they are very helpful for my students,” Celly said, adding that most of the main ingredients for Indian meals like tomatoes and onions can be found in the grocery stores.

Celly offers four classes during the week from Monday through Thursday, and the costs of the classes ranges from $30-$50, depending on the cost of ingredients and the level of interaction. She aims to keep classes small and as personal as possible.

“My main idea is not just to share Indian recipes; I want to share part of my Indian culture,” Celly said. “I talk a lot about not just the recipe itself, but the stories behind each and every recipe I teach in the class.”

For more information, visit polkadotsandcurry.com.

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