Far Out, Brussels Sprout

I’m departing Ireland for Brussels this evening. Although I land at Brussels airport, my actual destination is the Château de Petite-Somme, near Liége.

Getting into a culinary flow of consciousness here…

Did you know that the Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea, Gemmifera Group) is a cultivar group of Wild Cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5-4 cm diameter) leafy heads, which resemble miniature cabbages.

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium, and are therefore named after its capital, Brussels.

Brussels sprouts grow on long thick stalks, from which they must be picked off, usually by hand.

According to a survey in 2002, Brussels sprouts are Britain’s most hated vegetable. Brussels sprout aficionados attribute the hatred of the sprouts to overcooking, pointing out that if this is avoided, the vegetable possesses a delicious, delicate nutty flavour. Many consider that the best flavour is only developed in mid to late winter, after the plants have been exposed to some frost.

The cooking of the Brussels sprout is also the subject of much debate. Commonly the base is ‘crossed’ with a knife under the belief that this will lead to more even cooking. Others believe that this procedure leads to a leeching of flavours and that it should be avoided.

Anyway, here’s a recipe and a photo of a FABULOUS way to cook this maligned vegetable.

Brussels Sprout:

Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes & Peas with Sour Cream

Brussels sprouts may not be everyone

Last Tango in Dublin

The train from Belfast pulled into Dublin’s Connelly Station at noon, after a very uneventful journey.

Had a great lunch at Radha Govinda’s Restaurant in Middle Abbey Street, the venue for the evening class. Tried their famous Panir Cheese Steak with Chips and Salad, which enjoys a bit of a cult following. They present it so incredibly similar to the photo in my Cooking with Kurma cookbook that I thought I’d share it with you. Are you reading this on an empty stomach?

steak and chips:

Last night’s cookery class was a well-choreographed labour of love. My Ireland host, Praghosa (pictured below, upper far left of picture) and his lovely wife Goloka (black t-shirt, gazing into space) had gone to an enormous amount of trouble transforming an upper floor room into a workable kitchen. My heartfelt thanks to them both.

class downtown Dublin:

Somehow all 24 of us fitted into the tiny space, and we spent a very enjoyable 4 hours in a sort of blissful culinary dance, manouevring from stove to stove, table to table, artfully constructing palatable dishes from raw ingredients under my tutelage.

Here’s what we cooked:

Sweet & Sour Chana Dal Soup with Pumpkin

Zesty Lemon Rice with Fresh Coconut, Coriander & Cashews

Succulent Tomato, Peas and Home-made Curd Cheese (Matar Panir)

Dry-roasted Crispbreads (Pappadams)

Battered Crispy Fritters of Cauliflower, Eggplant & Potatoes (Pakoras)

Hot & Spicy Apple Chutney

Saffron-infused Semolina Halava Pudding with Almonds, Walnuts & Raisins

Hot Spiced Tea (Masala Chai)

I staggered home a very tired little teddy bear, to my third different bed in as many days.

On the Train Back to Dublin

Last night at the Belfast temple in Dunmurry Lane I read from my biography of Srila Prabhupada in Australia. Prabhupada, my guru, left a lasting impression on the world.

prabhupada:

I tried to share my realisations about this with my eager audience. The 700-page book “The Great Transcendental Adventure” was published 10 years ago, and was the result of a 5-year labour of love.

Now it’s time to go to the train station for the 2 hour trip back to Dublin. I have a cookery class there tonight at Govinda’s Restaurant.

Train travel is my favourite mode of transport. I’ll keep you posted with any interesting tidbits, though I’ve been told it’s not a particularly picturesque route.

A Day in Belfast

Sunrise this morning was a memorable event. It has been light since 3.30 am, so I went out to take some final pictures of the amazing Hare Krishna Island before the trip to Belfast. It is really quite hard to do justice to the place with a few photos, but I’ll try.

The main temple buliding was lit up by the first rays of pristine morning sun.

Sunrise at Inishrath:

Squirrels and hares hopped around on the sprawling, juicy green lawns collecting their breakfast. Peacocks danced and cried out with their distinctive cat-like cry.

peacock:

I ventured into a forest glade and found some beautiful trees, some already selected to memorialise Krishna’s pastimes.

forest glade:

A nearby fruit tree bent down it’s branches, heavily laden with what appeared to be some sort of wild cherry. Any gardeners out there that can identify this fruit?

wild fruits:

After bidding a final fond farewell to all the residents, we headed down through the mossy cool forest paths and rowed across the tranquil lake at 5.30 am. Actually, when I say “I rowed…” I mean I was rowed, since I had to cling on to my 40kg luggage.

My vessel awaits!

your vessel awaits:

This is Camasa Muni, the best oarsman on the Island.

Row yer boat...:

The picturesque early morning drive to Belfast, past many fields of contented cows grazing on rich green grass, took us two hours. Arriving a bit before breakfast, my host and old friend from Melbourne, Lyall, took me on a quick tour of the 100-year-old building that has served as Belfast’s Hare Krishna Temple for the last 20 years.

a temple in Belfast:

It was built at the turn of the last century by famous architect Percy Jury as his personal residence. Mr Jury is famous for designing many prominent Belfast buildings, such as the magnificent City Hall.

pj:

The fascinating building is surrounded by gardens, ponds, a maze and winding pathways that weave an intricate journey through little groves.

Belfast garden:

In it’s ‘heyday’, the grounds were maintained by three full-time gardeners.

Maze:

In what perhaps had been a living room now stands a magnificent hand-carved altar housing the predominating Deities of Radha Madhava.

Radha Madhava:

After breakfast, I was taken on a short tour of the city. Lyall regaled me with a lot of information on our one-hour circumambulation.

Situated on Upper Dunmurry Lane in the Dunmurry district, the temple stands in an almost entirely Catholic working class area. Distinctions between Catholic and Protestant still divide this city, and I noticed a distictly dour, sober mood in the people. Despite the fact that almost all of Belfast’s 1/2 million residents are God-fearing and go to church, they live in a barely subdued sense of fear – everywhere are barbed wire fences and high dividing walls to keep the peace.

murals:

We wandered down Falls Road, the well-known centre of radical Republicanism, and the scene of much mayhem, army shootings, bombings and murders. Everywhere were political murals aimed at stirring a passionate sense of division. The local police station is entirely enshrouded in thick wire netting to ward off rocket attacks.

Falls Road:

Here’s the headquarters of the political arm of the IRA. Despite the smiling billboard faces, nothing’s changed.

Sinn Fein:

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Last weekend Belfast was host to a massive parade – not the politically-charged Orange Marches – they’ll be due to start next month. No, this was a festival of entirely a different nature.

Rathayatra:

The first annual Rathayatra parade ever to be held here, with dancing chanting Hare Krishnas, took Belfast by surprise. The many hundreds that attended the festival found it enlivening and uplifting. Dedicated to encouraging healthy non-sectarian love of God, let us hope the Hare Krishnas can spread their magic here for many years to come.

Farewell Inishrath

Sunday was my last day at Hare Krishna Island, Inishrath. The ferry broke down on Saturday night, so all access to and from the island has been on a rowing boat. Quite a unique experience for a landlubber like myself. Writing this blog has also been a challenge since all internet access crashed at the same time. Nearest active phone line was across the lake on dry land. That might explain my apparent tardiness in reporting the days’ events.

Day two of the weekend cookery seminar went spectacularly well, and the feast we cooked was one of my better ones. Everyone ate with gay abandon, as if it were their last meal. Many commented it was the best prasadam, sanctified food, they had ever tasted on the Island. Several told me how they felt empowered with a sort of light, divine energy after eating, not lethargy or a feeling of over-fullness.

I told them this was the ‘K’ factor – not Kurma, but Krishna. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, just contemplating my good fortune in being able to be an instrument through which something uplifting and worthwhile can be shared with others.

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how
to do something well is to enjoy it.”
-Pearl S. Buck

A Class Act

Had a great time in the gorgeous temple this morning, led some chanting and read from the great classic “Srimad Bhagavatam”. The resident Deities of Radha Govinda are stunning.

Radha Govinda:

Before we started the cooking class, Ann Palmer, a reporter from The Belfast daily newspaper ‘Newsletter’ conducted a little interview, as her photographer fired away from all angles.

Reporter:

Apparently the article is due this coming Monday. I’ll be in Belfast that day, so we shall see.

papparazzi:

Our little cookery class went exceptionally well. Fifteen students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Here’s what we cooked:

Fiery South Indian Toor Dal Soup (Rasam)

Bengali Royal Rice (Pushpanna)

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Supreme (Gobi Alu Bhaji)

Savoury Fresh Cheese Balls in Creamy Tomato Sauce (Malai Kofta)

Succulent Gujarati Pumpkin

Coconut and Rice Flour Crepes Stuffed with Seasoned Potatoes (Masala Dosa)

Fresh Mint Chutney

Anise-flavoured Doughnuts in Strawberry Yogurt (Malpoura)

Vrindavan Saffron & Lemon Sherbet

feast:

More good stuff tomorrow!

Over the Border

We set off on the Friday afternoon for the drive to Inishrath Island. The weather was wet and overcast, and the traffic intense. It seemed that the usual 2 hour drive would take far longer today. From my apartment South of the city in Shankill we had to manouevre our way through the downtown and busier than normal pre-weekend traffic. Perhaps Saturday’s one-of-three U2 concert had swollen Dublin’s population. Bono is certainly a cult hero here, and his sell-out events will attract over 180,000.

Speaking of Bono, we passed his stretch limousine entourage on the way; when in town he stays down South as well. We honked the horn, I gave a little wave, someone in his car rolled down a tinted window, and a hand with a can of Guinness emerged. That just about says it all.

We drove through picturesque villages and finally reached the border. Our destination was in Northern Ireland, which as you all know is part of Great Britain. But there were no signs, no border patrols, no visa checkpoint with heavily armed troops – nothing, in fact that would even suggest we were crossing the border except for this lone statue.

border crossing:

After crossing a little river we were in Northern Island. The only notable proof we had changed countries were the speed signs, now in miles instead of kilometres.

The road to Inishrath is just over the border. We turned to the right and negotiated a pretty laneway, at the end of which was this sign.

on the way to Inishrath:

Our ferry crossing to the island was imminent. If this sign didn’t spell it out…

ferry crossing imminent:

…then this one sure did!

fair enough:

We drove down a slippery slope and there was our ferry, looking like one of those things that landed troops on Dunkirk.

our vessel awaits...:

The lake crossing was quaint, with ducks bobbing, fish pointing their little faces out of the water, and beautiful water orchids and lilies adorning the shores.

lake crossing:

We drove off the ferry, up a slope and there was the beautiful old building, looking quite grand in the last rays of the late evening sun.

welcome to Inishrath:

We were here – on a Hare Krishna Island! I settled in for the night, ready for a busy two days of cookery classes.

Irving the Jewish Dog

Morty visits Dr. Saul, the veterinarian, and says, “My dog
has a problem.”

Dr. Saul says, “So tell me about the dog and the problem.”

“It’s a Jewish dog. His name is Irving and he can talk,”
says Morty.

“He can talk?” the doubting doctor asks.

“Watch this!” Morty points to the dog and commands: “Irving, Fetch!”

Irving, the dog, begins to walk toward the door, then turns
around and says,

“So why are you talking to me like that?
You always order me around like I’m nothing. And you only
call me when you want something. And then you make me sleep
on the floor, with my arthritis. You give me this fahkahkta
food with all the salt and fat, and you tell me it’s a
special diet. It tastes like dreck! YOU should eat it
yourself! And do you ever take me for a decent walk? NO, it’s
out of the house, a short pish, and right back home. Maybe if
I could stretch out a little, the sciatica wouldn’t kill me
so much! I should roll over and play dead for real for all
you care!”

Dr. Saul is amazed, “This is remarkable! What could be the
problem?”

Morty says, “He has a hearing problem! I said ‘Fetch’, not
‘Kvetch'”.

Kurma says: “Can’t figure out this joke? No Jewish friends to ask? Alright, alright, go to:

http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2002/06/01.html

Céad Míle Fáilte (One Hundred Thousand Welcomes)

Sitting in my apartment, relaxing and writing this diary entry. The only sounds are the thud thud thud of the washing machine and the gentle rain that is finally falling on the rich, dry soil of County Dublin.

I am all alone since Ananda Hari, the owner of the place, left two days ago for the famous Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts in the UK. He drove his enormous mobile home to the massive ferry that took him across the Irish Sea and landed him in Wales. Each year the Hare Krishnas go to the festival and cook enough free food to serve to over 100,000 attendees. A truly awesome and loving labour of love that earns a great deal of respect from all.

After lunch today I will be picked up and driven two hours to the famous Inishrath Island in Northern Ireland for a weekend cooking retreat. Here’s a winter snapshot of the place. Warmer today, I’m sure!

winter:

I’m scheduled to give the keynote address tonight, followed by two days of culinary fun and games. In the meantime, why don’t you have a browse of a webpage describing the Island:

http://www.iskcon.org.uk/govindadwipa/

I’ll keep you posted, of course. Bye for now.