Of Mice and Men

As one door closes for me, another opens. I have been invited to Croatia for some TV work and some classes in Zagreb. My ‘host-to-be’ even sent me this photo of the Brijuni Islands, a famous Adriatic holiday resort on the southwestern coast of Istria. Guess it was sort of an incentive to come.

brioni:

I put ‘host-to-be’ in inverted commas because nothing is sure, especially when it comes to travel. I don’t generally talk about future plans, let alone publish them, since many things can go awry.

As far as I am concerned, until I receive the air ticket, I am still not going.

I am reminded of the phrase ‘of mice and men’, which can be traced to the poem “To a Mouse” by Scottish poet Robert Burns:

The best-laid plans o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain

For promised joy.

Burns’ phrase was also used by American writer John Steinbeck in his 1937 novella ‘Of Mice and Men’.

So Croatia is now on my ‘current list’ of potential near-future cookery trips, as is South Africa, Finland, Italy and Florida. Let us see how the future unfolds.

Jet Lag

Still not feeling 100% after my long flight home from the UK. A friend sent me this information about jet-lag. Can’t say that it is all completely sound, but most seems reasonable to me, so I am sharing it with you:

“Insomnia at night, drowsiness during the day, difficulty in concentrating and
physical tiredness, stomach trouble, and generally feeling unwell – these are
the most common signs of jet-lag.

This happens because the brain is not prepared for crossing several time zones
in a few hours, which is what happens in long flights.

When you arrive at your destination, your biological clock is still regulated,
for a while, by your time of origin, whilst the sun and all the rest is in a
different time scale.

In certain cases even with jet lag precautions, it can take up to 4 or 5 days
to get back to normal. Full recuperation – meaning that your body has overcome
all the deregulation – can take up to 15 days after an eastward journey and up
to 12 days after a westward trip. According to some experts, jet lag effects
last the same number of days as the number of time zones crossed on the flight.

ADVICE

1- Sleep well before the trip.

2- Try to sleep at night during the flight. On a westward flight daylight lasts
longer but even so do your best to sleep.

3- As soon as you arrive, even if it is hard, try to get used to the local
rhythm of sleeping times and mealtimes.

4- Avoid intense light, because daylight plays a part in the confusion which
occurs in your organism.

5- After an eastward flight, avoid morning light as long as you can.

6- After a long flight, either eastward or westward, avoid intense light at the
end of the day.

7- When you arrive, try to reserve two or three days for resting. ”

Any comments?

The Daily Mail

Seems like just when I don’t have any exciting travel-oriented news I start receiving interesting mail.

Sally Mendoza from Buenos Aires wrote me yesterday asking what was the recipe for the dish on the cover of ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’.

great vegetarian dishes:

I wrote:

Hi Sally,

Hare Krishna to you! Thanks for the letter. You are right in guessing that the front cover pic of Great Vegetarian Dishes is eggplant and panir cheese. And yes, there is no recipe. At least, not published.

On the last day of shooting the photos for the book (way back in 1990) we still had no front cover shot, so we made one up on the spot. The recipe tasted great, but I never got around to publishing it.

By the way the book was styled by Melbourne stylist Maureen McKeon, and the great photos were taken by Melbourne food photographer Peter Bailey.

Here are the ingredients and a rough recipe.

I heated a few teaspoons olive oil, and fried half a teaspoon mustard seeds, pinch of asafetida and a teaspoon cumin seeds until aromatic. I added a couple of cups of tomato puree, half a teaspoon turmeric, a teaspoon coriander powder, a little sugar and salt, and cooked it down until it was quite thick and saucy.

Meanwhile I steamed some whole baby green stringless beans, and put them aside.

Next, I took some panir cheese, sliced it into thin squares, and pan-fried it until golden brown.

Then I cut some eggplant slices, rubbed them with a mixture of salt and turmeric, and shallow-fried them in ghee until tender. By the way, these eggplant slices are a very popular Bengali entree, served piping hot.

Finally, I combined the tomato sauce, beans and panir and layered it onto the fried eggplant slices.

That’s it! They were delicious as I recall, but I’ve never made them since. Now at last they are immortalised in print.

More information on panir cheese.

Cauliflower Korma

I received a request yesterday from a lady in Melbourne for a Korma recipe. That’s a Korma recipe, not a Kurma recipe.

There is a oneness and difference here, simultaneously. Confused? Need an explanation? Read on…

cauliflower:

CAULIFLOWER KORMA

I’ve not named this recipe after myself! Rather, the name korma, sometimes spelled quorma, indicates a fragrant braised dish often containing yogurt and sweet spices, and thickened with either ground white poppy seeds or a paste of ground almonds. This Mogul-influenced style of cooking invariably centres around non-vegetarian ingredients. My version features cauliflower, the “queen” of vegetables. Serve Cauliflower Korma hot with flatbreads or rice.

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME:50-60 minutes

YIELD: enough for 4-6 persons

1 cup blanched almonds

1 tablespoon anise or fennel seeds

one 10cm (4-inch) cinnamon stick

6 cloves

4 cardamom pods

5 small green chilies, seeded

one 1.5cm (3/4-inch) cube peeled fresh ginger

1 cup yogurt

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

4 tablespoons ghee or oil

1 very large firm cauliflower, about 1kg, cut into 16 large pieces

1. Dry-roast the almonds on a tray in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow them to cool. Grind the almonds to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Set the powder aside.

2. Set a heavy frying pan over low to moderate heat. When the pan is hot, sprinkle in the aniseed, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, and dry roast the spices for 3-5 minutes or until they darken a few shades and give off a strong aroma. Grind the spices to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Set aside.

3. Place the green chilies and ginger in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until finely chopped. Add the yogurt, the salt, sugar, the powdered almonds and 1 cup cold water. Process to a smooth, saucy paste. Add the ground, roasted spices. Process a little more and then remove the paste and set it aside.

4. Heat the ghee in a heavy 5-litre/quart, preferably non-stick, saucepan over moderate heat. Drop in the cauliflower pieces and stir-fry them for 5 minutes or until they soak up the ghee and become golden on their extremities.

5. Pour in the paste and stir to mix. Increase the heat, bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. You may need to add more water as the sauce thickens. Cook for 25-30 minutes, partly covered, stirring often or until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency and the cauliflower is tender but not falling apart. Serve hot.

Little Victories

After being overseas for almost 6 weeks, what awaits me back home in Perth is almost overwhelming.

Unpacking huge suitcases, tackling a mountain of bills and assorted correspondence, a garden full of weeds reminiscent of “War of the Worlds”, a massive tangle of washing, a ‘to-do’ list that resembles a Microsoft manual…how does one attempt to tackle all this?

Plutarch said: “The first step towards victory is to gain courage.” I have devised a system. After courageously deciding to march to the front line and meet the enemy full-on, I commence.

It is all a matter of subjugation, then dividing, and finally conquering.

As far as unpacking, I don’t just mistakenly empty the whole contents of my suitcases in an ominous heap. I take out each item, piece-by-piece, and put it directly where it belongs, preferably out of sight, in it’s particular cupboard, office file, drawer or laundry basket.

Breaking down huge tasks into ‘bite-sized’ ones has always been my rule-of-thumb in everything I do. It really works.

Tasks that appear impossible – like writing a 300-page book, planning a world teaching tour, cooking a feast for 500, or just unpacking a suitcase – are quite possible if efficiently and methodically divided into parts and sub-parts, step-by-step.

Today, my suitcase; tomorrow, the world.

“Do not scorn little victories.”
– Andre Gide (1869-1951)

Dial-a-Recipe

Guess it’s hard for me to ‘lie low’ for long. I’m here in my chilly room in Perth (much colder than London!) and catching up on some correspondence.

black forest sponge cake:

Shanyn from Tucson, Arizona wrote, (in part):

Hello Kurma,

Your books have been a constant source of inspiration for years. My husband and six boys salute you! Is there a good rule of thumb for replacing eggs in a cake recipe?

I wrote:

Hello Shanyn,

So happy to hear my cookbooks have inspired you…

To replace 1 egg:

2 tablespoon flour + 1/2 teaspoon oil + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 2 tablespoons liquid (milk, cream, buttermilk, diluted yogurt, or dairy free alternatives like coconut milk, soy milk, etc) beaten together until smooth.

or

2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon oil + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, beaten together until smooth.
or

1T ground flax seeds + 3T warm water, beaten together until smooth.

Readers: give this a try and send me some feedback.

ps: The photo above is the egg-free Black Forest Cake from my first cookbook ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’.

Back in Oz

back in oz:

Back in Perth with a substantial dose of jetlag and two sleepless nights to catch up on.

So…excuse me while I lie low for a few days.

Until we speak again…

Goodnight London, and Farewell

As darkness descends over London, my Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 climbs steeply through the cloudless night sky on its long haul home to Perth.

Goodnight London:

The clear and present danger of someone blowing themself up at any time in Britain grips many here with fear and uncertainty.

I am leaving this place and returning to the so-called ‘safe haven’ of Australia; but is there actual shelter anywhere in this dangerous world?

“May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other’s welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krishna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.”- Bhagavata Purana

Goodnight London, and farewell.

Walking the Walls?

If you’ve just visited this virtual diary of mine and you’re walking the walls waiting for the next entry, remember that it all started on June 2.

walking the walls?:

There’s only enough space for 10 days entries at a time on this side of the page. To read ‘back issues’, go to the calendar on the top right (or bottom) of this page and click on earlier July dates, (or click on ‘June’, scroll down, then click on any date after June 2).

Almost At the Finishing Post

Despite showery weather, Saturday’s Open Day at Bhaktivedanta Manor attracted hundreds of locals for a variety of events such as guided tours via Oxcart.

all aboard!:

Did a quick wander around and checked out the main kitchen before my lunchtime cookery session. There, a couple of old-time Gujarati chefs were plying their trade by preparing filling for 1000 kachories (with surgical precision) for an evening boat picnic down the Thames.

kitchen surgeons:

My cookery demonstrations pulled in the biggest crowds. The feast was one of my better ones.

feast:

The super heavy-duty stoves always attract a lot of attention.

fired up:

Sacimata’s fresh hot poori breads were melt-in-the-mouth.

sacimata's breads:

Attendees totally absorbed themselves in the lunch experience.

locals enjoy kurma lunch:

A splendid time was had by all.

Sunday is my last day in England. Almost at the finishing post.