The Soul


“The soul is indestructible and its activity will continue
through eternity. It is like the sun, which, to our eyes,
seems to set at night; but it has in reality only gone to
diffuse its light elsewhere.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


C. from New Orleans asks:

‘Hey Kurma, I like your cool site. My girlfriend bought some polenta home. Any recipes you could share for it?

My reply: Hi C! Yes, here’s a nice one – real comfort food.

polenta grain:

Fresh Polenta with Melted Butter and Parmesan Cheese
(Polenta Fresca al Burro e Parmigiano)

Polenta, yellow cornmeal, is northern Italy

"Degustation, anyone?"

“What’s that?”, you say.

The word degustation literally means ‘to taste with relish, or to savour’. Modern degustation luncheons have become a bit of a culinary art form, and usually take the shape of sampling all of the chefs signature dishes in small portions at the one sitting, usually eight or more courses.

On Sunday 15th October I’ll be cooking an eight-course degustation luncheon at the retreat at Mt. Surmon Winery in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

Here’s the menu:


Crispy Flat-Rice, Dried Fruit and Nuts Appetizer (Gujarati Chidwa)

Soft, Cashew-studded South-Indian Steamed Semolina Breads (Rawa Idli)

Tamarind-infused Hot-and-Sour Toor Dal (Sambar)

Fresh Coconut Chutney

Gingered Shitake, Tofu and fresh Coriander Jiao Zi Dumplings

Chili Lime Dipping Sauce

Kurma’s Fragrant Penang-style Vegetarian Laksa

Karnataka Chili & Tomato Rice

Cream-infused Delhi-style Panir Croquettes (Malai Kofta)

Fresh Mango Chutney

Cucumber Raita

Flame-toasted Pappadams

Seared Fresh Panir Steaks with Maple-syrup Marinade,
Sweet Potato Mash & Rocket Salad

Rosewater & Cardamom-infused Pistachio Shrikhand with Saffron Syrup


Interested in attending?

For bookings please contact Jeni Surmon

Phone (08) 8842 1250 Fax: (08) 8842 4064



A Town Like Alice


There are more and more opportunities opening up for me to cook in Australian regional country centres. Just now I am fine-tuning plans to teach some classes in Alice Springs this mid-December, to be possibly held at CDU (Charles Darwin

As you can see from the map, Alice Springs is situated in the Northern Territory of Australia. Its population of around 30,000 makes it the second-largest settlement in the Territory (the only other towns of significant size are Darwin, the capital, and Katherine).

It is popularly described as ‘the Alice’ or simply ‘Alice’. Alice Springs is known as Mparntwe to its traditional inhabitants, the Arrernte people. Alice Springs is almost equidistant between Darwin and Adelaide.

Is there anyone out there reading this blog who lives in Alice Springs? If so, drop me a line. Maybe you’d like to attend the classes.

Cooking with Uncle Kurma

I spent a full day in the kitchen yesterday cooking for my sister Annie’s birthday party. My helper for the day was Annie’s daughter, my niece Lan-Tien. She’s very proficient in all things culinary and hopes to be a chef after leaving school.


The matar panir was one of the tastiest I had ever made.

matar panir:

We weren’t able to take many photos of the amazing feast that we cooked, alas, nor of the guests. I forgot! But we all had fun.

Sydney and Beyond…

come cook with kurma:

I’m still in Sydney tending to the needs of my parents. I return to Perth in a week, and begin the final countdown for my Australian Teaching Tour that commences in mid October. I’ll be travelling to and teaching in Adelaide, the Clare Valley in country South Australia, Sydney, Bundeena in country New South Wales, Canberra, Tamworth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Maleny, country Queensland, and Townsville.

Maybe I’ll see you at a class…


Jan from Sydney asks:

“Kurma, I tasted some Jalebis the other night at an Indian restaurant. They were nowhere near as good as the ones I tasted in India. Do you have a recipe?”

My answer: “Hello Jan! Yes I agree, I also have never tasted Jalebis as nice as the ones I once tasted in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi. I have tried to reproduce that recipe in one of my cookbooks. Here it is.”


Crispy Fried Batter Spirals in Saffron Syrup (Jalebis)

If I have a favourite sweet, it has to be jalebis. They are saffron-coloured, light, juicy and slightly crunchy – and very addictive. They don’t take long to make, although the batter does have to sit for at least 18-24 hours to ferment slightly. This fermentation is essential for the jalebis to develop the correct texture when fried. A little practice is required to master the uniform shapes of jalebis, although even strange-looking squiggles will taste just as good. Jalebi batter has to be poured into the hot ghee, formed, fried, removed, then soaked in syrup for only a few seconds, removed, then drained – all in quick succession. It’s useful to cook jalebis with a partner, one handling the frying and the other looking after the dipping in syrup.

There are a number of alternative utensils you can use for extruding the batter into the hot ghee: a piping bag or cylinder, a plastic squeeze bottle, a metal cookie “gun”, or even a plastic bag with a small hole – are all quite suitable. Jalebis are a wonderful dessert to make for a special buffet and will receive rave reviews.

Preparation & cooking time: about 35 – 40 minutes

Batter resting time: 18 – 24 hours

Serves: 6 – 8 persons

2 cups unbleached plain flour

1½ tablespoons rice flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons yogurt

1¼ cups warm water

½ teaspoon powdered saffron

3 cups sugar

2 2/3 cups water

1½ tablespoons rose water

ghee for deep-frying

Mix together the flour, rice flour and baking powder in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the yogurt, the 1¼ cups warm water, and half the saffron, and whisk it into a smooth batter, and cover it.

Leave it in a warm place for 18-24 hours. The batter will be ready when it appears somewhat gelatinous and gooey when whisked. It should flow from a spoon in a broad solid band without breaking.

Combine the sugar, the remaining saffron and 2 2 / 3 cups water in a 3-litre/quart frying pan or deep pan. Place over moderate heat, stir to dissolve the sugar, raise the heat and boil for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rosewater.

Set a cake rack on a tray near the cooking area. Fill a large flat pan with ghee to a depth of 3.75cm (1½ inches) and heat to 180°C/355°F.

Pour the batter into your piping bag or squeeze bottle and squeeze the batter out over the surface of the hot ghee. You can form three-ring connecting spirals, loose double-figure eights or a series of loops, joined in a chain. Each piece should be about 5cm x 7.5cm (2 inches x 3 inches) wide.

Fry for about 30 seconds on the first side, and 20-30 seconds on the second side, or until they turn crisp and golden brown.

Lift the cooked jalebis out of the ghee, and lower them carefully in the hot syrup. With another slotted spoon, hold them under the syrup for 15-20 seconds to allow the hot syrup to fill up the hollow centres of the loops. Don’t let them languish too long in the syrup lest they become limp.

Remove the jalebis from the syrup and place them on a cake rack to drain.

Continue to shape, fry, soak and drain the remaining jalebis.

Serve the jalebis hot.

Garlic: Toxic Shock

Garlic De-synchronises your Brain Waves


An interesting tidbit:

“I was in flight test engineering in Doc Hallan’s group in the 1950’s. The flight surgeon would come around every month and remind all of us, “Don’t you dare touch any garlic 72 hours before you fly any of our airplanes, because it’ll double or triple your reaction time…”


Argumentum ad Hominem

I was not much into debating at school. The whole concept of verbal to-ing and fro-ing did not appeal to me. Recently, though, I have been taking an interest in the ways we are influenced, often in non-rational ways, by verbal or written arguments.

One of the most common non-rational appeals is an argumentum ad hominem – or, as the Latin phrase suggests, an “argument against the person” (and not against the ideas he or she is presenting).

Our decisions should be based on a rational evaluation of the arguments with which we are presented, not on an emotional reaction to the person or persons making that argument. But because we often react more strongly to personalities than to the sometimes abstract and complex arguments they are making, ad hominem appeals are often very effective with someone who is not thinking critically.

Consider a few examples:

1. A political candidate is gaining support by proposing a tax change. So her opponent argues that the candidate herself would be one of the chief beneficiaries of that tax change.

2. Your doctor tells you to lose some weight. But why should you listen to a doctor who is himself overweight?

3. A friend has recommended a new investment opportunity, but your significant other rejects the recommendation with the remark, “How could you possibly value the advice of that idiot?”

In each of these cases, there is an argument (concerning taxes, health, or investments); and in each, the argument is given less importance than something about the person making that argument. And that’s what is wrong with ad hominem appeals. After all, if the tax proposal is an improvement, if the medical diagnosis is sound, if the investment opportunity is worthwhile – then what difference does it make who is presenting the argument – or even why?

Ad hominem fallacies take a number of different forms, though all share the fact that they attempt to re-focus attention, away from the argument made and onto the person making it. And remember – it doesn’t really matter whether the terms of the attack are true or false. What matters is whether the argument is acceptable, not the person arguing it. After all, even if Adolf Hitler says so, 2 + 2 still equals 4.

Among the most frequent ad hominem appeals are attacks on:

personality, traits, or identity:

“Are you going to agree with what that racist pig is saying?”

“Of course she’s in favor of affirmative action. What do you expect from a black woman?”

affiliation, profession, or situation:

“What’s the point of asking students whether they support raising tuition? They’re always against any increase.”

“Oh yeah, prison reform sounds great – until you realize that the man proposing it is himself an ex-con.”

inconsistent actions, statements, or beliefs:

“How can you follow a doctor’s advice if she doesn’t follow it herself?”

“Sure, he says that today, but yesterday he said just the opposite.”

source or association for ideas or support:

“Don’t vote for that new initiative – it was written by the insurance lobby!”

“You can’t possibly accept the findings of that study on smoking – it was paid for by the tobacco industry.”

The point is that each argument must be evaluated in its own right. Information or suspicions about vested interests, hidden agendas, predilections, or prejudices should, at most, make you more vigilant in your scrutiny of that argument – but they should not be allowed to influence its evaluation.

Only in the case of opinions, expert and otherwise, where you must rely not on the argument or evidence being presented but on the judgment of someone else, may personal or background information be used to evaluate the ideas expressed. If, for example, a used car vendor tries to prove to you that the car in question is being offered at lower than the average price, you must ignore the fact that the vendor will profit from the sale, and evaluate the proof.

If, on the other hand, that used car vendor says, “Trust me, this is a good deal,” without further proofs or arguments, you are entitled to take into account the profit motive, the shady reputation of the profession, and anything else you deem to be relevant as a condition of “trust.”


Stephanie Munsch from Boise, Idaho writes,
‘Dear Kurma,
Maybe you can help me. I was overseas recently and tasted a very interesting entree at a restaurant. It was a crumbly, nutty, sesame dippy stuff, served with bread and oil. Can you perhaps identify it for me?’


My reply:
Hello Stephanie!
Yes that sounds like the Egyptian spice, seed and nut blend called Dukkah. I have a recipe for it in my latest cookbook. Here it is. You might like to duplicate it at home. Very tasty and nutritious.

Happy cooking!

Egyptian Crumbly Spice & Nut Dip (Dukkah)

Dukkah is a loose, coarsely-ground mixture of sesame seeds, hazelnuts and aromatic cumin and coriander. It is delicious eaten on oil-dunked bread for breakfast, or as a snack. It has of late started appearing quite regularly on restaurant menus as an appetizer, hence its inclusion in this chapter.

Variants of dukkah are found all over the Middle East, and this version is from Egypt. It is a very personal and individual mixture that varies from one family to another; hence no two versions are exactly the same.

The important thing to remember about dukkah is that it should be dry and crumbly. It is easy to over-grind the ingredients, especially the nuts, which makes the mixture too oily. To prevent this, cool the ingredients after roasting, then proceed slowly. Makes about 2½ cups.

½ cup hazelnuts

¾ cup sesame seeds

½ cup coriander seeds

½ cup cumin seeds

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

olive oil and crusty bread for serving

Preheat the oven to 180? C / 350° F.

Roast the hazelnuts on an oven tray for about 15 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove them from the oven, and when a little cool, rub away as much of the brown skin from the nuts as you can.

Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy frying pan over moderate heat, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown and aromatic. Empty the toasted seeds into a bowl. Toast the coriander seeds in a similar manner for about 2-3 minutes. Repeat for the cumin, toasting for about 2 minutes.

Pound the seeds and nuts using a mortar and pestle, or whiz them in a spice or coffee grinder. The mixture should be dry and crumbly, not oily. Combine the crushed nuts and seeds with the salt and pepper.

Serve as a dip with olive oil and crusty bread.

Note: The mixture will keep in a sealed container for many weeks.