Hummus bi Tahina

creamy hummus:

Natasha from Calgary, Canada writes: “Dear Kurma, do you have a satvic hummus recipe, without garlic?”

My reply: “Yes, here’s my recipe. Creamy!”

Chickpea and Sesame Paste Dip (Hummus bi Tahina)

Homemade hummus is much, much better than any shop-bought version, unless you are purchasing the freshly made product from a traditional middle-eastern suppler. Truly authentic hummus is made from freshly soaked, boiled and peeled chickpeas – not as daunting as it sounds! If that’s all too hard, buy canned chickpeas, and proceed from there; but the result will definitely be inferior.

Here in Australia, I use the Ord River chickpeas from Western Australia. When cooked they produce big, soft creamy-textured chickpeas, ideal for hummus. Overseas readers should locate the largest chickpeas they can find. Big is beautiful in the chickpea world, I have discovered. This recipe makes 1½ cups.

200g dried chickpeas, that’s one very heaped metric measuring cup

¼ cup lemon juice

½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder (to replace two cloves garlic)

¼ cup tahini

1 teaspoon salt

Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight or at least 6 hours. Drain and throw away the soak water. Place the chickpeas in a large saucepan. Cover with fresh, unsalted cold water, about three times the volume, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour or until the chickpeas are very tender, topping up with water if necessary.

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Cool slightly then rub the chickpeas well to loosen the skins. Cover with cold water and the loose skins will rise to the surface. Scoop them off and discard. The chickpeas that didn’t give up their skins should be peeled for the best, creamiest hummus. Patience!

Place the peeled chickpeas in a food processor with the lemon juice, asafetida, tahini and half of the salt. Process to a smooth puree, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary to achieve a smooth result. Add the remaining salt if it needs it.

Kup Kake Katha


Marianne wrote regarding my recent batch of cupcakes:

“They look delicious! Could you please share the recipe?”

Here we go: Actually, the original recipe is from ‘Vegan with a Vengeance’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Highly recommended, especially for those wanting reliable egg-free cakes.

Note that while the cups mentioned are American cups (240ml), I used Australian cups (250ml) with no loss of quality.

Lemon Gem Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup oil or butter (I used macadamia oil)

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 scant cup mik or non-dairy milk like rice milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest


Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

Line a regular (not a non-stick) twelve-muffin tin with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl combine the oil or melted butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full.

Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin and place on a cooling rack. Frost when fully cooled.

Lemon Frosting

1/4 cup heavy cream cheese

scant 1/4 cup milk or soy milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

Whisk or beat everything together, adding the milk slowly until you reach the desired consistency (cream cheeses vary).

Time to Saddle-up

Dr. Richard L. Thompson:

Dear readers, I’ve been unable to publish any blogs for the last few days. It’s not that I don’t have a few things lying in my ‘Create News Item’ box; its just that I didn’t think discussing the Tamil name for tempe is all that important, in light of some recent developments.

What developments?

A couple of my peers – Godbrothers we call them in the Hare Krishna Movement – died in the last week. They were Sadaputa Dasa and Sundararupa Dasa. I did not know either of them personally, though I read many of the brilliant books authored by Sadaputa (Dr. Richard L. Thompson – pictured above).

What really hit me was that both of these men were just a couple of years older than me. When men practically your own age start leaving, you become more thoughtful about your own life plans, and consider priorities more carefully.

Once upon a time, a Lawyer was brought before Yamaraja, The Lord of Death. He challenged Yamaraja’s right to bring him to The Court of Death since he had been given no notice. According to the law, pointed out the Lawyer, one must be first notified of one’s forthcoming detention.

Yamaraja’s reply to the Lawyer was unexpected. “What colour is your hair?” he asked.

“Grey” replied the Lawyer.

“Precisely” answered Yamaraja. “Your notice of impending death has been given”.

So, as Godbrother and email aquaintance Babhru Dasa so poignantly pointed out in succinct cowboy-speak, it’s ‘time to saddle up’.

Much was written about these men via in-house correspondence, but one drew my attention especially. I’d like to share it with you, if I may. It’s a good read.

Read: In Memoriam – A Quantum Loss” by Jayadvaita Swami…

Lactose-free Gulab Jamuns


Arundhati from India writes:

“I am a regular reader of your blog posts through Taste of India. I would
like to know if you have a recipe for lactose-free gulab jamuns. My boss is
lactose intolerant and loves gulab jamuns. He just can’t eat them. Is there
any way at all?”

My reply:

“There may be a way, but you’d have to experiment. Perhaps you could use soy milk powder (if you can find it in India) or some other lactose-free milk powder, mixed perhaps with some coconut milk powder and a little self-raising flour. Have a try and tell me if you have any success.”

Dear readers, any comments or ideas for lactose-free gulabs?

A Good Vintage – Fruity Upper Notes, with a Lingering Well-balanced Finish on the Palate

ShriKantha from Dubai, United Arab Emirates writes:

“Hello Kurma! Congrats on your blog. I so much enjoy reading your daily updates. I especially enjoyed seeing the blog archives, and re-reading your August entries. So prolific and definitely your best month ever. Please keep it up. Kind regards from the UAE.”

1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 8: 10: 9: 7: 11: 12: 13:

My reply

“Thanks ShriKantha. Your encouraging words are a great elixir. I also agree, August was my best writing month ever: quite an eclectic mix. Thank you, Kurma.”

Naughty But Nice

Kurma Kupcakes:

I baked some cupcakes. So light and fluffy, lemony, intensely delicious, originally vegan. I used a great recipe from ‘Veganomicon’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

They contain lots of lemon juice and zest and vanilla. I used macadamia oil instead of butter. The batter was runny, but the lemon, bicarb soda, milk (I semi de-veganised it) and baking powder sort of did their chemical thing and it all set firm, but light, with a nice translucent crumb.

No one would believe they had no egg inside. ‘What’s the frosting?’, I hear you ask. Cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar and lemon zest.



Never heard of Tikkis? No they’re not what teachers put on good pre-school drawings. They’re a delicious finger-food from The Subcontinent; pan-fried mashed potato patties with a tender-crisp crust and soft interior.

L from Vancouver, British Columbia wrote

“Dear Kurma, I really enjoy your website and your gracious gift of sharing your skills and passionate insights of vegetarian cooking. Thank you.

My friend, who is a Hare Krishna devotee, gave me a copy of Back to Godhead
magazine (Dec 1982) which had a recipe for Aloo Tikki.

Following the instructions, I ended up making tikki’s which were crunchy on the
outside, and gluey on the inside (although quite tasty). I used idaho potatoes,
so maybe I need to use another type of potato? Could you offer some

Now, since the question required expertise in the subject of North American/Canadian potatoes, I wrote my North American Correspondent Devadeva Mirel, (none other than Jam Queen Sabjimata) who kindly answered as follows:

yukon gold:

“Hello L, I really like making aloo tikki and, once you get the swing of it, I am
pretty sure you will be making aloo tikki without any recipe at all. It is
rather versatile and I am a little surprised you had gluey results. I
checked online and found this link to an aloo tikki recipe by Yamuna
, and figured it is the same or similar to what you used.

Okay, assuming you stuck to the recipe verbatim, let’s get into details.
Yamuna’s recipe calls for “potatoes suitable for boiling.” New potatoes,
round white, or round red potatoes and Yukon Gold all fit the bill. Idahos
are not boiling potatoes, but they make good mashed potatoes, so I would
think you could pull it off without incident, but apparently that wasn’t the
case. I almost always use Yukon Golds because I think they are the most

I know you said you followed the recipe, and I trust that you did, but still
I’m going to ask: Did you sub out the flour/binder for cornstarch or
arrowroot powder? Instead of mashing the potatoes, did you put them in
the food processor? These things could make your end results gluey
(although I personally only use arrowroot powder as a binder). Best wishes,

Postscript: L. wrote back

“Hello! Thank you both for your emails helping me out with my aloo tikki.
After reading Devadeva’s email, I realized what I had done: I used a
food processor to mash the potatoes, hence the

Last night, I mashed the cooked potatoes with fork and this time
the tikkis’ turned out splendidly. I made a greek version of aloo tikki
(lemon, oregano, pepper, bit of feta cheese) which I served with some
tzatziki sauce. Thanks again for your help!”

I just love happy endings!


shitake mushrooms:

I have never published a blog about mushrooms, but I am asked about them constantly. Since the Hare Krishna diet appears to be almost identical with many classic Buddhist vegetarian diets where mushrooms are used profusely, people usually presume that mushrooms would be acceptable.

And why are there no mushroom recipes in my books? The reason is that in the ancient culinary Bhakti Yoga tradition to which I subscribe, mushrooms are not cooked. No Vishnu, Krishna or Rama (Vaisnavaite) temple kitchen will ever prepare them. They are considered unfit foods to prepare in sacred food offerings due to their fungal nature.

Yes, they are nutritious, and yes some Hare Krishna devotees will occasionally eat them. The following exchange, originally about yeast, will shed some light:

Karthick from Houston Texas writes:

“I was wondering about some of your recipes, some of them have yeast in it, I was
wondering if this is acceptable to be offered to Krishna. I thought yeast is a
living organism, just like mushroom is. Please forgive my ignorance and help me
understand this.”

My reply:

“Thanks for your letter. Yeast is not a traditional ingredient in Vaishnava cookery, yet we do prepare and offer to Krishna fermented things like khamir poori, dosa, idli, jalebis etc. These are all fermented naturally, with the help of airborne yeasts.

Yes, yeast could be compared with mushrooms. However, it was not specifically banned by our founder Srila Prabhupada (like meat, fish, eggs, garlic, onion, alcohol are). When he first arrived from India, Prabhupada tasted western yeast-risen breads, but he said he found them dry, and much preferred his hot, freshly cooked unleavened chapatis.

Prabhupada did not eat mushrooms, and recommended we don’t. Most Hare Krishna devotees never touch them, though some do. I have seen devotees in Russia pick them from the forest and cook them. So why this apparent grey area?


Here’s a recent exchange of letters about mushrooms:

Malati devi: “And, what about mushrooms? We don’t offer them to the (temple) Deities. However, in France, at the Nouvelle Mayapur Chateau (perhaps Kanti will recall this), they found very exotic expensive type of mushroom known as truffles on the property, and the devotees wondered about it.”

Kanti devi: “yes, I do recall that, because I started making cream of mushroom soup for the devotees. We had mushroom pizza, mushroom rice, mushroom pakoras, so many mushrooms. There was one French devotee who would bring in crates full that he collected in the forest.

Naturally the devotees (Bhagavan dasa specifically) asked Srila Prabhupada before we did anything with them. The mushrooms were ‘cèpes‘, (not truffles) a large mushroom that grows in the forest, and we had thousands of them. Srila Prabhupada said that ‘Lord Caitanya ate mushrooms when he was travelling in the Jarikhanda Forest, and we could as well’. We did not have Radha Krishna Deities at that time, we had a Pancha Tattva altar and Srila Prabhupada said they were offerable to (on the altar to the sacred deity forms of) Pancha Tatva, so we did cook and offer them.”

forest mushrooms:

This was a specific circumstance. Prabhupada wanted that the cooks in France did not waste them. But generally, Hare Krishna temple cooks don’t use mushrooms; but as you can see in this case, they were not specifically banned like, say, onions and all other members of the allium family. If Kanti devi had been delivered crates of onions picked from the fields, for instance, she would not have prepared them in the temple kitchen. So there is a distinction.

Yamuna Devi, in her entire cookbook collection, has provided one or two recipes that contain mushrooms.

I have only one unpublished recipe containing mushrooms. Otherwise I hardly touch them. They are, after all, a fungus, and do not help to elevate the consciousness like ‘satvic’ foods do. Hence they are generally included in the category of ‘tamasic‘ foods (foods touched by the lower modes of ignorance).

Hope this is clear. Best wishes, Kurma”

Thank You, I Needed That

the god gene:

The God gene hypothesis proposes that human beings inherit a set of genes that predispose them to belief in a higher power. The idea has been postulated by geneticist Dr. Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, who has written a book on the subject titled, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.

On the other hand, the proponents of Intelligent Design assert that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

See what John Cleese has to say about all this: ‘The God Gene’