Fatto Gateaux! My Cup(cakes) Runneth Over

Nitai’s 12th Birthday was quite a bash. He immediately hit it off with his nephews (yes, Nitai was an uncle by 6 years old), and the food was good. Grandpa Kurma had fun. What more could I ask?

Uncle Nitai:

The sweets were a great hit. These are crunchy peanut butter cupcakes (folded through with some mysterious dark chips from my cupboard that look like carob) and topped with a naughty ganache and sugar-crusted macadamias.

Tres Nutty:

Toby just had his 3rd birthday. He stole Nitai’s glasses to see what he would look like in them. Just wait another few years laddie, and you’ll know first hand. Myopia runs in the family.

Toby 08:

And this a batch of vanilla cupcakes with lemon butter frosting and home-preserved cherries.

Never Say Diet:

Sebastian is six years old. How time flies. I remember when he was born. I was in Perm, near Siberia at the time.

Sebastian 08:

This cake almost defied description. It was filled with whipped cream and Sabjimata’s Plum Conserve. That’s marzipan confectionery on top, snuggled into an even naughtier ganache. I called it ‘Fatto Gateaux’. There’s even a song to go with it (sung to the tune of ‘In the Ghetto’, by Elvis Presley). Go on, try it – in space no-one can hear you sing.

Fatto Gateaux:

After all that sugar, the boys were just a blur.

boys will be boys:

Three Minutes of Fame

You’ve probably gathered that I’m a bit behind in my blogging. Sometimes life is so intense that there’s hardly enough time to live it, what to speak of take photos of it, or write about it.

This time last weekend I was in Adelaide, South Australia, doing some filming for ABC Television’s “The Cook and the Chef”, one of Australia’s most well-loved cookery programs.

Adelaide Central Markets:

The morning after I flew in to Adelaide, I met up with one of the stars of the show, Simon Bryant, who happens to be Executive Chef of Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel. The film crew shot some footage of our time together in the famous and bountiful Central Markets, which happen to be right next door to the Hilton.

The ABC and Simon kindly arranged a suite in the hotel for me to rest my weary bones that night. Much appreciated.

Before I retired, I chatted downstairs in the restaurant to Sous Chef, Dennis Leslie, who confided in me his love for Hare Krishna food, and especially the semolina halava he was addicted to in his earlier cheffing days. Also, he told me that a very dog-eared copy of one of my cookbooks lives in the restaurant kitchen.

Kurma and Simon:

Simon and I found a lot to talk about. That’s the cameraman and sound technician behind us. Mark (the producer and mastermind behind the weekend) took these photos. That evening we filmed again, (no pictures, sorry), this time at Adelaide’s Hare Krishna Temple in Kilburn.

Over groaning plates of delicious vegetarian fare, Simon professed his affection for prasadam (sanctified Hare Krishna food) and recalled his days in Melbourne when he was a regular at Gopal’s restaurant.

Sticky Rice Action:

Next morning the film crew were at it again, recording footage from my Saturday morning class at The Sticky Rice Cookery School in the beautiful Adelaide Hills.

And....action:

This ingenious mechanism allows hand-held camera work without back injury. Those cameras sure are heavy.

The beat goes on:

Sticky Rice Cookery School is brand spanking new, and is a dream to cook in – surely one of the best kitchens I’ve had the pleasure to use.

ABC TV:

On my cue, the cameras (two were used so we did not have to re-record close-ups afterwards) zoomed in on photogenic sections of the morning, like the eggplant pickles, cheese making, to name but a few. In fact, many, many hours of footage was taken, all to create the finished Crème de la Crème – 3 minutes of primetime TV. That’s the magic of editing!

Carrot Halava:

Ah yes, the food. I hardly had time to take my camera out my pocket, what to speak of turning it on. But here’s something delightful – my one and only photo – Cardamom-scented Carrot Halava, the perfect finale for one hell of a weekend.

And just a reminder: the show goes to air on ABC National Television on Wednesday, 4 March, 2009 at 6.30pm.

Friends

I’m in my Sydney kitchen cooking for Nitai’s 12th birthday party. Here’s a shot of the boys – Nitai and his dog Spikey, taken in Cusco, Peru a few weeks ago.

The Boys:

And this is another little mate – Kurma the Turtle, from the Peruvian Amazon, enjoying some fresh papaya.

Little Kurma:

Spikey (who really doesn’t have a spikey bone in his body), as well as little Kurma, both had to stay in Peru, alas. Such are the ebbs and flows of life.

Friends come together and then separate, like twigs and leaves that sometimes congregate, bob and bump on the surface of the flowing streams of life, and then are gone.

Yes We're Going to a Party, Party…

Since my son Nitai’s 12th birthday fell in the depths of jet lag only days after our return from Peru, we’ve scheduled a party for family this Sunday. I’ve planned a good menu. I will try to share some pictures.

springrolls:

Here’s one item that will be on the menu:

Feta, Haloumi & Potato Spring Rolls
Served with Green Pea Chutney

Although it may seem an unlikely combination, herbed potato mixed with feta cheese and fried in crispy spring roll wrappers really does work incredibly well. And as far as the super- quick, super- quirky green pea chutney goes, that

Aaah – The Smell of Blog in the Morning

(Helicopter noise as the camera pans over the jungles of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs) Yes it’s me. I know, it’s been a while, and thanks for all those concerned letters. So nice to know I was missed. My son is with me and now I’m looking after my father and a very active 12-year old. Life is robustly over-stuffed right now.

So, where was I …..

Betty from Texas writes:

“Hello Kurma, can you share any Xmas recipes for vegetarians? My daughter and her family are committed non-carnivores and I don’t know quite what to cook for them next week.”

kofta:

My reply:

“You can start with some succulent Kofta.”

Succulent Mixed Vegetable Balls in Herbed Tomato Sauce (Kofta)

Koftas are succulent, Indian style vegetable balls that can be served soaking in sauce or smothered in gravy. A number of vegetables are suitable for making kofta

Happy Birthday, Bhagavad-gita

Krishna and Arjuna:

Today marks the auspicious day of Gita Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad-gita. It is celebrated throughout India and other parts of the world by all the admirers and lovers of this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the month of Margasirsha (December-January), according to the Vaisnava Lunar Almanac.

It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated to King Dhritarashtra the battlefield dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, and thus immortalised this most famous of divine conversations.

This day also marks my lunar birthday; I was born on Gita Jayanti in 1952.

Here’s what some famous thinkers have to say about Bhagavad-gita:

“When I read the Bhagavad-gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.” ~ Albert Einstein

“The Bhagavad-gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God which is manifested by actions.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweizer

“The Bhagavad-gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“The Bhagavad-gita is a true scripture of the human race a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization.” ~ Rishi Aurobindo

“The idea that man is like unto an inverted tree seems to have been current in by gone ages. The link with Vedic conceptions is provided by Plato in his Timaeus in which it states…” behold we are not an earthly but a heavenly plant.” ~ Carl Jung

“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The marvel of the Bhagavad-gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.” ~ Herman Hesse

“When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

“I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

“The Bhagavad-gita is an empire of thought and in its philosophical teachings Krishna has all the attributes of the full-fledged montheistic deity and at the same time the attributes of the Upanisadic absolute.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In order to approach a creation as sublime as the Bhagavad-gita with full understanding it is necessary to attune our soul to it.” ~ Rudolph Steiner

“From a clear knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita all the goals of human existence become fulfilled. Bhagavad-gita is the manifest quintessence of all the teachings of the Vedic scriptures.” ~ Adi Sankara

Taxman

FORT WORTH, TX-Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of
fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying,
scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial
carrier.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing
effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday.
According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on
citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30
surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays
instead.

“Tough times unfortunately mean tough measures,” American Airlines
president Gerard Arpey said. “It’s never an easy decision to ask our
loyal customers, as well as thousands of people chosen at random out of
a telephone book, to pay a little extra, but that’s just the reality of
today’s economic climate. We hope all Americans will understand this
when receiving one of our new bills in the mail.”

Arpey said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay
a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to
their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States
with a valid Social Security number.

Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply,
including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside
their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American
whose name is Greg.

“We are confident that these new measures will not discourage customers
from flying with American Airlines,” vice president Margaret Wilkinson
said. “However, we’d like to remind our customers that there is a
‘discouraged-from-flying-with-American-Airlines’ charge if they do in
fact choose not to fly with us.”

American Airlines, which posted a $1.45 billion loss in the second
quarter of 2008 alone, claimed that the new fees-including the Taking A
Shower Fee, the Knowing What An Airplane Looks Like Fee, and the Eating
E.L. Fudge Cookies While Watching A Rerun Of House Fee-will help the
company rebound. According to internal projections, the airline will
recoup $500 million in the next three months alone, with nearly 80
percent of that revenue coming from citizens asleep at home.

“Watching television last night cost me $250,” said Baltimore resident
Michael Peterson, one of many Americans now forced to pay high airline
costs for folding their laundry and going to the ophthalmologist. “It’s
ridiculous, but what can you do? I guess that’s just the price of not
flying these days.”

“American Airlines charged me for cleaning out my attic,” said
74-year-old Samantha Pratt, a New Jersey resident who has not left the
state since 2005. “Sure, I didn’t have to wait in any long lines, or go
through invasive security searches, and I got to clean out my attic,
which is something I’ve been wanting to do for weeks, but come on now.”

In response to American’s move, other airlines have begun offering more
competitive rates. United this week unveiled a new $99 “spend the
weekend quietly reading indoors” offer, while Southwest is introducing a
$125 round-trip fare for those walking to their corner store for some
groceries.

JetBlue, a commercial carrier known for its thrifty rates, has come out
ahead of the pack, however, and is being lauded for its decision not to
charge non-passengers not to fly.

Despite reduced offers such as these, many remain concerned over the new
fees. Some have even expressed doubt about whether they’ll be able to
afford to see family members they currently live with during Christmas.

“It’s just not worth it anymore,” said Caroline Huza, an Ohio native and
mother of two. “Plus, every time I stay at home, I always get trapped
next to some kid who won’t stop crying.”

Pineapple Chutney

Yes I’m back. Excuse my paucity of posts. I have been tending to important and complex family matters.

I will try to post some photos of my time in Peru when I can. Here’s a letter that was waiting for me in my inbox on return, along with 327 others.

Mrs Uma Balachandran from UK writes:

“Dear Kurma Das, In this winter season the pineapples are sour to eat as a raw. I like to make chutney. Kindly write me a pineapple chutney recipe.”

My reply:

Here’s a recipe from my first cookbook:

fresh pineapple:

Pineapple chutney should be “too hot to bear, but too sweet to resist”. This recipe yields about 2 cups.

3 tablespoons ghee

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

4 broken dried red chilies, or as desired

1 large ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2/3 cup raw sugar

1/3 cup raisins

Heat the ghee in a 2-quart/litre heavy-based saucepan over moderate heat until it is hot but not smoking.

Saute the cumin seeds in the hot ghee until they slightly darken. Add the chilies and cook until golden brown.

Add the pineapple pieces, ground cinnamon, and cloves. Gently boil the chutney, stirring occasionally, over moderate heat until the pineapple becomes soft and the juice evaporates. Stir constantly as the preparation nears completion.

When the saucepan is dry and the pineapple starts to stick on the bottom, add the sugar and raisins and cook until thick and jam-like. Serve at room temperature.