Circle of Life #10: Dicing with Death

I wrote to the Chili Godfather, John (Cor) Leone, and asked him if he could identify the yellow chilies growing in my garden (pictured below) as discussed in yesterday’s post.

yellow strangers:

John originally provided me with two-dozen rare varieties of chilies at a cookery class last year. I dried them, seeded them, mixed all the seeds, and planted some “potluck” last summer. Yes, whimsical, unscientific, but exciting. If you are a regular reader of my blog, this is all old news. Hello…? Are you still there…?

Here’s his reply: “If they are hot then they are probably Yellow Habaneros. If they are not hot
then they are Numex Suave Yellow Habaneros.”

I just went out into the garden and picked the ripest fellow I could find.

the victim:

What to do? I took a bite.

here goes:

Yes, I know, definitely a stupid/daring thing to do.

you've got to be kidding Kurma:

They were very, very hot. My lips are still on fire half an hour later even though I spat it out, washed my mouth and doused my tongue with yogurt.

The things we do for love! Ok, well we know what they are. Yellow Habaneros! And quite large, beautiful, fragrant, tasty hot specimens.

Furthermore, John added “This picture (below) is of red fruit and
is therefore not a Burkina Yellow Scotch Bonnet {as previously thought} because the Burkina is yellow. This is … a Red Savina or Caribbean Red Habanero.

My Big Red Friends:

So there we have it. We have Red Savinas (or Caribbean Red Habaneros), and Yellow Habaneros.

Wikipedia states:

“The Red Savina pepper is a cultivar of the habanero chile (Capsicum chinense Jacquin), which has been selectively bred to produce hotter, heavier, and larger fruit. It is also commonly known as the Dominican Devil’s Tongue Pepper or the Ball of Fire Pepper in Guyana.

While samples of Red Savina have been measured as high as 577,000 Scoville units, many chilli enthusiasts growing the Red Savina have been unable to reach this level of heat, even with certified Red Savina seed. The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, conducted an extensive field trial to test the Red Savina. In this scientific growth trial the Red Savina was unable to reach 250,000 scoville units.

In February 2007 the Red Savina chili was displaced in Guinness World Records as the hottest chili in the world by the Naga Jolokia pepper. The Red Savina held the record from 1994 until 2006.”

Needless to say, I didn’t try biting my second-hottest-in-the-world Red Savinas. At half a million Scoville Units, just a micro-shaving is enough to set my mouth on fire.

If you haven’t guessed, I find this all fascinating, especially since I am not a particularly proficient gardener. Hello? Is that snoring I hear?

There’s a third variety of chili growing in my garden at the moment – a small purple variety that is desperately trying to survive the vicious struggle for existence.

purple haze:

Each time it blooms, the flowers drop off before turning into fruits. A small specimen has survived this chain of events. I am waiting to see if he grows up, or is struck down in his prime like all his poor little purple brothers. Life is cruel. Let’s see.

My Books

The Signing:

My cookbooks are an invitation to
embark on an exciting journey
of culinary exploration.
Each lucidly explained recipe is an
adventure into new lands of international culture,
taste, and nutrition. Come join me there.

Click here for
a complete list of all recipes in my
four best-selling cookbooks.

with love:

Order one directly from me and I’ll sign it for you.

Facebook – Hello/Goodbye


I just spent one insane week with a Facebook account. I just terminated it. It is just too much for me to maintain. Life is complex enough. I am still here, on my blog. And especially here in Sydney, the real me.

If you google “kurma facebook” you will find a well-meaning but unauthorised fan club, “Kurma Dasa (The Most Famous Vegan/Vegetarian Cook)” that I had no part of, and was never even consulted about. And I’m not a Vegan. You are welcome to be one of my ‘friends’ there, but I won’t be reciprocating, sorry. How can I maintain a friendship with 705 people I have never met?

The world of online interactions has gotten way too over-the-top for me. I may have one million so-called ‘friends’, but I’d rather have one real-life friend than so many ‘friends’ I don’t even know. How thin can one be spread anyway? Friendship is not that cheap for me, sorry.

There, I’ve had my grumble. Call me old-fashioned, a grinch, a grouch, whatever. I’m back to a simple website and blog. Take it or leave it.

Cooking with Kurma – the Television Shows

Kurma DVD:

I now directly supply anyone in Australia my cooking DVD’s via Australian Post. If you like to cook, and would like to learn a whole lot more, I strongly suggest you purchase this 11-DVD boxed set. Many, many hours of personal cooking lessons from yours truly. Simply comment on this blog entry to order a set, or write me on

If you live anywhere outside of Australia, click here.

My cooking shows have been broadcast on 178 PBS stations across the U.S., BBC2 and The Learning Channel in the U.K., STAR satellite TV from Hong Kong to Turkey, Russia, The Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China and most recently in Australia on SBS and Foxtel.

kurma cooks it up in Sydney:

“Kurma .. has a gentle style that is a happy contrast
to the frantic and frenzied style of most television cooks. His subtle wit and enthusiasm, combined with
his fabulous-looking dishes, can renew your culinary excitement and creativity.”

(Vegetarian Times)

“Meat-eaters and vegetarians alike will certainly find something to fit the bill in More Great Vegetarian
Dishes of the World on SBS with Kurma Dasa”

(Screen Watch, The Australian)


The Daily Grind

my favourite pods:

Karin from Northern Ireland asks:

“I hope that you are well. I keep seeing ground cardamom in recipes, how
exactly do I do this? do I remove the seeds from the pod or do I grind the pod
with the seeds. Sorry if this seems like a silly question. Love and light, Karin”

My reply:

No, it’s a reasonable question. I sometimes grind the whole pods in a sharp spice/coffee mill then rub it through a seive and keep the powder, tossing away the bits of skin. This is especially useful when you need the powder from a large quantity of pods, like when making carrot halava for 800 people 😉 I guess it’s the lazy, quick, but wasteful way.

The slow but frugal way is to open the pods by hand, then grind the seeds. You can use a granite mortar and pestle for this if you like. Shop-bought cardamom powder is vastly inferior, by the way. Hope this helps, Kind regards, Kurma.

Fruit of the Vine


RS from Australia writes:

“Dear Kurma, would you please tell me what could be used as a
substitute for alchohol because I can’t use it in my cooking and there are so
many recipies that contain wine? help me and thank you very much.”

My reply:

I can appreciate your question as I too do not take alcohol, or use it in my cooking. A number of ‘classic’ French dishes, as you know, contain wine. Despite the fact that the alcohol is driven off during cooking, I, like yourself, find the concept of adding wine to my cooking objectionable on spiritual/religious grounds.

Furthermore, many of these traditional wine-doused recipes are meat-based dishes. My cooking, as you probably have gathered, is purely vegetarian. So I have never felt the need to substitute wine in any recipe I cook.

However, with the aim of duplicating some classic dishes I have been intrigued by a number of grape-based ingredients that would work well as replacements for wine in cooking, such as Vincotto, which is made from fresh grapes before fermentation, and is thus non-alcoholic.

You can read about Vincotto here:

It is not really cooked wine as its name literally translates, but rather is reduced grape ‘must’, which is the freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. ‘Must’ is explained here:

So I would suggest experimenting with Vincotto, which should be available at well-stocked Italian grocers or supermarkets, or gourmet food shops. You would have to use less than the original quantity of wine since it is concentrated.

Circle of Life #8: Name Giving Ceremony

welcome home:

John Leone, chili expert and Godfather of my chili crop wrote me and named my first fruits.

I name thee “Burkina Yellow Scotch Bonnet“.

family gathering:

The first born are hale and hearty. Their hundreds of baby brothers, all in various stages of gestation, are yet to be plucked.

They are mighty hot!

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Scotch Bonnets:

“The Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) is a variety of chilli pepper that belongs to the same species as the habanero. A cultivar of the habanero, it is one of the hottest peppers in the world.

Found mainly in the Caribbean islands and the Maldives Islands, it is named for its resemblance to a Tam o’shanter. Most Scotch Bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000