What's Your Favourite Kurma Recipe? Part 3

I’ve been on the road indulging in – you guessed it – more cookery classes. I use the word ‘indulge’ because it is actually a great deal of fun. The mini-report will be up and running in a day or so.

In the meantime, here’s more instalments of the Favourite Kurma Recipe poll. I’ve hit a rich vein again. Please, all of you who haven’t written yet (yes you!!) I want to hear from you soon.

keep'em coming: Lajjarani writes “My all time favorite is the Laksa/Curried Malay Noodle soup! So spicy and
guests love it. Delicious on day one, and just gets better. It looks complicated
with so many ingredients, but cooks up in just over an hour, and works well
with substitute ingredients. Thank you so much for putting the recipe out

keep'em coming: Gaurangi wrote from India to tell me that the Green Curry from my Quick Vegetarian Dishes was her first fave dish, then Sweet and Sour Walnuts and my hearty Barley and Vegetable Soup. She noted that she thought it was mean of me to only ask for three, so she added a fourth: “Potato and Cottage Cheese Rolls with Sour Cream and Cranberry Sauce is really great.. also haven’t made it for a while but i feel it may be time to do it again.. right now!! maybe not.. it’s 10.30pm.. you have amazing recipes. i love them. we all love them. thanks and well done!”

keep'em coming: Radha from Australia also went way over the top with six entries in her top three: “What a question! I’ve been thinking hard about this and I’ve decided that there is no one answer, although it’s amazing that some of my favourites are already listed out of the hundreds of possibilities. I know what each of my girls would say. The eldest; Palak Panir, middle; Moussaka and youngest Kofta Balls. Of course the most favoured and most often cooked dish for us all is Khichari but then what about desserts? The Almond Fudge is to die for and what birthday is complete without Carob Fudge Cake? Well I’ve narrowed it down to a few .. does that help ??”. Yes, it certainly does, Radha. Thank you.

keep'em coming: Nick from Alice Springs admits his top three are: “The recipe for malai kofta made with spinach, panir and

What's Your Favourite Kurma Recipe? Part 2

Yesterday I requested some feedback from you all, dear readers, about your favourite Kurma Recipes.

keep'em coming: You already know that Steve from Wellington voted Rajma, the famous curried red beans with spicy gravy and panir cheese, as his favourite. It was Steve that inspired this on-going research.

keep'em coming: My old friend Barry told me his favourite was Fruit Cake Halava. You won’t even find that recipe in any of my books. It was a special Christmas-time recipe that I used to prepare at Gopals restaurant in the 1980’s. The usual halava ingredient – semolina – plus dark brown sugar, butter, plus mixed dried fruits, mixed peel, vanilla, walnuts and glace cherries. Quite spectacular, like a fruit cake, served hot with custard.

keep'em coming: Alix from Mauritius lists Matar Panir, Ricotta Cheese-filled Calzones, and Carrot Cake as her favourites.

keep'em coming: Fredrik from Sweden wrote and told me his favourite was Khichari – the recipe from first my cookbook, followed close behind by my Cauliflower and Pea Samosas, then Cauliflower and Potato Supreme. Fredrik’s son voted for my Gopals Vegie-nut Burgers.

keep'em coming: Amy has two top contenders: Panir Steaks and Palak Panir. Her third and family favourite is my Tabbouleh recipe, replete with sumac and no onions.

keep'em coming: Aditi thanked me for my ‘delicious creations’ and reported that her top three recipes are Eggplant & Panir in Tomato Sauce, North Indian Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes, and my pasta sauces.

keep'em coming: Manoj from Melbourne enjoys my South Indian Yogurt Rice, Masala Chai and Eggplant Pickles.

keep'em coming: Craig (the Lad) from Victoria listed (1)
Tamari, Sweet Chili Panir/Tofu Steaks (he cooks them every week) (2) Khichari, with Greek yogurt and lots of ghee (he has cooked this for many friends, he says, and they love it and always request it when they go camping) and (3) Banana, Walnut and Rose Halava (dark roasted) with vanilla custard. My, I’m getting hungry…

Okay boys and girls, I know you’re lurking out there. Put finger to keyboard and let me know: Your favourite Kurma recipe please.

What's Your Favourite Kurma Recipe?

more cards and letters:

Steve from Wellington, New Zealand wrote:

“This (Panir Steaks) recipe is why I’m a fan of yours. Many years ago I tried
the Panir Steaks at our local Hare Krishna Higher Taste Restaurant here in
Wellington. I liked them so much I asked about them and they referred me to
your cookbook.

Consequently I’ve bought a couple of your cookbooks. My
all-time favourite recipe is Rajma, which is also featured in a recent letter from a fan of yours.

This all got me thinking that you should run a poll of what is
your readers’ “Favourite Kurma Recipe”. I don’t know if its been done
already, but if not, it could be useful. Or is there
a clear cut winner that you have noticed over the many years of
correspondence? Cheers Steve”

My reply:

Hello Steve. I have actually never conducted such a poll, but it’s a good idea. So here goes…

Ok readers, it’s time for a little feedback time. I know you’re out there. I need to know the answer to this question: What is your favourite Kurma recipe?

If it’s hard to narrow down just one, then you can send me your top three favourite Kurma recipes.

From the Archives: Memory Lane #8

Be Like the Bird…

bird in tree:

I used to have a recurring dream of flying. I would soar here and there, and whenever danger presented itself, I would simply flap my arms, rise vertically like a helicopter, lift off and fly away elsewhere. There was a tremendous feeling of complete detachment from my dream-life’s reverses, and a total sense of freedom.

In one sense, the pains and pleasures of this life are like a dream, not because they do not exist, but because, like a dream, they are temporary. When this dream-like lifetime is over, and we start afresh in a new one, the activities of this life, which, like a dream, fade from memory over time, will be as insignificant as those of experienced in a dream.

This quote of Victor Hugo reminded me of that oft-experienced dream.

“Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight,
feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.”
– Victor Hugo

From the Archives: Memory Lane #7

Blesssed are the Cheesemakers

Emily from Nunawading, Victoria, Australia, asks:

“Hello. I’m doing a project at school on ‘Cheese Making’. Can you tell me all the steps to how cheese is made? Thanks!”


Hi Emily, you can make your own homemade cheese, a very simple variety.

For information on rennet (rennin)

Here’s a detailed description of the process.


A key factor in natural cheese is its selective concentration of the insoluble components of milk. Heat, acid, salt and bacteria both jointly and singly play effective roles in transferring the concentrate into an acceptable, fresh food of predictable quality, or later in conjunction with other micro-organisms and enzymes, into a cured food.

Natural cheese can be classified into groups according to its moisture content, age, type of ripening agents or the rheological qualities of the cheese. For example, classification of natural cheese based on moisture is divided into four groups, very high H2O (cottage cheese), high H2O (Mozzarella cheese), medium H2O (Cheddar cheese), and low H2O (Parmesan cheese). The moisture levels range from 80% to 13%.

The following seven steps are used for most of the 18 distinct variables of natural cheese making.

1. Setting the milk

The first step in basic cheese making is to prepare warm milk with starter and rennet extract or paste, causing the milk to curd into a block. This curd may either be set with starter only, causing an acid iso-electric casein, or a sweeter, calcium paracasein curd, set with both starter and rennet extract. The sweeter curd will materialise in only 15 to 30 minutes at about 32 degrees Celsius however, the acid iso-electric casein curd will take approximately 5 to 16 hours to curd at a given temperature.

The optimum pasteurised temperature is 161.6 degrees F (72 degrees Celsius) for 16 seconds only. Pasteurised milk is used for fresh cheese, however raw, heated or pasteurised milk may be set for ripened cheese.

The rennin extract is added to the milk, causing the milk curd, however vibrations may cause a non-homogeneous curd. A milk container protecting against light is necessary because rennin is unstable to light. Also, it is inactivated at normal pasteurisation temperatures and is most stable at pH 4.0.

2. Cutting the curd

The horizontal-wire knife is initially used to cut the curd into strips using a swing-gate motion. It is only used to cut in one direction, lengthwise. The vertical-wire knife is then placed in the curd and moved in two directions, the long and cross directions. Cutting the curd increases the surface area of the curd.

3. Cooking the Curds

Cooking the curd is generally defined as: heating the curd and whey for a specific time, while agitating. This process may be accomplished by using direct steam, jacketed water, or radio-frequency. Cooking the curd serves many purposes such as contracting the curd particles, driving out the free whey, and increasing lactic acid production. This suppresses spoilage micro-organisms, and influences the final cheese moisture.

4. Draining Whey

Separating the whey from the curds is accomplished by using a metal strainer or a sieve. Draining time will vary from 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the vat size. The whey acidity determines when to begin draining. This process also allows more time for lactic acid production.

5. Knitting and transforming the Curds

The type of cheese being processed and it’s texture will determine the time period of this application. During this time, lactic acid is accumulated causing the curd to change chemically and provide the correct moisture content. This will also allow microbial constituency for curing.

6. Salting of Curds

The purpose of salting the cheese is to improve its flavour, texture and appearance and to suppress the growth of spoilage micro-organisms. When and how much salt is added is dependent on the type of cheese being processed.

7. Pressing

This processes gives the cheese its characteristic shape, texture, and extrudes free whey. The cheese is placed in a metal or wooden vat, usually with some type of weight placed on it to cause pressure. The standard equipment used is the horizontal, hydraulic, pressure plate type presses. Adjusting the specifications of the previous steps will cause different varieties of cheese.

Who is That Masked Man?


Apron-clad, mild-mannered cookery teacher by day, Kurma slips into something more comfortable at night, as hidden cameras recently reveal: leading a group kirtan (chanting) session at North Sydney’s Hare Krishna Temple.

La Trobe Weekend

Last weekend was spent teaching on two of the Southern Hemisphere’s most extensive university complexes: La Trobe.

Here’s a glimpse of our first class at the Lifeskills Cafe, on La Trobe’s Bundoora Campus, a couple hours drive out of Melbourne:

Bundoora Class:

Our crew are poised to leap down from the tabletops and indulge in our 4-hour cookery extravaganza.


Cheesemaking, as usual, played an important part of our workshop.

cheese man:

“Unhomogenised milk always makes the best cheese”, says Kurma. “Notice how the cheese is firm yet still juicy. A heavy fifteen minute pressing is all it takes for the perfect textured cheese”.

go cheese man go:

Our mission, should we choose to accept it: to cut the cheese into juicy cubes and fry it in fresh ghee, fold it through aromatic fresh tomatoes and green peas to produce the famous matar panir.

matar panir:

Next day we did it all again, at Cafe Flavours on the Bendigo Campus

Bendigo class:

Together, under the banner of

From the Archives: Memory Lane #6

Steak ‘n’ Chips a la Vegetarian

Hamsa Avatara asked me for the recipe for Panir Cheese Steaks in this famous photo of mine. Incidentally, we (my publisher, art director and I) almost made this the front-cover illustration for my second cookbook ‘Cooking with Kurma’. Here’s that recipe:


Panir Cheese Steaks with Salad Greens on Crusty Bread

Curd cheese, or panir, is rich in protein and extremely versatile. It can be deep-fried and used in vegetable dishes, crumbled into salads, made into sweets, stuffed inside breads and pastries, and creamed into dips.

Curd cheese is the simplest kind of unripened cheese and is made by adding an acid or other curdling agent to hot milk. The solid milk protein coagulates to form the soft curd cheese, the liquid whey is separated, and the cheese is drained, pressed, and then used as required. Because curd cheese is not commonly available in shops, and the hom-made product is vastly superior, I have included the simple recipe for making your own.

The quality and freshness of the milk will determine the quality of the curd cheese. The higher the fat-content of the milk, the richer the curd cheese. Different curdling agents will produce different types of curd. The most common curdling agents are strained, fresh lemon juice, citric acid crystals dissolved in water, yogurt, cultured buttermilk, or sour whey from a previous batch of curd cheese.


5 litres fresh milk

3-4 cups yogurt or 6-8 tablespoons lemon juice

oil for pan-frying

½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder

tamari or soy sauce

sweet chili sauce

crusty bread, salad greens and chips for serving

Heat the milk to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan.

Stir in three-quarters of the yogurt or lemon juice. The milk should separate into chunky curds, leaving a greenish liquid residue called whey. If not completely separated, add a little more yogurt or lemon juice. Drape a double thickness of cheesecloth over a colander sitting in the sink.

Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and place them in the cheesecloth. Pour the whey and whatever curds that remain in the saucepan into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends of the cloth together and hold the bag of curd cheese under cold running water for 30 seconds. Twist the bag tightly to squeeze out extra whey, return it to the colander.

Press under a heavy weight for 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove the curd cheese from the cloth. Your panir is ready. Slice the panir into steaks.

Combine the tamari and sweet chili sauce in a bowl and whisk together until well combined.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan placed over fairly high heat. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder and saute momentarily.

Fry the panir steaks in the flavoured oil on both sides until crusty, then pour over the marinade. Cook the panir steaks, turning until the liquid is slightly reduced, then remove from the heat. Serve the panir steaks on the crusty bread with any pan juices poured over, accompanied by the salad greens and chips.

Trekking with Kurma

Can you imagine me in khaki shorts, knee-length army socks, hiking boots and a heavy backpack, sweat dripping off my brow as I clamber down rock faces?

Waterfall, Berkley River North Kimberley:

No, me neither. So why the trekking topic? Read this interesting tale of a rehydrated vegetarian adventure in the West Australian desert, along with photos.

Remember, these photos are not vying for the pages of “Gourmet Traveler”. Dehydrated food is meant for survival, not looking good.

“Hi Kurma.