Too Farty, To Be Sure…

(My old mate Jaya Tirtha Caran from New Zealand became inspired by yesterday’s topic (he’s that sort of guy) and sent me this story. If you’re a little slow, you may have to read it aloud in an Irish accent to get the punchline).


Mrs. O’Malley arrives in Boston from Ireland, and in no time at all
her bean soup has made her the talk of New England society.

At a party celebrating the sale of her recipe to a fancy Charles Street restaurant, an old matron goes up to Mrs. O’Malley and says, “My dear girl, what is the secret of your soup?”

Mrs. O’Malley says, “The secret to me soup is that I use but two-hundred thirty-nine beans to make it.”

The woman says, “How come only two-hundred thirty-nine?”

Mrs. O’Malley says, “Because one more would make it too farty.”

A Fart Down Memory Lane

I was discussing the unfortunate medical condition known as flatus at a class on the weekend. I promised I’d re-post an earlier, gassier offering. Keep away from naked flame.

Sam Stewart from Australia’s Gold Coast wrote:

“What is it about beans that cause so much gas? What can be done to make them less volatile”

My reply:

Though beans are nutitionally excellent, they have the unfortunate side effect of causing the formation of gas in the lower digestive tract. This digestive dilemma can be mollified by adopting some or all of the following practices:

Discard the soaking water prior to cooking

Some nutrition (in the form of minerals) is lost, but you are getting rid of up to 80% of the oligosaccharides that cause flatulence. The standard way is to soak the raw, unsoaked beans in cold water overnight (in a cool place to avoid fermentation) then drain them, throw away the soak water and cook in fresh water.

Some cooks suggest that an even better way to remove the oligosaccharides is to bring the unsoaked beans to a boil for 3 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and allow to soak for 4 hours, then drain and cook in fresh water.

it's a blast:

Cook the beans thoroughly

You should be able to easily mash the cooked beans with a fork. Thorough cooking softens starch and fibers, making digestion more efficient, the main reason why refried beans are easier on the digestive system than whole beans.

Give your body time to adjust

If you don’t eat beans often, your body never fully adapts to the extra work required to digest the complex sugars in beans. Beginning with small amounts, try eating beans at least 3 times a week while gradually increasing quantity.

Choose beans that are easier to digest

A general rule is that the sweeter the bean, the easier it is to digest. Adzuki, Anasazi, Black-eyed Peas, Lentils, and Mung beans top the list. The most difficult beans to digest include Navy, Limas, and whole cooked Soybeans.

Cook beans with a bay leaf, cumin, epazote, or kombu

Certain herbs have gas-reducing properties, with epazote being one of the most effective. Add 2 teaspoons dry or 6 fresh leaves to a pot of beans before cooking. Kombu sea vegetable also works well and has the added advantage of replenishing some of the minerals lost in soaking. Add a two-inch strip per one cup of dried beans during cooking. A couple of bay leaves simmered with cooked beans is also excellent. Asafetida, ginger and cumin are also excellent additions later in the cooking process, when the beans are seasoned, to counter the oligosaccharides.

Avoid beans that are cooked with added sweeteners, or come in a can.

Some people who easily digest most freshly cooked beans have trouble with canned or sweetened beans due to the way they are prepared and due to added carbohydrates. The famous baked beans are navy beans (hard to digest for a start) that have been cooked without discarding the soaking water AND with extra sweetener added – a very explosive combination.

Click here for more on the status of flatus.

Ask Mister Sweet Potato Head

sweet potatoes:

Julia Tse from Moonee Ponds, Victoria writes:

“Hello Kurma! What can I do with the white-fleshed sweet potato with the purple skin that I bought at the markets yesterday?

My Reply: Hello Julia. My favourite is to thickly slice the sweet potato (the sweeter, white variety pictured above is my preference for this) and single layer them in a heavy baking dish. Strew generous sprigs of fresh rosemary, generously sprinkle with ample crackings of fresh pepper and salt, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and then place a thick ring of sliced fresh lemon on each potato slice.

Cover with foil and roast in the oven till the potatoes are tender, then remove the foil and keep roasting till the potatoes are golden and crisp. The lemon rings will scorch and should be removed before serving, but their lovely lemon oil will infuse the potatoes. Serve with the chutney below.

Oven-roasted White Sweet Potato with Fresh Corn Chutney

The brilliant corn chutney has become one of my favourites. It marries perfectly with sweet potato, its South American partner from ages past. Best consumed the day it

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

The Old Pud

the world of rice pudding:

I’m in Perth, Westen Australia, at the tail-end of a little visit.

Here’s an earlier blog entry that might educate, entertain and make you crave that most ancient of desserts – rice pudding.

Rice puddings are found in nearly every area of the world. Recipes can greatly vary even within a single country. The dessert can be boiled or baked. Different types of pudding vary depending on preparation methods and the ingredients selected. The following ingredients are regularly found in rice puddings.

rice – long or short grain white rice, brown rice, black rice, basmati, or jasmine rice

milk – (whole milk, coconut milk, cream or evaporated)

spices – (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger etc.)

flavourings – (vanilla, orange, lemon, pistachio, rose water etc.)

sweetener – (sugar, brown sugar, honey, sweetened condensed milk, fruit or syrups)

The following is a short list of various rice puddings from different regions.

East Asia

Kao Niow Dahm (Thai) Black Rice Pudding,

Banana Rice Pudding (Cambodian),

Babao Fan (Chinese) Eight Treasure Rice Pudding,

Pulut Hitam (Malaysian) Black glutinous rice pudding,

South Asia

Kheer (Pakistani/Indian) with slow-boiled milk,

Firni (Pakistani/Afghan/North Indian) with broken rice, cardamom and pistachio served cold.,

Middle East

Firni (Afghan/Pakistani) Rice ground to powder cooked with milk and sugar, usually flavored with cardamom, garnished with slivers of pistachios and almonds, as well as with gold or silver warq (decorative, edible foil). Today, restaurants offer firni in a wide range of flavours including mango, fig, custard apple, etc.

Sütlaç (Turkish) with milk and vanilla,

Muhallebi (Turkish) with rice flour,

Moghlie (Arab) with anise and ginger,

Riz bi Haleeb (Arab) with rose water,

Shola-e-zard (Persian) with saffron,


Arroz con leche (Spanish) with cinnamon and lemon,

Arroz Doce or Arroz de Leite (Portuguese) with milk, cinnamon and lemon,

Budino di Riso (Italian) with raisins and orange peel,

Milchreis (German) with cinnamon or cherries,

Mliena ry

The Great Curry Mystery

beautiful fresh curry leavs:

George from Johannesburg, South Africa writes:

“Howzit Kurma! I attended one of your classes years ago when I was living in Durban. Here’s my question: In your class you mentioned briefly how the word curry was a made-up name. Can you elaborate please?”

My reply:

Hello George. Yes, in actual fact, the word ‘curry’ is a misnomer, popularised and perpetuated by the British. There is no historical precedence to that name in classic Indian culinary culture before the 18th century. There’s a great deal of speculation and guess-work as to how the name ‘curry’ was first introduced.

Some sources explain: “The term curry could be possibly derived from ‘koora’ in the Telugu language, which means stew or gravy of any vegetable.”

Also: Curry leaves – (Murraya koenigii) are known as ‘Karuvapillai’, in the Tamil language, ‘karibevu’ in the Kannada, and ‘kariveppila’ in Malayalam.

Another theory: the root word for curry is ‘Kadhi’, which derives from the term ‘Kadhna’ meaning ‘to simmer’ or ‘Karahi’ denoting the cooking vessel used in Indian kitchens. And there is also the term



Jacquie from Hobart, Tasmania writes:

Hi Kurma! Some years ago I attended one of your cooking with Kurma classes in WA, which was great fun and wonderful food. You served us at tea time some cardamom
flavoured shortbread
. I have tried to recreate it with no success. would you
mind giving me the recipe please.

My reply: Hello Jacquie. Here’s the recipe. You may need to add a little more butter. Do not add any liquid.

Iraqi Cardamom-scented Butter Biscuits (Shakar Lemah)

Anyone who enjoys a good shortbread will love these melt-in-the-mouth delights from Iraq. They are exceptionally easy to make.

175g (6 ounces) butter, or a little more to make a firm dough,

½ cup caster sugar,

2½ cups plain flour,

1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds,

icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160° C / 325° F.

Cream the butter with the caster sugar in a food processor. Add the flour and cardamom, and process to form a soft dough.

Roll the mixture into 24 walnut sized balls. Arrange them on baking sheets lined with baking paper about 2cm (¾-inch) apart. Press them gently with the flat underside of fork tines to slightly flatten them and mark them with decorative lines.

Bake for about 25 minutes. They will hardly darken, and will appear undercooked, but they will firm up when they cool.

Serve: remove from the paper only when they have hardened, and dredge them in icing sugar.

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Tomato Rice:

A few days ago, after my morning meditations, I felt unexplained craving for tomato rice. I had prepared a large batch of basmati rice the night before, so all I had to do was heat some olive oil in my favourite large frying pan, sprinkle in some asafetida and I’d be half-way there.

I chopped a large green Jalapeno from the last of my chilies, plus half a large, very hot yellow Habanero, and sauteed them in the hot, hing-flavoured oil. I then tossed in the basmati rice, and a handful of freshly-picked chopped garden herbs – mint leaves, parsley and rocket.

Then I diced and folded through a large extra-ripe tomato. I remembered I had a small amount of BBQ mock-duck in the fridge, so that went in. Finally, I sprinkled in a large tablespoon of top quality Spanish smoked paprika, and my extemporaneous cooking adventure was done. I grabbed my camera, and then…it tasted as delicious as it looks!

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that I had been thinking of tomato rice the day before, after watching my old TV clip of a South Indian Tomato Rice dish. Thoughts get lodged in the mind by exposure to the media, and they are sure to surface again, in the form of desires and cravings. Advertising works!

Off We Go!

Big Country:

I’m flying to Perth. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m booked for two classes there this week.

For those who don’t know Australia’s regions, I live in Sydney, New South Wales (that’s the blue state on the right) and I’m flying right across Australia to Perth, Western Australia (the big green state on the left).

There’s still a few spots left in Monday’s class:

Upper Crust Cooking School

West Perth, WA

Evening Workshop, Monday 20 July

Bookings 08 9481 4149


And the same applies for my Bunbury class on Wednesday night:

Aspenz Cooking School

Bunbury, WA

Evening Workshop, Wednesday 22 July

Bookings 08 9721 7400


Maybe I’ll see you at a class.

D'oh! Nuts!

Yes, I’ve posted this recipe a number of times, but I keep getting requests. Surely donuts/doughnuts are one of the more popular of comfort foods – sweet, filling, satisfying and bad for you. What more could you ask for? Here’s my latest missive:

Vrajabhakti from Columbus Ohio writes:

“Do you have the recipe for donuts? My son really loves donuts. I am
just wondering if you can help me. I appreciate your help.

My reply: Sure, here’s my recipe:


My reply:

Here is a recipe from my first cookbook ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’. A friend’s grandmother from Tuscany, Italy, parted with this recipe for doughnuts (Bomboloni). Serve them hot at afternoon tea for a delicious treat.

Italian-style Lemon Doughnuts

PREPARATION TIME: a few minutes


FRYING TIME: 5 minutes each batch

YIELD: 15 – 20 doughnuts

4 cups plain flour

3/4 cup (185 ml) caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g butter, softened and cut into pieces

3 teaspoons fresh yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

ghee or oil for deep-frying

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in 1/3 cup of sugar and the salt. Mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the butter, the yeast water, and the lemon rind. Mix well, adding enough lukewarm water to form a soft dough.

Knead until smooth, shape into a ball, and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down with your fist.

Roll the dough into a long rope and cut into 15 or 20 even-sized portions. Roll each into a smooth ball. Place on a buttered baking sheet and let rise in a warm place for another hour. The balls should double in size.

Heat ghee or oil to 180°C/355°F in a wok or deep pan and very carefully lower 3 – 4 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil. Deep fry, maintaining a constant temperature, for about 5 minutes, turning often until the doughnuts are dark golden brown. Drain and dredge in the remaining sugar. Serve hot.

Jai Homer: