I.J. from New South Wales writes:

“I am trying to find a natural substance that will thicken hot milk so
that the drink would be rich and creamy. Any clues?

I have just the thing! I suggest you go to a Middle Eastern/Turkish grocery store and ask for sahlep/sahlap powder. It will make the famous Turkish national drink, also known as sahlep.

Sahlep is a delicious creamy milk drink made with the powdered root of the sahlep mountain orchid, Orchis mascula (some say Orchis latifolia).

Usually the mountain orchids have tuberous roots, rich in a starch-like substance. These tubers are gathered while the plant is in flower, then washed, boiled in water or milk and then dried, and ground. This ground powder is called sahlep.

Sahlep, the drink, is served in several Middle Eastern countries, but it is especially popular in Turkey, where, in the cold winter months, it is sold from large copper urns on street corners, at stations and cafes. Sahlep powder is available from Turkish or Middle Eastern grocery stores.


Turkish-style Fragrant Milk (Sahlep)

Preparation time: a few minutes

Yield: 4 cups (1 litre)

4 cups (1 litre) cold milk

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon sahlep powder

sprinkle cinnamon powder

Combine the sugar and sahlep powder in a 2-litre/quart saucepan. Gradually add the cold milk, mixing to dissolve the sugar and sahlep. Bring the milk to the boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, or until it thickens slightly. Pour the sahlep into 4 individual cups, sprinkle each with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder, and serve hot.

The Apple Crumble Story

apple crumble:

Micha from Yemen wrote me yesterday:

“Many many years ago (early 70’s) on Sunday evenings I used to go to think it
was Little Lonsdale St and share both food and ideas with my Chrishna friends
and now I seek further help in aquiring the recipe for ‘Apple Crumble’ can you
please send me the info. Thanks and congratulations on your success.”

My reply:

“Wow! Amazing you remember the address. Yes, the Hare Krishna Sunday Feast at our Little Lonsdale Street shop in Melbourne.

Dvaipayana the cook made his famous apple crumble then, and although I don’t have his actual recipe in front of me, here’s mine:

For a large tray you will need about a dozen big green apples, maybe less, maybe more, sliced thin and sprinkled with a little sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and raisins.

The topping should be a combination of 1.5 cups rolled whole oats (not the quick-cook variety), 1 cup plain flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup raw sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, and at least 1 cup melted butter. Rub all the topping ingredients together, spread the apple on the bottom of a heavy baking tray, sprinkle on the topping and bake in a hot oven for 40 minutes or until the apples are cooked and the topping is golden and aromatic.

Thanks for your kind words. Happy cooking!”

Prabhupada in Ormond Hall, Melbourne:

I remember those heady days in Melbourne, and especially I remember Dvaipayana’s famous apple crumble. I wrote about it in my book ‘The Great Transcendental Adventure’, as follows:

20 May, 1975: After the evening program, a feast was served in Parampara Hall. One of the items cooked, ‘apple crumble’, had become the centre of an ongoing controversy. Apple crumble consisted of a layer of thinly sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins, topped with a mixture of half-and-half oats and brown sugar combined with melted butter.

The whole thing was baked until the apples were soft and the topping crisp and golden. It was the oats that were the object of critical scrutiny. Some devotees were of the opinion that oats were

The Return of Pita the Great

“I have nothing to say, but it’s ok,

Good morning, good morning, good morning!”

Here’s a back-blog to tide you over:

pita the great:

Sunitha from South Africa wrote, asking for stuffings for flat Middle Eastern-style pita breads.

I sent these recipes. The first two are dairy-free, the second two are dairy-rich and sinful. Turn awayyyyyy, vegans.

Chickpea Dip (Hoummos)

1¼ cups cooked chickpeas,

½ cup tahini,

2 tablespoons lemon juice,

¼ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

little water if needed,

1 tablespoon olive oil for garnish,

¼ teaspoon paprika for garnish,

1 teaspoon chopped parsley for garnish.

Combine first five ingredients in food processor. Garnish, serve with the breads.

Moroccan Broad Bean Puree

500g (1 pound) frozen broad beans, or 1kg (2 pounds) fresh broad beans, weighed before removing from their long pods and steamed till soft,

1½ tablespoons lemon juice,

½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

¼ teaspoon salt,

1 small green chili, seeded and chopped,

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,

olives and salad greens to serve (optional).

Combine in food processor. Olives and greens served separately.

Cumin-flavoured Cheesy Stuffing

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry roasted in a pan until aromatic,

50g (1½ ounces) baby spinach leaves,

60g (2 ounces) Gruyere or other Swiss cheese, shredded,

30g Parmesan cheese, shredded,

60g (2 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled or chopped finely,

Freshly ground black pepper.

Combine. Spread on open pita bread and place under the griller.

Herbed Gorgonzola Spread

125g (4 ounces) cream cheese

60g (2 ounces) gorgonzola dolcelatte, or blue cheese of your choice,

little milk or cream,

chopped chervil leaves, and additional sprigs for garnish, or any fresh herb,

freshly ground black pepper,

2 ripe pears, thinly sliced.

Toast the open pita bread, layer with ripe pears and the cheese spread.

Fade to Green

The day before the Sydney dust storm coated everything in my garden with red dust, I took some photos of my spring flush of home-grown things. Here’s a sampling:

I’m experimentiing with growing strawberries in pots. Yes, it may still be cheaper to buy them in the fruit shop, but growing your own fruits and vegetables is a satisfying pastime.

experimental berries:

I pruned my Yellow Habanero and Red Savina chili plants from last season and they have sprung back with a dense flush of new foliage, and are starting to flower again. Also, at the next most appropriate lunar planting time (October 1, 2 and 3) I will sow a variety of seeds (chilis, purple beans, and peas) into starter trays.

the return of Mr C:

My silverbeet (Swiss chard to American readers) just keeps on growing new leaves. The more I pick them the more they grow back. Nature’s abundance. And my sage has returned with fresh new leaves.

flush of green:

I planted some tiny-leaf wild rocket. Dainty and delicious.

wild rocket:

A new item in my garden, snow peas, are snuggled in a warm brick-lined corner which gets morning sun. They’re ready to start climbing.

snow peas:

I pruned the handsome pink hydrangea bush as per instructions and it is growing back strong and healthy.


My spearmint is fresh and aromatic.


The streets of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs will soon be fragrant and sweet with the heady, Chanel number 5 + vanilla aroma of Chinese Star Jasmine. Our vine is budding in profusion.

Chinese Star Jasmine:

The first yield of Kumquats has yielded 6 jars of marmalade. It had a problem with little white worms inside the fruits. And brown-edged leaves – any ideas, gardeners out there? Let’s see what the second flush brinds.

baby kumquats:

Creamy gardenias will soon bloom from their tender erect buds.


The last of the miniature purple orchids are standing proud.

miniature orchids:

A beautiful pointy-ended spinach is also flourishing in a giant pot. I pick a few leaves daily and throw them in salads.

beautiful spinach:

That’s the round up of Kurma’s Spring garden.

Life on Mars

Life on Mars:

If you don’t live in a cave you probably heard about the massive dust storm that enveloped Sydney this morning.

The picture above, taken at the height of dawn redness, was not touched up. I took it outside my house before ‘sunrise’ this morning, though no sun was seen for many hours. That’s a street light you can see. The air, loaded with dusty topsoil, was blown thousands of miles from the desert. When the sun appeared mid-morning, it shone through the redness like a full moon.

Sydney Harbour Bridge:

It’s all blown away, and now the cleanup begins.

The Wizard of Blog

I have just returned from Melbourne, where I indulged in a ‘very culinary weekend’. Saturday was spent teaching a special birthday party cookery class. Here’s our intimate group, posing before we entered the kitchen. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Birthday with Kurma:

By the time I returned home it was quite late, and Sunday morning I was up before the sun, preparing for our penultimate Gopal’s Restaurant class for 2009. I was a bit tired, and so never got around to taking any photos. I sold an enormous amount of my cookbooks though, so everyone must have really enjoyed the day.

In fact, one happy punter wrote to me just last night:

“The thing I enjoyed most in today’s class was seeing the “craft” of
the cooking, eg. how to press the pooris and how long to fry the
spices for the dahl. Your love and passion for food made the class
wonderfully engaging. The pace was good, with something always going
on to keep an eye on. It was quite meditative not to think about
anything but food for a few hours!”

Life has been so hectic that I haven’t had the chance to publish all my blog-worthy events. But since I am unable to do much else today but sit down, I thought I’d share another recent class with you, ‘one that got away’ electronically speaking.

Satyananda Yoga regularly hosts my Anna Yoga weekend in their lovely Ashram at Mangrove Mountain. The courses are so popular that bookings are already filling for March and August 2009.

Here’s a few ‘happy snaps’: Our 20-strong group was assigned to cook for the whole ashram and other guests, so here’s the final stir of our delectable pecan, orange, wild rice and basmati pilaff.

pecan pilaff anyone:

The gigantic kitchen had plenty of space for the occasional huddle. Here we discuss the ins and outs of milk proteins, both albuminous and casein.

we watch and learn:

Here’s just two of our happy crew, all in blue, making halava for me and you.

kitchen blues:

Getting down and dirty with dough.

dough man:

Getting the chapatis ship-shape. Yes I know, they’re supposed to be round.

chapati party:

Chapati-making has its serious side, as you can see.

seriouser and seriouser:

Well that’s me for today. Some unpacking, and especially more resting to be done. Until we meet again in The Land of Blog.

Goodbye Mr Floyd…


While on the cusp of my ‘career’ in TV cookery in the 80’s, I watched a lot of Keith Floyd to get an idea of what was necessary to come across as personable and interesting. Alas, now Mr Floyd has gone to the big kitchen in the sky. Or somewhere…

BBC NEWS: Celebrity chef Keith Floyd has died following a heart attack, aged 65.

He died at his partner’s Dorset home on Monday. Floyd, diagnosed with bowel cancer in June, enjoyed a last meal of oysters and partridge, with champagne. more…

Beanz Meanz…


Melodyrose from Australia writes:

“After reading your blog you mentioned you had Borlotti beans in the
freezer ready to be used. Currently I have 2 bags of dried Borlotti beans
and they need to be used up – any suggestions?”

My suggestion: Soak them, drain them, add to a large saucepan, cover with fresh cold unsalted water, simmer them until tender with some bay leaves, a small piece of cinnamon stick, some small shavings of ginger and a few branches of fresh herb like sage, rosemary or oregano. Extract the tender beans from their gravy (or leave them in) and then freeze them in small ziplock bags. When ready to use, thaw or add them straight to soups, pasta, stews, casseroles, make bean salads, or make homemade baked beans with them.

Maybe some readers can suggest more to do with these delicious beans…

A Bit Chili

veg chili - yum!:

Maureen from Sydney writes:

“I am teaching my HSC student son to cook using your vegetarian cooking videos.
You use nutrious ingredients which I hope will help prepare him for what is
ahead. Thank you. My question: Do you have a nice Mexican bean recipe to use with corn chips, tomatoes etc? Teenagers like this casual combination. All the best.”

My reply: Hello Maureen, let me see…yes! Here’s a recipe from my first cookbook, ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’…

Vegetarian Chili

This nourishing combination of beans and vegetables is given an extra protein boost with the addition of crumbled home-made curd cheese (panir). To make this a dairy-free dish, add frozen tofu that’s been thawed and crumbled instead of the curd cheese. Chili is delicious served with your choice of breads or rice. Serves 6-8.

2 tablespoons olive oil,

2 hot green chilies, seeded and minced,

1/4 teaspoon yellow asafoetida powder,

1/2 cup diced green peppers,

1/2 cup diced celery,

1/2 cup cooked corn pieces,

3 cups tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped,

3/4 cup tomato paste,

3 cups cooked kidney beans (reserve the bean liquid separately),

1 cup crumbled curd cheese or frozen tofu that’s been thawed and crumbled, or chunks of fried tempe,

1 teaspoon ground cumin,

1 1/2 teaspoons salt,

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper,

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste,

1 tablespoon brown sugar,

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,

Heat the oil in a heavy 3-litre/quart saucepan over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced green chili and saute for 1 minute. Add the asafoetida powder and saute momentarily. Add the diced peppers and celery. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

Add the cooked corn and the chopped tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the chili is too thick, add some reserved bean liquid. Serve hot.