The Daily Grind

Ike Isaksen from Cali, Colombia wrote me some time back:

“I’ve been living in Colombia for 4 years now, and although I can buy
chickpeas (garbanzos), i can’t buy chickpea flour. There are so many great recipes that use it, and I occasionally give cooking classes to
friends, so I’m a little desperate! I just stumbled across your site and
thought – Hey, here’s a guy who’ll know! Can I make it myself from
chickpeas? Or if not what’s the closest alternative?”

two varieties of chickpeas:

My answer: Thanks for the interesting letter. Well, if you found a mill with decent stones you may be able to ask them to grind you some garbanzo flour. Chickpeas are very hard of course, much harder than wheat. If you know someone with a home wheat grinding mill, you can grind your own. It will be a bit coarser than the talc-consistency shop bought product.

By the way, actual besan flour, sometimes called chickpea flour, is actually made from tumble dry-roasted and husked whole chana dal, (see picture, above, left) a botanical ‘cousin’ of the chickpea.

In Italy, farina di ceci, real chickpea flour, is well-loved. It tastes very similar to (but better than, I think) besan flour, also known as gram flour (made from gram dal, those small whole chana dals). Are there any Italian stores in Cali? Maybe a silly question.

Another alternative is pea flour, which is made from finely milled yellow split peas, or lentil flour of some description. These will have a similar result in cooking, though the taste will subtly vary. Hope this helps.

Thank You


I just spent many hours answering the hundreds of Facebook birthday messages from my world of friends. Very pleasant! Thank you all for your kind words, best wishes, potent blessings and benedictions.


In Life’s Big Cricket Match, today I’m 58, not out.

Yes I know, there has been a bit of silly mid-on; and although I have been
caught-out more than once, I’m confident of reaching the next Boxing Day Test.


My partnership average has been poor, though I’ve been known, on occasions, to bowl a maiden over. With all those sticky wickets, I’ve almost been declared out on a number of occasions.

Fortunately there’s more than one innings, so my batting average might get me through. Hopefully, when I reach Life’s Final Test, I won’t be stumped.

Hare Krishna!

Apple Strudel

I’ve got one last recipe to share with you before Christmas. There should be enough time to do some last-minute grocery shopping for this one, or maybe the ingredients are already there in your pantry. Happy baking!


Apple Strudel

Apple strudel is popular all over Eastern Europe, and traditionally uses a wafer-thin pastry that is painstakingly made from scratch. Apparently this pastry originated in the Middle East and was brought to Europe in the Ottoman invasions of the 15th century. The quickest way to make strudel these days outside of Europe is with bought puff pastry or filo pastry. We tested strudel made from both, and the results were so good we couldn

Vegie Chrissie Barbie


Before you read any further, let’s clear up any potential confusion. To all my non-Australian readers: Barbie does not refer to the ubiquitous doll of the same name, nor to Klaus Barbie, the infamous Nazi war criminal. And a Chrissie is of course an Australian Christmas.

The Barbie (note the capitalisation) is one of the most revered Australian icons, along with a Hills Hoist, Fosters, Thongs and Vegemite.

Yes, the Barbie is a barbecue, or BBQ for short. For those that spend a moment to reflect, it’s the ultimate crematorium for tens of thousands of poor animals.

So what’s a vegetarian to do when he’s invited to a Barbie? There are, in fact, many nice vegetarian Barbie options. I was once invited to a Barbie, and my hosts asked me to send some recipes ahead so they could buy the ingredients. They even purchased a brand new Weber just for the occasion. Here are those recipes:


Barbecued Haloumi and Char-grilled Asparagus with Salsa Verde

Salsa verde simply means green sauce

Kurma's Christmas Fruit Cake

Helena from Belfast wrote and asked whether I have a good Christmas fruit cake recipe.

I sure do. Here is an absolute beauty, published in my very first cookbook ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes’. It was originally given to me by Hari Bhakti Dasi who got it from her mother. The secret of its moist texture, without any eggs, is the mashed pumpkin or potato. Try it – you won’t be disappointed.


Fruit Cake

This traditional fruitcake is ideal for weddings, birthdays, or any special occasion requiring a luscious, rich cake. It can be kept for several weeks after baking.

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 2 1/4 – 2 3/4 hours,

YIELD: one 20 cm (8-inch) round or square cake,

1 cup smoothly mashed pumpkin or potato,

1 tablespoon melted butter,

1 cup self-raising flour,

1 cup plain flour,

450g mixed dried fruit,

1 cup sugar,

225g butter,

1 tablespoon golden syrup or dark corn syrup,

1 cup water,

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

2 tablespoons yogurt.

Line the base of a 20 cm (8-inch) cake tin with greaseproof paper. Dip a pastry brush in melted butter and brush the sides of the tin to give an even shine.

Sift both flours into a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the fruit, sugar, butter, syrup, and water in a heavy
4-litre/quart saucepan. Heat slowly over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and allow the mixture to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, mix in the bicarbonate of soda, and set aside to cool.

When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, fold in the yogurt and mashed potato or pumpkin. Beat the mixture until smooth.

Gently fold in the flour mixture with the fruit mixture, combining carefully.

Spoon the combined mixture into the prepared cake tin. Smooth out the mixture. Cover the tin with aluminium foil (or brown paper secured with string) and bake in a moderate oven 180°C/355°F for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The cake can be uncovered for the last 1/2 hour of the cooking. To test whether the cake is done, insert a skewer through the centre of the cake. The cake is cooked if the skewer comes out clean. If the cake is done, remove it from the oven, allowing it to cool in the tin. (This will stop the cake from breaking).

When the cake is cool, carefully remove it from the tin and peel off the greaseproof paper. Now the cake is ready for icing, if desired.

Another Christmas Recipe

Here’s a last minute Christmas menu idea – especially good for meat-eaters!

eggplant panir:

Succulent Eggplant & Panir Cheese in Spicy Tomato Glaze

An opulent dish that showcases the incredible meatiness of fried panir cheese. Serve with plenty of rice or bread to mop up the rich juices. Serves 6

ghee for deep-frying,

1½ teaspoons black mustard seeds,

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger,

1 teaspoon minced fresh green chili,

¼ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

2 cups tomato puree,

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder,

1 teaspoon ground coriander,

panir cheese from 2½ litres milk, pressed and cut into 1.5 cm cubes, (recipe follows),

1 large eggplant, cut into 1.5 cm cubes,

1 teaspoon garam masala,

2 teaspoon brown sugar,

1½ teaspoons salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a large frying pan over moderate heat. When the ghee is hot, sprinkle in the mustard seeds and fry them until they crackle. Add the minced ginger and chilies, and fry them until aromatic. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, saute briefly, and pour in the tomato puree. Stir in the turmeric powder and ground coriander.

Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until a little reduced.

Heat ghee for deep-frying in a wok or pan over moderate heat. When fairly hot, deep-fry the cubes of panir cheese in batches until they are a light golden brown. Remove the fried panir from the ghee, and set it aside to drain.

Deep-fry the cubes of eggplant in batches in the hot ghee until golden brown and tender, and set them aside to drain in a colander lined with paper towels.

Fold the garam masala, sugar and salt, the fried panir cubes and eggplant into the tomato sauce. Serve hot, with fluffy rice or crusty bread.

panir unlimited: (Photo taken during my visit to: Govindas Dublin Vegetarian Restaurants.)

Making Homemade Curd Cheese (Panir)

You need little by way of equipment to make curd cheese: a 2

Your Time is Up!

This is the last week to order Kurma Cookbooks and DVD sets to gift your loved ones for Christmas.

If you place your orders before this coming weekend, (18 and 19 December) I can get your orders posted to you, anywhere in Australia, in time for you to gift-wrap them.

So, all of you last-minute procrastinators who promised you’d be ordering some, your time is almost up.

tinytomyum: tinynewcaulis: tinygujaratipumpkin:

tinygorgonzolaandfrshpearsonFruitloaf: tinycheesypolenta_000: tinycakes:

These are my books. I’ll personally sign them for you.

book_qveg: book-cwk:

book-vwf: book_veg:

the kurma dvd:

This is the 11-disc 20-hour Kurma TV cookery show DVD compendium.

To order:Contact Kurma now:

Kurma's Summer Garden

In this world of duality, my garden shimmers in summer haze, while many of my Euro-readers are crunching through snowdrifts.

So be it. What goes up must come down. Our time to shiver will come, soon enough. In the meantime, I tend to my little green brothers and sisters who are living out their herbal lives in pots on my patio.

Here’s a brief photographic update.

greek basil 2010:

This is Greek Basil. The leaves are small, and the flavour is subtle and floral. I think this plant will grow very profusely.

radish 2010:

My radish plants, soon to yield their crunchy pink offerings, are this big after only twelve days. Remarkably fast-growing.

2010 rocket:

Nice peppery leaves of rocket. The more I pick, the more they grow. Great with sourdough bread and fresh cream cheese.

2010 rainbow chard:

I regularly cull leaves from my ten pots of rainbow chard. I throw it into whatever I’m cooking to add the required ‘greens’.

2010 habaneros:

This is year three of my Habanero chilies. You can see how thick the trunk is. The chilies are inferior in size this year, so I might (speaking quietly here so he doesn’t hear me) ‘take out’ this plant after it’s fruiting season is over and send it to plant heaven.

2010 basil:

Lovely large-leaved fragrant basil. My eight plants (four varieties) will easily see me through summer salads, sandwiches and pastas.

2010 lettuce:

Tiny lettuce plants look so fragile and lovable, like all baby plants and animals. This is nature’s arrangement so we love them and give them shelter. It almost looks like they are opening up their little mouths and saying ‘feed me, I’m thirsty Daddy’. Maybe I should get out more.