New Blog in Town

There’s a new food blog in town: a work in progress. A delighfully personal and attractive one, I might add.

Asparagus-soup:

The beautiful style of photography can only be described as minimalist. The Blogee, Laksmi, is based in Helsinki; I feel the Finnish mood on every page. There’s a lot of nice things to explore there. Here’s where to click:

Queen of Lasagna

I received a request today to publish my lasagna recipe. Of course I already have a couple of different lasagna recipes published in two of my cookbooks, but because I am feeling kind, here it is. It is a huge and delicious lasagna. Not for the faint-hearted. For serious cooks only.

queen of lasagna:

Rich and Tasty Lasagna with Grilled Vegetables & Sun dried Tomatoes

I allowed my imagination to run wild when I mentally constructed this multi-layered, deep-dish lasagna before embarking on my test kitchen procedures. You may like to substitute different vegetables in some of the layers. Thin slices of butternut pumpkin can be successfully grilled and added, as can slices of zucchini. Select a casserole dish 25cm x 35cm x 8cm (10-inches x 14-inches x 3½-inches) deep for this ‘Queen of Lasagna’.

Preparation & cooking time: approx 1 hour 45 minutes,

Makes: 1 deep-dish lasagna.

The vegetables

1 large eggplant sliced into 0.5cm (¼-inch) rings and grilled,

3 large red capsicums (peppers) cut into quarters lengthwise, cored, de-veined and grilled,

the leaves from ½ large bunch English spinach, stalks removed,

½ cup sun dried tomatoes sliced into strips.

The tomato sauce

¼ cup olive oil,

½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

1 cup fresh basil, chopped,

2 teaspoons dried oregano,

6 cups tomato purée,

1 teaspoon salt,

¼ teaspoon black pepper,

1 teaspoon raw or brown sugar,

2 tablespoons tomato paste.

The bechamel sauce

125g (4½ ounces) butter,
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder,
¼ teaspoon black pepper,
½ cup plain flour,
4 cups warmed milk.

The cheeses

3½ cups grated cheddar cheese,

2 cups grated mozarella cheese,

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or something equally pungent, plus 3 tablespoons reserved.

The pasta

500g (a little over 1 pound) instant eggless lasagna sheets

Prepare the tomato sauce:

Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy-based saucepan and set it over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, fry momentarily, then add the basil leaves and oregano, and fry for another 30 seconds. Pour in the puréed tomatoes, stir to mix and bring to the boil. Add the salt, black pepper, sugar and tomato paste, reduce the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, stirring often for 10-15 minutes, or until it reduces and thickens.

Prepare the bechamel sauce:

Melt the butter in a 2-litre/quart heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir in the nutmeg, black pepper and flour, and fry, stirring constantly, for about half a minute or until the mixture loosens. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring with a whisk until it is all incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Return the sauce to moderate heat and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce develops a thick custard-like consistency.

Assemble the lasagna:

Combine all three cheeses (except the reserved Parmesan). Divide the cheese into 2 portions, the tomato sauce into 3 portions, the bechamel sauce into 4 portions, and the pasta into 5.

Spread one portion of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the oven-proof casserole dish. Place a portion of the pasta on top. Layer the eggplant slices on top of the pasta sheets. Spread on a portion of the bechamel sauce, then another of the pasta. Sprinkle on half the grated cheese.

Continue layering as follows: a portion of the tomato sauce; the sun dried tomatoes; the capsicum; another portion of the pasta; another of the bechamel; another of the pasta, then the remaining cheese. Layer the spinach leaves on top of the cheese.

Spread on the remaining tomato sauce, top with the last pasta sheets and the remaining double portion of bechamel (this white sauce layer needs to be thicker than the others). Sprinkle the top with the reserved Parmesan cheese, place the lasagna in the top half of a pre-heated 200°C/390°F oven.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is slightly golden and the pasta yields easily to a knife point. If the lasagna is darkened on top but does not yield fully to a knife point, cover the lasagna with brown paper or aluminium foil in the last 15 minutes of cooking. When the lasagna is done, leave it in the oven with the door ajar for at least 30 minutes more to allow the lasagna to “plump” up and set. Cut and serve as required.

Strawberry Cream Shortcake

Strawberries are back in the fruit shops here in Sydney, though they are coming all the way down from Queensland. I have tasted some very delicious and fragrant specimens. So here’s a recipe to celebrate strawberries.

fresh ripe strawberries:

Strawberry Cream Shortcake

This cake is actually somewhere between a shortcake and a sponge. It

Bent on Food

Before you speculate too much on the meaning of today’s posting, you should know that Bent on Food is in fact the name of a cookery school on the New South Wales Mid North Coast.

The unique name originates from the fact that the school is in fact situated on Bent Street. Well, actually it isn’t, but Bent Street is nearby. Confusing. Anyway, I’ll be teaching there soon and if you live anywhere near Wingham NSW, don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity to come along for a delectable day of cookery and eating.

poised and ready:

Bent on Food Cooking School,

95 Isabella Street, Wingham NSW,

Saturday 3 September 2011,

Morning Cookery Workshop,
Details and Bookings or phone 02 6557 0727.

wingham folks:

It’s a demonstration course with some hands-on cooking as well. A perfect combination. Here’s our menu:

“Kurma’s Vegetarian World Food”

Pan-seared Chili- and Tamari-glazed Fresh Panir Cheese Steaks
on a bed of Sweet Potato Mash with Rocket Salad,

South Indian Mustard-tempered Carrot Salad with Lime and Fresh Coriander,

Moghul-inspired Saffron Spicy Rice served with Saudi Baharat-scented Chickpeas & Mixed Greens (Hoummos bi Sabanik),

Singapore Curry Puffs with Javanese Hot Chili & Tomato Relish (Sambal Bajak),

Homemade Yogurt Cheese (Labneh) with Balsamic and Honey-drenched Strawberries.

See you there!!

My Name is URL

searching:

I receive an enormous amount of letters asking for recipes, and I spend a lot of time answering them. Perhaps this information may help stem the flow:

If you ever need to find anything I have ever published about any subject, either on my blog or on my website, here’s two nifty ways of locating what you are looking for.

If you are looking for anything on my blog, go to the SEARCH box in the top right corner of the blog home page and key in what you are looking for.

If you are looking for anything that I have ever written about anything anywhere on my website or blog, try this nifty idea:

For example, if you wish to find everything I have ever written about cauliflower, go to GOOGLE search and key in: site:iskcon.net.au inurl:kurma cauliflower

Or, for example, cupcakes:

site:iskcon.net.au inurl:kurma cupcakes

Or for curry puffs:

site:iskcon.net.au inurl:kurma curry puffs

You get my drift. Happy searching!

Buckwheat Chapatis

roll em':

Yesterday’s blog on chapatis elicited a lot of response and specifically the conversations segued into making breads without wheat flour. One lady asked about making a bread suitable to eat on the grain-fasting day called ekadasi, which falls every eleven days after the full moon and new moon.

Though these details are in my archives, here’s the recipe again for buckwheat chapatis. By the way, they are very hard to roll out, having no gluten. Patience and a deft hand is required.

And no, oil is not required in the dough. The secret is mashed potato. Here we go:

Buckwheat Chapatis

Buckwheat is not technically a grain, but it lends itself to breads and pancakes as it behaves like a grain. In India and elsewhere, on the grain-free Vaisnava fasting day of Ekadasi, buckwheat, as well as other pseudo-grains, like chestnut flour and tapioca flour, are used in a variety of versatile ways. If you like the taste of buckwheat, you’ll love these tender versions of India’s most popular flatbread, the chapati.

Buckwheat contains no gluten, so those of you who can’t eat wheat will find this recipe appealing. As far as equipment is concerned, you’ll need at least one non-stick frypan, (two or three are better), a rolling pin, a smooth surface for rolling, and some kitchen tongs. Makes 10 large chapatis.

2 cups buckwheat flour, about 250g,

½ teaspoon salt,

300g peeled potatoes, about 3 medium-sized potatoes, cut into large pieces,

3 tablespoons water,

a good quantity of extra buckwheat flour for dusting and rolling,

melted butter or ghee (optional, for spreading over the chapatis after they’ve been cooked).

roll em': Combine the buckwheat flour and salt in a large bowl.

roll em': Boil the potatoes in sufficient water until they are very soft. Remove, drain and mash them. Measure the quantity of mashed potatoes. You will need 1 cup. Place the measured quantity of mashed potatoes in a large metal sieve over a large kitchen bowl. Push and rub the potato through the sieve and collect it in the bowl.

roll em': Pre-heat the large non-stick frying pan, or pans over moderate heat. Combine the warm mashed potato with the buckwheat flour. Add the water a little at a time to form a soft, but not sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a clean, smooth working surface, sprinkled with buckwheat flour. Turn and knead the dough for one or two minutes.

roll em': Pinch off 10 even-sized lumps of dough and form them into smooth balls, pressing and kneading them gently into thick patties. Dredge a patty of dough in flour and place it on the flour-strewn surface. Carefully roll it with a dry, flour-sprinkled rolling pin to a fairly thin, even, smooth disc about 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. If it sticks to the pin, re-roll it and apply more flour. A little care needs to be taken here since the dough contains no gluten and is very delicate.

roll em': Very carefully pick up the disc of dough and quickly transfer it to the frying pan. Slip it onto the hot pan, taking care to avoid wrinkling it. Cook it for about 1 minute on the first side. The top of the bread should start to show small bubbles, or it may even fully puff up in the pan – even better!

roll em': Turn it over, being careful not to tear it, and cook it on the reverse side. When a few dark spots appear on the underside, lift the chapati with kitchen tongs to about 5cm over a full flame, if you are using gas. If using an electric stove, you’ll need to sit a cake cooling rack above, but not touching, the element. The chapati should swell into a puffy balloon.

roll em': Cook it until it shows a few more darker spots, then place it in a bowl or basket covered with a clean cloth, and continue cooking the rest of the chapatis. When they are cooked and stacked, you may like to butter them. Serve buckwheat chapatis hot, or keep them warm, well covered, in a pre-heated warm oven for up to half an hour.

Chapati Party

my chapatis:

I’ve been craving hot buttered chapatis lately. Here’s some chapati images from my files, plus a recipe.

Tender Griddle-baked Wholewheat Flatbreads (Chapatis)

Chapatis are one of India’s most popular breads. They are enjoyed especially in the northern and central regions of India. They are partially cooked on a hot griddle and finished over an open-heat source. Chapatis are made from special wholemeal flour called atta, available from Indian grocers. If unavailable, substitute sifted wholemeal flour. You can spread melted butter or ghee on the chapatis after they are cooked.

dough man:

Chapatis are usually served at lunch or dinner and are great whether served with a 5-course dinner or just with a simple dal and salad. Makes 12 chapatis.

chapati dough:

2 cups sifted atta flour,

½ teaspoon salt, (optional)

water,

extra flour for dusting,

melted butter or ghee for serving.

chapati basic training:

Combine the chapati flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add up to 2/3 cup of water, slowly pouring in just enough to form a soft, kneadable dough. Turn the dough onto a clean working surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until silky-smooth. Cover with an overturned bowl and leave for ½ – 3 hours.

chapati party:

Knead the dough again for 1 minute. Divide the dough into 1 dozen portions. Roll them into smooth balls and cover with a damp cloth.

Preheat a griddle or non-stick heavy frying pan over moderately low heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Flatten a ball of dough, dredge it in flour, and carefully roll out the ball into a thin, perfectly even, smooth disk of dough about 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter.

Pick up the chapati and slap it between your hands to remove the excess flour. Slip it onto the hot plate, avoiding any wrinkles. Cook for about 1 minute on the first side. The top of the chapati should start to show small bubbles. Turn the chapati over with tongs. Cook it until small brown spots appear on the underside (about minute).

first class chapati:

Turn on a gas jet, pick up the chapati with your tongs, and hold it about 5 cm (2 inches) over the flame. It will swell into a puffy balloon. Continue to cook the chapati until it is speckled with black flecks. Place the cooked chapati in a bowl or basket, cover with a clean tea towel or cloth, and continue cooking the rest of the chapatis.

Serve: when they’re all cooked and stacked, you might like to butter them. Serve chapatis hot for best results or cover and keep warm in a preheated warm oven for up to ½ hour.

chapati:

Cooking for God

Here’s a archived blog from 2008, before the Hare Krishna Temple in Christchurch was severely damaged in February’s earthquake.

divine offerings:
Kurma Cookery Course, Belgium 2006

Melissa from Christchurch, New Zealand writes:

“Dear Kurma I was at the temple the other day and the samosas were amazing.
What goes into them to make them taste so amazing? Could it be the bhakti, or love and all the
ingredients?

My reply:

“Hello Melissa, yes, you are right. The ingredients have to be just right for any recipe to taste good; but you are correct in your conclusion that if the food (in this case those temple samosas) is prepared with Bhakti (love), then it will have an extra-special flavour that cannot be ascribed to any of the physical ingredients.

The consciousness of the cook permeates the food he/she prepares. By way of example: many can recall the delight of eating Mother’s or Grandmother’s cooking, which always tasted special. If they cooked with devotion or love for their family, it was the love that made things taste just that much more flavoursome.

So imagine if one can cook for God, and offer it to him with devotion. Of course God does not hunger for our cooking. But He enjoys our love and reciprocates by pervading the food with a special addictive taste. The food becomes a blessed sacrament, and eating that food pervades one’s consciousness with divinity.

The art of cooking for God has been perfected in Temples for millenia. The beauty of the process is that it can be even performed at home. Even cooking can be yoga. There are no impediments, and the results are truly spectacular. This is Bhakti Yoga, or connecting with God via loving service.”

Succulent Eggplant Pickles

Rebecca Kravitz from New York City wrote: “Hiya Kurma, do you have a recipe for something nice to do with eggplants? I have a whole box full and I am running out of ideas”.

My reply: Here’s one of my favourite eggplant recipes:

famous eggplant:

Hot & Sweet Eggplant Pickles

This tender and delicious pickle from Maharastra is simultaneously hot, salty, sweet and sour. Select firm, fresh eggplants for best results. You may wish to replace the cayenne with ground chilies of any variety, or with a chili paste such as sambal oelek, in which case the chili should be added towards the end alongside the sugar. Makes 3 cups.

450g eggplants, about 3 medium,

½ cup peanut oil, plus a drizzle more if needed,

2 or 3 teaspoons coarsely minced or chopped ginger,

1 teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

2 teaspoons salt,

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper,

½ cup apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice,

1 cup raw sugar,

2 teaspoons dry-roasted and ground cumin seeds.

Wash and dry the eggplants. Cut them into wedges, ensuring each wedge has some skin on it.

Heat the oil over moderate heat in a wok until fairly hot. Drop in the ginger and saute for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, saute momentarily then add the eggplant, salt and cayenne. Stir-fry the eggplants constantly for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are soft enough to pierce with a knife.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, and the sugar. Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are very tender. Sprinkle in the ground cumin seeds, and remove the pickle from the heat. Allow to cool then serve.

From the Bottom Drawer

I found these images of my 2003 South American tour and thought I’d share them with you.

kurma Brazil:

Cooking tomato chutney at a class conducted at Gopala Prasada Restaurant, Rua Antonio Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil. We splashed the camera with milk.

pinda:

Here we are at Nova Gokula Farm Community, Pindamonhangaba, São Paulo State, SP, Brazil. A beautiful, picturesque retreat ouside of São Paulo city.

chile days:

This is one day of a jam-packed multi-day course at the Hare Krishna Cultural Centre, at J.M Calle, Santiago de Chile.

Instituto:

And finally here cooking Gulab Jamuns at a class in the prestigious Instituto Argentino de Gastronomia, Avenida Santa Fé, Buenos Aires, Argentina. If you want to read the complete South American story, click here.