Festive Fare

I catered for my Dad’s 87th birthday party last weekend. Here’s some highlights of the spread.

K inari:

Inari-zushi are one of my favourite ways of serving sushi rice, and I have had loads of practice at making them. They are served here on a bed of watercress leaves. Splendid finger food!

mini K kakes:

I had a bash at cake decoration – it has never been my specialty. I need a bit more practice with the piping bag. The mini-cupcakes were based on a great recipe for eggless cupcakes by fellow food blogger Sanjana.

orange cheesecake:

The citrus cheesecake was based on a recipe in my very first cookbook. Lime, and orange flavoured inside with a mandarin jelly topping and glace orange segments dipped in something brown and naughty.

mini K kakes #2:

Here’s those mini-cupcakes again – pretty little dudes. It was great fun putting them together, and I gave myself plenty of time for a meditative and careful construct.

close Kakes:

And even closer encounters of the cupcake variety. Two varieties of cupcakes and two varieties of buttercream toppings plus eight different toppings meant that almost no two cupcakes were exactly the same. Simultaneously one and different!

News from the Garden

Perhaps the truly bitterly cold weather is on the decline here in Sydney. The plants are behaving like Spring is on the way, that is for sure.

rainbow chard 2011:

The rainbow chard/silverbeet is looking good. After the last full moon it really surged in growth and vitality. It is very tender in salads and soups, and the more I pick, the more it grows.

pass the parsley:

The flat-leaf parsley is a perennial favourite of mine, fresh, tasty and beautiful as a garnish.

chocolate mint:

This is chocolate mint, with a spearmint aroma and an intriguing after-dinner mint mouthfeel.

orchid 1:

I can’t take credit for the orchids. They just re-bloom every year due to the artistic direction of Krishna and my father’s gardening abilities.

orchid 2:

As soon as Spring actually arrives I will start to plant some more warmer season items. I just love to use things in my kitchen that I have grown myself.

Buddha's Hand Citron

I was offered this intriguing fruit at a cookery class that I facilitated last weekend in Canberra.

Buddha's Hand Citron #1:

It’s known as Buddha’s Hand Citron, or fingered cirtron [Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis] and is also known as in Japan as bushukan.

Buddha's Hand Citron #2:

The origin of the Buddha’s hand plant can be traced back to Northeastern India and China.

Buddha's Hand Citron #3:

I am thinking of making candied citron out of it, since it is purely peel without any fruit or juice inside, but not at all bitter.


I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

Cinnamon and Alzeimers

wonderful cinnamon:

Cinnamon May Hold The Key To Alzheimer`s Disease Prevention And Treatment

By John Phillip for Natural News on 12 Aug 2011

“Researchers from Tel Aviv University report in the PLoS ONE journal that the common spice cinnamon found in many kitchen pantries around the world may hold a crucial key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer`s disease cases are growing at an exponential pace, currently affecting one in eight people over the age of 65. Cutting edge research posits that the devastating illness is in part the result of metabolic disruption in the brain and has been coined `Type III diabetes` as it disrupts insulin levels in brain tissue. An extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, has been shown to inhibit the development and progression of the disease in this latest study.

Researchers from the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University found that potent extracts from cinnamon bark inhibit the toxic amyloid polypeptide oligomers and fibrils that have been found in Alzheimer`s brain plaque formations. The healing power of cinnamon has been known since biblical times as high priests used the spice to protect against infectious disease. Antiviral properties have been confirmed by modern research and have prompted studies to further examine extracts from the spice that may stop the development of Alzheimer`s disease.

Scientists have isolated the CEppt active compound found in cinnamon bark and created an aqueous solution for use in research experiments. The solution was fed to mice genetically altered to develop an aggressive form of Alzheimer`s disease. After a period of four months, researchers found that development of the disease had been slowed dramatically and activity levels and longevity were comparable to a control group of healthy mice.

In addition to the disease regression findings, researchers determined that the cinnamon extract was found to break up the classic amyloid protein clusters in test tube experiments. Lead researcher Professor Michael Ovadia believes this indicates that CEppt is not only important to inhibit the development and progression of Alzheimer`s disease, but this may also help to break up existing tangles once they have formed.

Many natural substances including resveratrol, curcumin and blueberries have shown promise in preventing this devastating form of dementia, but this therapy may reverse the disease once a diagnosis has been presented. Professor Ovadia commented on the results of this research “The discovery is extremely exciting. While there are companies developing synthetic AD inhibiting substances, our extract would not be a drug with side effects, but a safe, natural substance that human beings have been consuming for millennia.”

Scientists conducting this study did not publish the amount of cinnamon used to produce their results. Nutrition experts recommend using cinnamon liberally sprinkled on food daily or supplementing with 500 mg of cinnamon bark extract taken daily with meals. Cinnamon is rapidly becoming a natural compound that may hold the key to prevent and treat Alzheimer`s disease.”

Sambar Time

I received two letters in as many days asking for a recipe for Sambar. Allow me to re-post an older blog to answer both requests.

sambar for you:

Uthaya Kumar from Malaysia wrote:

“Dear Kurma Ji, I’m a vegetarian. But I do have a penchant for garlic and onions since as you know they are heavily used in South Indian cooking.

Well, I have been trying to meditate, but to no avail. I do think that maybe I need to get rid of onions and garlic since they may halt the progress.

My question: is it possible for sambar to be made without onions and
garlic? Thank you, Kumar.”

My response:

“It certainly is possible, and is done like that in all orthodox temple kitchens in South India as well as in the homes of orthodox Vaisnavas. Here is my sambar recipe. Give it a try. You may also wish to add the excellent Sri Vaisnava sambar masala recipe posted here. Happy cooking!”

Traditional Hot-and-Sour Toor-dal (Sambar)

This South Indian soup is traditionally chili-hot. Reduce the chili content for a milder version. Sambar features three main ingredients: toor dal, tamarind pulp, and a special spice powder called sambar masala. All three ingredients are available at any Indian grocer.

Sambar’s delightful hot-and-sour flavour can be made more substantial with the addition of practically any vegetable of your choice. Serve it with plain fluffy rice, with any South Indian selection. Serves 5 persons.

1 cup split toor dal

6 cups water

½ teaspoon turmeric

3 teaspoons butter

3 or 4 tablespoons tamarind puree

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons ghee or oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons hot green chilies, seeded and minced

¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

handful fresh or dried curry leaves

½ teaspoon yellow asafoetida powder

1 – 2 tablespoons sambar masala

1½ – 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves

Wash and drain the toor dal. Soak the dal in 1 litre of hot water for 3 hours. Drain.

Boil the dal, water, turmeric, and butter over high heat in a 4-litre/quart saucepan. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour or until the dal becomes soft. Whisk or blend the soup until smooth. Add the cayenne, sugar and tamarind puree.

Heat the ghee or oil in a small pan over moderately high heat. Saute the mustard seeds in the hot ghee until they crackle.

Add the green chilies and fenugreek seeds. When the fenugreek seeds turn a darker shade, add the curry leaves, asafetida, and sambar masala. Saute momentarily; then add to the simmering dal.

Remove from the heat, season with salt, garnish with the chopped coriander, and serve hot.

Homemade Corn Flat-Bread (Tortilla)

S R from London writes: “I recently went through your website and tried Kurminos Pizza and it turned out well. Thanks for the recipe. I want to make home made ‘el paso tortilla’ wraps. wraps. Can you please help me with a recipe?”

Here’s an old recipe of mine from my very first cookbook. Give it a try.


Corn Flat-Bread (Tortilla)

Tortillas are the national bread of Mexico. They are thin and round and made from a white cornmeal called masa. Tortillas are cooked on a griddle without browning, so they are quite soft and may be eaten as they are or fried briefly in oil to crisp them. Masa harina is available from specialty shops, or you can try fine white polenta as a substitute. Tortillas may be toasted and used for Tacos, or rolled and stuffed, as in Enchiladas.


YIELD: 8 tortillas.

1/4 cup masa harina or fine white polenta,

1/4 cup cold water,

1/2 cup boiling water,

1/2 teaspoon salt,

1 tablespoon oil,

1 cup (250 ml) fine wholemeal flour.

Combine the masa or fine polenta and cold water in a bowl.

Stir this mixture into the boiling salted water in a saucepan over full heat. Stir until the mixture is thick, drawing away from the sides of the pan.
Remove the thickened mixture from the heat and place it in a bowl.

Add the oil and mix thoroughly.

Stir in the wholemeal flour to make a soft dough and knead on a lightly floured board until smooth (about 10 minutes), adding more flour if necessary.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and shape them into balls. Flatten the balls and roll them out to 0.125 cm (1/16-inch) thickness.

Heat an un-oiled, heavy cast iron pan over moderate heat and, one at a time, bake the tortillas, flipping them over several times until they are lightly golden on both sides. Cool. Serve as suggested above.

Ekadasi Coconut Cake

Here’s a grain-free cake suitable for ekadasi fasting. It’s from “The Book of Egg Free Cakes” By Cintia Stammers. I have not cooked it myself but I have heard from good cake makers that it works well.

coconut sponge cake:

(not a photo of this cake, but an impetus to make it)

1 1/4 cups milk powder,

1 1/4 cups potato flour,

1 cup caster sugar,

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

1/4 cup butter,

1/2 cup grated coconut,

2 medium bananas, mashed,

1/2 cup yogurt or cultured buttermilk,

Finely grated rind of one lemon and one orange,

1/2 cup fine or coarsly chopped roasted hazelnuts or almonds,

cream and jam or fresh fruits if required.

Butter and flour one 10-inch cake tin.

Set oven to 170 C / 330 F.

Sift together the milk powder, potato flour, sugar and bicarb soda.

Melt the butter in a small pan and toast the coconut in it.

Mash the bananas and mix in the yogurt, rind and coconut. Add the dry ingredients and nuts and beat with a spoon.

Pour cake batter into the buttered tin and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Test with toothpick, allow the cake to rest for ten
minutes and turn it out onto a cooling rack. When cool, split and fill with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Happy Orange Cake Returns

Today is my father’s 87th birthday. We’re having a get-together next weekend and I’m planning the menu. Mmm…what to make…?

orange cake action:

Well, here’s an idea: I just received a note from a Charmaine who wrote: “Just made this cake and it is delicious. Thank you.”

I’d forgotten about that one. Yep, I think it’ll be on the menu again. Though this time I think I will top it with an orange cream cheese frosting. Give it a try, the recipe works. Charmaine agrees.

Garlic as Medicine


JM Dasa wrote enquiring about the medicinal effects of garlic.

I referred him to this link, which basically is a list of links to everything I have ever blogged on the subject of garlic and onions, and to some extent how garlic can be used as medicine.

If you wish to circumvent all those links and get straight to the medicinal uses, then click here.

Fresh Fennel

Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is in the shops right now in Sydney, and judging by it’s cheap price, it must be at it’s peak of season. It has a mild, aromatic sweet anise-like flavour. It is known in Italy by the name finocchio. Here’s a great fennel recipe.

fresh fennel: .

Country-style Anise-scented Cream of Fennel Soup

The sweet, rustic licorice taste of fennel is at once unmistakable and subtle. It is so flavourful that it requires no stock, only water, and no extra herbs to transform it into a full-bodied hearty, satisfying soup. If the inner core of the fennel is tough and stringy, remove it with a paring knife. Serves 6.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter,

1 teaspoon yellow asafetida powder,

4 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced,

1 large red potato, sliced,

6½ cups cold water,

1 cup heavy cream,

2 teaspoons salt,

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper,

2 tablespoons chopped fennel greens.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder and saute momentarily.

Stir in the sliced fennel and fry, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender and translucent.

Add the sliced potato, cold water, cream and the salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the fennel is soft and tender.

Puree the soup, using a food processor, blender, or hand-held mixer.

Pour the soup through a fine strainer. Serve: stir in the chopped fennel greens, then ladle into 6 warm soup bowls.