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Breakfast with Kurma

This is part of a simple breakfast I prepared this morning. I cut some chunks of perfectly ripe avocado and piled it atop low-fat cottage cheese that was generously spooned onto toasted multigrain sourdough toast.

brekky #1:

I drizzled it with a homemade dressing – lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, organic sesame paste (tahini), cracked black peppercorns, a little soy sauce, a little honey and a smidge of asafetida – all shaken up in a glass jar.

brekky #2:

Then I sprinkled the whole thing with those wonderful toasted seeds I made the other day, and draped it with fresh rocket leaves picked from my herb garden.

This was served with more toast topped with cream cheese, homemade strawberry jam, homemade kumquat marmalade with fruits from my tree, fresh ripe mango, mandarin segments, organic vanilla yogurt with ripe banana, and a selection of dry-roasted nuts – brazil, macadamia, almonds and pistachios.

A Seedy Business

Here’s some images of a very seedy affair that went down in my kitchen this morning.

those crunchy seeds:

I combined 250g sunflower seeds and 250g pumpkin seeds in a large frying pan and dry-roasted them very slowly, stirring constantly, until they darkened slightly to golden brown and became aromatic. This took 15 minutes. When the pumpkin seeds swelled and started to make popping sounds I splashed in a few tablepoons best quality full-salt soy sauce (Kikkoman) and stirred vigorously as the seeds became coated with the rapidly evaporating liquid. This is the trickiest stage and must be done very fast.

more with the crunchy seeds already:

I quickly tipped the hot seeds into a large bowl and continued to toss them until they were dry and loose. The resultant savoury, crunchy salted seeds are pure heaven sprinkled on top of salads or just eaten as a uber-healthy snack. I find that a top-quality Tamari is even better, and since it is wheat-free, appropriate for gluten intolerant folks. Braggs Liquid Aminos would work just fine too.

crunchy seeds up close:

You can also splash on some tabasco or cayenne at ‘crunch time’ for a spicier result.

Eggless Cakes Galore

banana cake:

Who doesn’t like cake? No need to answer this rhetorical question. Since many of the readers of this blog/feed will be, like me, of the vegetarian, no-eggs-in-their-cakes persuasion, here’s a great link that will get you baking almost immediately you visit this link.

With delights such as Apple and Cinnamon Cake, Apricot Caramel Upside-down Cake,
Blackberry and Apple Cake, Blueberry Loaf, Fresh Pear and Bran Cake, Gooseberry Cake, Mango Cake, Parisiene Apple Gingerbread, Passion Fruit Teabread, Lebanese Date Cake and Vegan Lemon Sponge Cake, how could you resist?

Off you go, preheat the oven right now.

Musings on Potato Soup

Kaustubha from Cleveland, Ohio wrote me today:

“Hare Krishna!! Just curious if you know of any good tricks or tips to make a hearty potato soup? Something thick and creamy like a chowder. It’s getting to get colder around us and those would be great to warm up to this time of year.

Every recipe I see has a good amount of onions and garlic in it which I would like to avoid but I’m not sure asafetida could be a substitute for that.”

Hearty potato soup:

My reply: “Dear Kaustubha,

My hearty potato soups are very simple. Interestingly, I just made a batch for my father this morning.

Boil good quality peeled chunks of
mashing variety potato in a small amount of slightly salted water (just covered) with a decent pinch of asafetida, and then when the potato pieces are falling apart, insert a bamix/ hand blender and puree the mix, leaving a few chunks of potato unblended if you wish.

You could cook fresh fennel root and/or cauliflower a longside the potatoes at the beginning for something a bit different. You could also add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to the original boiling potatoes for additional variant in flavour.

Before ladling out into pre-heated bowls, add generous amounts of finely chopped fresh dill (or dried if fresh is unavailable) sour cream, butter, enough salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Add hot milk to make a consistency you prefer, if needed.

Serve with more fresh or dried dill, or fresh watercress, and/or croutons. Substitute olive oil for the butter if you wish, or substitute parsley for the dill.”

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

Cold and wet conditions have returned to Sydney. and the mind turns to comfort food. Recently I prepared a pizza topped with a generous assortment of roasted vegetables and fresh mozzarella cheese.

ready for the oven:

I pre-roasted potato, white sweet potato, fresh fennel root, pumpkin, beets, grape tomatoes and zucchini in the oven while my homemade pizza dough was rising. I rolled out the dough and spread it on my pizza tray.

fresh out of the oven # 1:

Then I removed the roasting tray of cooked vegies from the oven and three-quarter cooked my pizza dough. The vegies and fresh mozzarella were generously strewn, sprinkled with Greek oregano (rigani) and splashings of olive oil, and then returned to the hot oven.

fresh out of the oven # 2:

The cooked pizza was finally served with a generous spiral drizzle of homemade rocket and almond pesto and topped with fresh rocket leaves from the garden, but by then my camera was out of battery power, so you’ll just have to imagine how nice it looked – and, after the usual sanctifying mantras were uttered, how it tasted.


Robert K from New Mexico writes: “Can I make naan breads without a tandoor oven?”

My reply: Yes. They may not be as spectacularly scorched and smoky as the ones in this photo, but they are certainly an acceptable substitute. Here’s my recipe:


Punjabi Baked Flatbread (Naan)

This popular leavened bread, especially enjoyed in Punjab in north-west India and Pakistan, is cooked in a traditional coal or wood-fired clay oven called a tandoor. Many versions of this flat bread are found throughout central Asia, from Iran in the East to the Soviet countries in the North.

The breads, enriched with milk, yogurt and butter, are slapped onto the inner walls of the hot oven where they cook quickly, partially puffing, and taking on a smoky flavour. The occasional charred spot from where the flames lick them adds a delightful crisp textured crust. This recipe calls for a household griller, which does a pretty good job.

If you have a tandoor oven, all the better. Naan are traditionally sprinkled with kalonji seeds that are also known as nigella seeds and occasionally misnamed as onion seeds. Kalonji seeds are available at Indian and specialty grocers.

DOUGH RESTING TIME: about 4 1/2 hours

PREPARATION TIME: about 30 minutes

COOKING TIME: about 6 minutes per bread

YIELD: 6 naan

1/2 teaspoons dried yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

1/4 cup warm milk

1/4 cup yogurt

4 tablespoons melted butter or ghee

3 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kalonji seeds

about 1/2 cup extra warm water

2 teaspoons extra kalonji seeds

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy.

Mix the frothy yeast mixture with the warm milk, yogurt and melted butter or ghee. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and 1 teaspoon kalonji seeds in a large bowl, and add the blended wet ingredients. Mix well, adding a little of the extra warm water at a time until the mixture leaves the side of the bowl and becomes a non-sticky, kneadable dough. Knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and set it aside in a warm place for about 4 hours or until it is well risen.

Punch the dough down and knead it briefly, adding a little flour if it is sticky. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and form each piece into a smooth ball. Place the balls on an oiled plate and cover them with plastic wrap. Allow the balls to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Pre-heat the griller to the highest setting. Place a shelf 12.5cm (5 inches) under the heat source, and pre-heat your baking sheet. Roll and stretch a ball of dough into a teardrop shape, about 25cm (10 inches) long and 12.5cm (5 inches) wide at its base. Repeat for one more ball of dough and spray the bread with water. Sprinkle on half the extra kalonji seeds.

Place the breads under the griller and cook them for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they rise and turn golden brown. Avoid placing the breads too close to the griller, otherwise the breads may not fully cook inside before browning. If you wish, allow the breads to become slightly toasted, with a few charcoal flecks.

Remove the breads from the oven, cover them with a clean teatowel and repeat the procedure for the remaining breads. Serve the naan hot or warm.


Jenny G from Milsons Point in Sydney wrote: “Hello Kurma, I am a great fan of your work. Can you share a recipe for Baklava with me?”

My reply: Yes!


Turkish Nut Pastries in Syrup (Baklava)

Baklava is probably one of the best known of all Middle Eastern sweets. In this delightful version of Turkish origin, sheets of buttered wafer-thin filo pastry are layered with nuts and baked; then they’re soaked in a lemon and orange-blossom flavoured sugar and honey syrup.

Preparation & cooking time: about 1 hour 5 minutes

Baklava soaking time: overnight, or at least 2 hours

Makes: about 18 large pieces


450g (1 pound) filo pastry (about 30 sheets)

250g (9 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

250g (9 ounces) finely chopped walnuts (or almonds, pistachios, or a combination)

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

¼ cup sugar


1¼ cups sugar

1 cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon orange-blossom water (available at Middle Eastern grocers)

Butter a 28cm x 18cm (11-inch x 7-inch) tin. If necessary, cut the pastry the size of the tin.

Place one sheet of pastry on the bottom of the tin and butter it with a pastry brush. Repeat for half the pastry (about 15 sheets).

Combine the nuts, cinnamon, and sugar.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top layer of buttered filo pastry. Continue layering the remaining pastry on top of the nut mixture, again brushing each layer of pastry with melted butter. After the final layer of pastry is placed on top, brush it with butter.

Carefully cut the tray of pastry into diagonal diamond shapes with a sharp knife, cutting directly to the base.

Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/355°F for about 45 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.

Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a pan, stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar, and then boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the honey, stir to dissolve, and add the orange-blossom water.

Pour the hot syrup over the cooked baklava. Let set for at least 2 hours, or for best results leave overnight for the syrup to be fully absorbed.