Saturday, November 20, 2010


One of the larger states,and an industrial powerhouse of India, Maharashtra, is located in the middle western portion of the country. It includes several hundred miles of beautiful Arabian Sea coast, dotted with coconut trees. Coconut meat is a big feature of Maharashtrian cuisine. One of the regions most popular dishes, Batata Murghi is an easy to prepare, one-dish meal, that includes a tasty blend of coconut and spices to flavour tender chicken strips. It's a terrific blend of sweet and spicy.
Serves 4-6

2 baking potatoes
3 tablespoons (45ml) peanut oil
2 tablespoons (30ml) minced garlic
1/3/ cup (75ml) dried shredded coconut
1 tablespoon (15ml) coriander seeds
1 or 2 fresh chilies, such as Serrano
½ cup (125ml) of water, approximate
1 lb (500gm) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 ½ cups (375ml) diced tomatoes (about 3)
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
1 teaspoon 5ml) Garam Masala
¼ teaspoon (1ml) powdered turmeric
3 tablespoons (45ml) fresh coriander leaves, chopped finely
(Coriander is also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley)


1. Peel and cut the potatoes into 8 wedges each. Cover them, bring to a boil and simmer until just tender (10-15 minutes). Then drain.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) of oil in a big skillet or wok over a medium flame. Stir fry the garlic until it is just barely golden. Add the coriander seed, coconut and chilies. Cook 1 minute, stirring all the while, until the coconut is golden.
3. Place this coconut mixture in an electric blender with a ½ cup (125ml) of water and whirl on medium until it's smooth. Put aside for now. Wipe skillet.
4. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet on medium.
5. Make sure the chicken is dry. Cut it into strips the size of your small finger and toss with a little cornstarch to keep it tender. Cook it in the oil about 3 minutes, stirring now and again, until it is golden.
6. Add the coconut mixture and all other ingredients except the coriander leaves to the chicken.
7. Lower the flame and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes. Stirring often until done.
8. Garnish with chopped coriander when serving.

Batata Murghi, with its spices that tantalize your palate, can also be prepared with lamb or goat meat. Either way you're sure to enjoy this fragrant, and exotic Indian dish. Try this dish at your next party. When your guests arrive they will be greeted by spicy aromas that will make their mouth water as it piques their curiosity.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Years ago I used to go with some co-workers to a McDonalds every morning. We enjoyed each others company and most of us invariably ordered coffee and biscuits. I always made it a point to not have more than two, because I considered them perhaps a little dangerous. I knew white flour was not all that healthy, so I didn’t gorge on them. I figured the trans-fats in the biscuits were not as healthy as old-fashioned lard, because the manufacturers hydrogenated the oils and added chemicals to make them stable. This was for the shelf life of their products, not to add goodness. Any (fresh) product that when treated can be stored for over a year simply cannot be healthy. I know there are exceptions like dried beans, but they are simply dried, an ancient preservation technique. Supermarket shelves are loaded with processed “food” products that if you read the ingredients you probably couldn’t pronounce them unless you studied chemistry. Our taste buds get so jaded with these manufactured “foods”. To pump up the taste they use a lot of salt. As filler and to mask the taste, corn syrup is used. And if you look carefully, you’ll see plenty more chemicals that shouldn’t be in that gaily-wrapped “food” product.

I don’t enjoy fast food. It doesn’t seem real to me. Years ago when my work was out-of-doors in different parts of the city, if I got hungry I would get a small loaf of French bread and a tin of Brisling sardines at a grocery store. (A grocery store is like a miniature super market, only a few aisles) Back then those Brislings were packed in Sild oil, very healthy and more importantly at the time, very delicious. A friend of mine used to go to a fast food place and get a hamburger (incredible how they can make those patties so paper-thin). Whenever we talked about it, he exclaimed he didn’t particularly enjoy them, but it filled him up. That was so sad to hear. Food should be a wonderful, tasty, soul satisfying experience.

If I’m stuck out in the field and get hungry, peanuts are readily available, along with other nuts as well. It’s a shame that people are so rushed for time that they consume chemical laden products. Let me show you two different ingredient lists for the same basic product.

Full ingredient list for a Chicken McNugget (from McDonald’s website)

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Full ingredient list for Homemade Fried Chicken:

Bone-in chicken pieces, egg, milk, flour, oil (I like lard or peanut oil) salt and pepper.

How can something so simple get so complicated? All to save time? My mother used to say: What do people do with all this “time” they save?

Surely, in a few minutes you can wolf down an inexpensive, filling meal. Use the drive-thru and you don’t even have to walk the hundred feet or so to get your “meal”. But for goodness sakes what is the true cost of these “fast foods”. They may be cheap on your wallet, but also your body, health and longevity as well.

A little planning can make your life better. Get a decent thermos bottle and pack homemade soups. Carry peanuts or pack a lunch sandwich made with quality stuff. Once you study it, you will see how horrible a steady diet of fast food is. Read the ingredients on store-bought products. But remember, prepared food is overwhelmingly loaded with chemicals that may not be healthy. Sure, they may not kill you… yet.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"The Angels of Mons" by Carl Leckey MBE

Shortly after writing Great Britain Eats Tons of Chicken Tikka Masala, my beautiful bride wondered if her cousin, who lives in Northwest England, enjoys Indian food.

My wife’s cousin, Carl Leckey, had worked on tugboats in the busy Mersey River for many years. After that he was a lock-keeper for the British waterways. In 1985, Carl was awarded a Churchill travelling fellowship to study ports and harbour services in the USA and in China. Subsequently, Mr. Leckey undertook a series of lectures on his findings, and in 1995 was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by the queen for services to the British waterways.

Suffering from arthritis, he underwent hypnotherapy to relieve the pain. A side effect was recalling events in his past all the way back to childhood, where Carl recalled listening to his grandfather and fellow vets discussing the horrors of World War I. A fascinating subject discussed by Carl’s grandfather and friends was an incident that happened in Mons, Belgium. The British and German soldiers allegedly witnessed a group of angels hovering in the air above the battleground, perhaps trying to stop the slaughter or give solace to all involved.

Carl’s book, “The Angels of Mons,” is about an underage member of the “Labour Corps” and his mates who drove the ambulances and dealt with grisly matters on the front lines. It is fact-based fiction that will open your eyes to the horrors of the Great War.

Mr. Leckey has written two additional books since then. In stark contrast to the gritty yet sometimes humorous “The Angels of Mons,” he has written a funny story about his time working on the British canals with zany characters that will entertain you. It is titled, “Tales of the Cut.” He has also written a riveting sequel to “The Angels of Mons.”

You can find his books at or direct from the author in the UK. Check out Carl’s web site for details.

My beautiful bride asked Carl and his lovely spouse Rose for a couple of his and her favourite recipes. Here is one that I knew would be terrific before I even cooked it. As a former homebrewer I appreciate beers, ales and malt beverages; hoppy and malty. This recipe uses a stout porter of worldwide renown, Guiness. If you ever find Guiness stout on draught, try some, it is wonderful. If you cannot find Guiness, then get a dark, malty porter. If you can’t find that, then move. Anyway, Carl and Rose call this:

Food Fit for a King

1 lb shin beef (I used Chuck, good collagen makes nice gravy) cubed into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, sliced thickly
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 bottle of Guiness stout (or a dark porter)
14oz can of tomatoes, crushed or pureed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Beef stock

Season the beef with lightly salted and peppered flour. Shake off excess.
Sauté beef in oil thoroughly to brown all over.
Remove beef and sauté the onions, garlic, celery and carrots a minute.
Place beef and vegetables in a preheated casserole dish.
Pour on the Guiness and the tomatoes and simmer with the lid on.
Make sure the beef is covered, if needed add some beef stock

Cook about 45minutes or so till beef is tender.

Make dumplings and half an hour before serving add them to casserole. Again, be sure you have enough liquid.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 cup of milk (perhaps a little more)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Cut in butter and mix
Stir milk lightly into the flour with a wooden spoon
Make sure the dough is moist

With the liquid at a gentle simmer (not boiling); drop the dumplings into the casserole by either teaspoons or tablespoons. Now cover the pot, they need the steam. Check after 5 minutes, they should be almost done. Leave the lid ajar and the dumplings will crisp up slightly.

Serve in bowls with a couple of dumplings in each. Don’t tell Carl and Rose this, but if you don’t care for dumplings, you could peel and cube a couple of potatoes and cook them with the other vegetables.

By the way, you can make this in a slow cooker on low for about 6-8 hours.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


One might think that the most popular dish in Great Britain is Fish and Chips, but with 18 tons consumed there each week, the national dish of Britain is actually Chicken Tikka Masala.

As popular as this curried chicken is, it is indeed not indigenous to the sub-continent, but was concocted by an Asian chef in London. Nonetheless; it is a delectably tasty treat often ordered at Indian restaurants; the most popular curry on their menus. I wonder how many people make it at home in the British Isles or here in the U.S.A? I’ve made it a few times, each time tweaking it, but still wanting to keep it authentic to the curry house favourite.

Even if you are unfamiliar with Chicken Tikka Masala, you are sure to love this stunning, spicy delight. You might already have all the required groceries on hand, or can easily obtain them. Millions of Britons can’t be wrong, so try this Tikka.

This is an adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe by Rebecca Hays.

For the chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¾ teaspoon ground coriander powder
¾ teaspoon ground cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper to your taste

For the yoghurt
1 cup of whole milk Greek yoghurt or regular whole milk
yoghurt plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh gingerroot

For the masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander powder
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon powdered ginger

For the sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh gingerroot
1 minced fresh chile
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tin (28ounce) tomatoes crushed by hand or in blender
2 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream


Combine the six chicken spices and salt in a small bowl.
Sprinkle all over the chicken and press in so it sticks.
Now put the chicken on a platter, cover loosely and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour is ok).
In a large bowl, blend the yoghurt, oil (if using), garlic and gingerroot. Set aside.

Make the sauce by heating the butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over a medium flame.
Stir in the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, gingerroot, chile and tomato paste plus the masala mixture and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt. Bring it to boiling, than simmer over a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Now stir in the cream and return to simmer. Then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce is simmering, place rack in oven 6 inches from heat source. Turn on broiler. With tongs, submerge the chicken breasts into the prepared yoghurt. Put the coated breasts (make sure they all have a nice coating) on a wire rack and place that in a broiler pan. (I have a cast iron skillet with a ridged bottom designed for broiling hamburgers which also works very well).

Broil the chicken about 7 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Look for a slightly charred but not scorched surface. Then turn over and cook the flip side the same way.

When the chicken is cooked, cut each breast into similar- sized chunks. When ready to serve, taste the sauce for salt, then place the chicken pieces (tikka) in the sauce, and serve right away. Serve over steamed rice. You can garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

If the list of ingredients seems a little off-putting, you could mix the masala blend and prepare the yoghurt the day before to save some time. This dish is really marvelous, no wonder it’s so deservedly cherished.

Monday, October 18, 2010


In 1981, I am with a group of automobile people in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to preview the newly designed Chevrolet Camaro. It hasn’t come out yet and we are seeing it for the first time, on film in a big screen. Because of industrial spies, everything is tightly supervised. When the film starts and the Camaro is viewed, the whole audience applauds.

It was a beautiful automobile, so I suppose the reaction was ok; but the meal we enjoyed, now that was laudable. Nobody applauded, but we could have. Among the items served, a Cassoulet was astounding. A gent seated next to me said “these beans are wonderful, eh?” He was right. The sausage, the pork, the beans, all cooked with confit made a delicious dish. I forgot what else we had that day, but not that dish of beans and meat. Sometimes when you order it, it is too salty; one time mine had a greasy taste. Cassoulet is not popularly made at home because it is complicated, and you can’t always get the traditional groceries. I went to the library and looked it up, and then proceeded to refine it. I ended up with a Cassoulet that’s simple yet tasty. This is a delightful classic and serves about 8 diners. If you want to, you can make it on a weekend and freeze portions for later in the week. You could substitute other meats as well.

Prepare the beans

1 lb (500g) dried Great Northern Beans
20 fluid ounces (600ml) chicken broth
20 fluid ounces (600ml) water
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon minced garlic,
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters, and stuck with 2 cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
2 bay leaves.

Rinse and sort the beans. Soak overnight or quick- soak by covering with water, bringing to a boil and let sit for one hour.
Then drain and throw out soak water. Put all the above ingredients in a big pot or a pressure cooker. Either cook for one hour in regular pot, or 5 minutes in pressure cooker. When done, set aside or quick -release the pressure cooker. Remove one cup of beans. If not soft enough, boil until soft and mash them. Return to pot.(The beans can still be a little firm as they are going into the oven. The mashed beans are to give body to the casserole).

Finish the cassoulet

5 slices bacon
1 lb (500g) kielbasa or other cured, smoked sausage, sliced
4 smoked pork chops
1 lb (500g) bratwurst sliced
½ cup white wine
2 carrots, cleaned and sliced

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
Fry bacon crisply, remove and crumple it and save the drippings. Don’t crowd the skillet, fry up the meats, some at a time, until all are browned. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, place half the beans in a Dutch oven and place meats over, including crumpled bacon, and then cover that with remaining beans. Cover the Dutch oven, put into the oven and bake for 1 hour, check midway to make sure there is enough liquid, if not add a little water.
When serving, you may want to cut the chops up so there is some for all.

Try cooking these beans and meats, they’re absolutely scrumptious.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


When I was very young, the first meal I prepared was a remarkable recipe called “boef a la mode” from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Tasting it while it was braising, I could tell it was special, and when I served it, everyone raved over the sensational taste. The beef was exceedingly tender and flavourful, and the sauce was divine. But somewhere along the way I lost that book and never made the dish again.

Recently, I am talking about food with a good cook, and the talk turns to pot roast. My mom used to make a pot roast when I was a child, and I remember she used a stale end chunk of rye bread in it to help thicken it. My friend and I agreed that using bones makes a wonderful unctuous broth, but he says last time he had no bones and tried a packet of gelatin in its place to good success. I want to try that.

I decide to prepare boef a la mode again, this time sans bones. Judging from my BW’s reaction, it is something to behold. Since it’s something I want all to taste, I’m writing it all down here. With all due respect to the exalted Miss Child, here is how I do it.


1 boneless eye of chuck roast (about 4 lbs)
1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt
Enough ground pepper to season beef
3 cups of red wine (a medium bodied wine you like to drink)
5 strips of bacon
1 ½ cups of finely chopped onion
1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons flour
20 ounces beef broth
6 carrots, cleaned and cut into about 1 inch slices
2 turnips, peeled and quartered
3 onions, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
½ tablespoon white sugar
½ cup water
½ lb mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
1 tablespoon unflavoured gelatin powder
1 bunch parsley- set aside a small handful of leaves and mince them.
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns


Take the meat and separate it into two halves where the muscle is. You can almost pull it apart barehanded, or use a paring knife to aid you. You can trim off any excess fat now.

Season each half all over with salt and put into a colander over a flat pan for one hour at room temperature.

Reduce the wine over medium flame to 2 cups, takes about 10 minutes.

Tie parsley, thyme and bay leaves or encase in a metal tea ball, if big enough.

Pre-heat oven to 300F (150C) and put rack in lower third.

Dry surface of beef with paper towel and lightly sprinkle ground black pepper all over.

Get 6 lengths of kitchen string and tie 3 around each piece of beef.

Cook bacon in skillet till crisp. Remove, drain and crumple. Keep skillet nearby.

Put 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in a Dutch oven over high flame. When very hot, brown the beef thoroughly on all sides. Take your time because this is important. As each piece is well browned, remove to a platter.

Lower flame to medium and add the onion, stirring now and again until softened. Then add the garlic, flour and crumpled bacon pieces. Stir for about a minute, and then add the concentrated wine, beef broth, herbs and peppercorns. Scrape the pan with spatula to loosen bottom.

Put platter of beef plus juices on platter into the Dutch oven. Turn flame up and bring to simmer. Put the cover on; make sure it is not loose.

Put the Dutch oven in the oven. Set your timer. Each hour (set timer for 1 hour 3 times) turn meat over in the Dutch oven (carefully- use tongs or two spatulas). For last hour, add carrots and turnips. There should be plenty of liquid in pot, if necessary add water.

Meanwhile, Put onions, butter, sugar and ½ cup water in that skillet, turn flame high.

Cover skillet, turn heat down and cook 5 minutes.

Uncover, raise flame and cook until liquid is boiled off. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and cook stirring often until vegetables are browned, about 10 minutes.

Remove from stove. Sprinkle the gelatin powder into ¼ cup cold water.

When beef is done, put in platter again to rest. Use the foil to cover it loosely.

Let braising liquid cool off. Skim off any excess fat. Take out the herbs bundle and put in onion mixture. Simmer until thickened over medium flame for about 20 minutes. You should have a lot of sauce. Taste and perhaps add a little salt and pepper.

Add the gelatin and stir thoroughly.

After beef has sat awhile and cooled off remove string and slice.

Serve with the vegetables.

This dish is a couple hundred years old, but still good. It is not an everyday dish, but once in awhile… as a special dish… hey, it’s good groceries.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I remember way back, I’m in this swanky French restaurant in Manhattan. It is thoroughly very nice. The words on the menu are in French and the waiters have French names and even French accents. I eat a charming fish course and a lovely soup. Today I can barely remember the meal except for the dessert. Finishing the dinner I’m quite full, but the waiter offers me a Crème Caramel and says it’s a perfect light dessert to top off my meal. How can I vocally say no? To this day I recall that tasty custard for all its deliciousness.

The other day I’m going down the aisles in my local market with my BW (beautiful wife), the Tipster. I come by little boxes of a dry powder “Flan” mix. The picture on the box looks a lot like Crème Caramel, but when I read the box, the artificial contents are turning my stomach off.

The Crème Caramel I know is a classic French dessert. Other places know it as Flan. No matter what you call it, when you make it right, it’s a terrific crowd-pleaser. It can be very simple to make if you pay attention to the principles of custard making. Forget that instant packaged stuff; make it from scratch, you don’t have to be a French pastry baker to make a great Crème Caramel.

The most beautiful, yet easiest presentation method will employ those small ramekins or custard cups you may have lying around already, and perhaps never used. They’re good to have. I like to mould jambalaya in them and invert onto plates, but I am digressing.

Here is how to make 8 servings of Crème Caramel that will come out perfect and impress your guests. Tell your taste buds to be patient, they will be rewarded.

For the Caramel:
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of water
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup (facilitates nice caramelization)
Dash of lemon juice
8 clean, 6 ounce, oven-proof ramekins. Please do NOT grease them.

For the Custard:
1 ½ cups of whole milk (must use whole milk)
1 ½ cups of light cream
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks (equals 5 egg yolks and 3 egg whites)
2/3 cup of sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
A thermometer to read the temperature of the custard (such as one used to measure deep frying oil or for making candy).

To make the Caramel:

· In a medium saucepan, bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer over medium heat by
swirling, not stirring.
· Wipe the side of the pan if you see crystals adhering. Use a wet cloth to do this.
· Swirl the pan around while it heats up, and soon it will turn from clear to golden coloured.
· Keep swirling the pan to get even browning, which should take about 7 minutes or so.
· Keep swirling and watching. After awhile, large, slow bubbling will appear on the surface.
· Swirl another 3 or 4 minutes and a nice caramel should be visible.
· Very carefully (it’s HOT), pour evenly into the ramekins.
· Let it cool and harden for about twenty minutes. (If you want to do this step a day ahead of
time, cover them with plastic film wrap and refrigerate. But bring to room temperature
before adding the custard).

To make the Custard:

· Turn your oven on to 350F (177C) and place the rack in the centre.
· Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
· Stir and using the thermometer, look for a reading of 160F (71C), takes a few minutes.
· Remove from the heat.
· Gently whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a big bowl until combined, do not overbeat.
· Off heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture, vanilla extract and salt into the eggs until
just mixed, but not foamy.
· Strain the mixture through a fine mesh into a quart measuring cup or any container that
has a pouring spout. Then set aside.
· Boil 2 quarts (2 litres) of water.
· Get a dishtowel and fit it to the bottom of a large roasting pan. You can fold it to fit, no
· Pour the custard mixture into the ramekins and place them atop the towel in the pan. Don’t
let them touch each other.
· Put the pan on the oven rack and pour boiling water into the pan, halfway up the sides of
the ramekins.
· Cover loosely with foil to allow steam to pass.
· Bake about 40 minutes, check after 35 to see how it looks. Stick a knife in the centre; it
should come up clean when done.
Now put the custards on a rack to cool off.

When you get ready to serve them, slide a paring knife around the sides of the ramekins, actually pressing the knife against the sides. Invert the custards onto a serving plate shaking gently to release them. Now enjoy them.

This preparation will produce excellent Crème Caramels. There is some detail to this method, but it makes the dessert come out wonderful and ensures success. Evaporated milk or condensed milk methods really do no compare. You don’t have to, but you can shave some dark chocolate on the caramel or some toasted coconut flakes.

Your guests may forget the entrée you served, but the Crème Caramel will be among their fondest memories, because these groceries are that good, I tell you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Several years ago I happened to be in an Indian household and the aroma permeating that home was just wonderful. I wanted to duplicate that fabulous flavour in my kitchen, but I didn’t understand what made it so special. I had a small tin of curry powder and added a pinch to an egg salad, and it was good, but Indian? Nah! I needed to learn more.

Soon afterward I was delighted to find an Indian cookbook in a thrift store, The Bombay Palace Cookbook, by Stendahl. It promised a fascinating, wide world of new and exciting meals, but first I had to get a whole bunch of spices I hadn’t used before, like coriander, fenugreek and cardamom, as well as fresh gingerroot.

After cooking many recipes in that book, and inventing many afterward, I still like to browse though it occasionally. It’s a great book, especially for beginners. They took two recipes and broke them down into the simplest, detailed, step by step way to prepare them.

The Bombay Palace Cookbook is primarily comprised of North Indian recipes, but also features other regions of the sub- continent as well.

The book explains the ingredients and techniques (such as bhoona-ing, sort of a combination of sauteéing and braising) of Indian cookery and has separate chapters
covering soup, seafood, vegetarian, poultry, legumes, rice dishes, and desserts.

I’m quite fond of this book because when I was new to Indian food; it helped me learn to prepare it properly. And having explored Indian food, I have since reached out to the foods of Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. I have 5 big spice racks just off my kitchen, containing many different spices and herbs.

Here is a lovely recipe from the Bombay Palace Cookbook, by Stendahl.

SPICY CHICKEN CURRY (Murgh Masala) serves four

1 3lb (1 ½ Kg) fryer, skinned and cut into 8 pieces; or an equivalent amount of boneless, skinless pieces.
4 tablespoons (60 gm) butter (1/2 stick)
4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste

Dry Masala mixture:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 piece of gingerroot, the size of a walnut, minced
2 tablespoons of ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons powdered turmeric
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
6 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
2 sticks of cinnamon


  • Set prepared chicken aside. Pulverize the masala in a blender or food processor. Rub the mixture well into the chicken parts.
  • In a wok or heavy skillet, heat the butter and brown the chicken on both sides. This should take about ten minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened, another ten minutes.
  • Try not to add water unless you see the chicken is about to scorch. Salt lightly before serving.

    This is a good introduction to Indian food if you haven’t tried preparing any yourself. I usually use a mortar and pestle to pre-grind things like the cloves and cinnamon and cumin. In the beginning you may prefer to use ground spices until you get more familiar with masalas. But for flavour and aroma, it’s hard to beat Indian food.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The most important day in Judaism, Yom Kippur was the day the High Priest made an atonement sacrifice to reconcile the sins of the people. In the Old Testament, a blood sacrifice was offered to God, and then a goat was set free into the wilderness. This “scapegoat” symbolically carried away the sins of the people.

After fasting 25 hours leading up to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a sweet way to break the fast would be a cherry kugel, most welcome after a fast, and easy as well.

Cherry Sweet Noodle Kugel

16 ounces (500 grams) wide noodles
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup (125 grams) sugar
4 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
16 ounces (500 grams) cottage cheese
1 large can of cherry pie filling

Boil the noodles as package directs. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Add butter to drained noodles and stir well.
Add beaten eggs, sugar, cottage cheese and stir. Mixture should be creamy, not dry.
Place in a large greased casserole dish.
Bake uncovered, at 350F (175C) for 45 minutes.
Cover the top with the filling and bake for another 15 minutes.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Try this succulent dessert, rich in flavour, rich in tradition.

Friday, September 17, 2010


When I was a kid, we always had two pies after holiday meals, pumpkin and mincemeat. I liked both of them. Years later I tasted sweet potato pie, which is quite similar tasting to pumpkin. I came to realize the key taste was due to the exotic spices in both pumpkin and sweet potato. So it is six of one, I enjoy them both.

I also remember a woman in Mississippi who baked “Bean Pie” which tasted like the aforementioned pumpkin/sweet potato pies. When I inquired as to why pinto beans, she said she “didn’t have no sweet potatoes around, and it sure ain’t pumpkin season”. She said all she did was make a puree of the pinto beans and take it from there. I asked about the taste and she explained that the spices nullified any bean flavour. She was right.

Recently I baked a Pinto Bean Pie myself and it was so good that, to use an old expression, “It’ll make you want to slap your mama”.

If you have pinto beans on hand (and who doesn’t), you can make this tasty dessert, which happily contains the nutritive bonus of the legume.

Pinto bean puree:

Clean, sort and soak 1 cup of dried pinto beans overnight, or quick soak by bringing soaking water to boiling and then let beans sit for 1 hour. Now, in a medium saucepan, cover pinto beans with water, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Or pressure cook about 6 minutes, quick-release the pressure and taste for doneness. Drain the beans but reserve the liquid. Put the pinto beans in an electric blender with a little of the reserved liquid and blend till smooth. This makes about 2 cups of puree.

Pinto bean pie:

3 eggs
2 cups pinto bean puree
1-1/4 cups whole milk
6 fluid ounces light cream

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 nine inch diameter unbaked pie shell Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Beat eggs well in a large bowl. Now add the puree, milk and cream. Stir until smooth. Add salt and sugar and the spices, stirring until thoroughly blended. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 1 hour. Check doneness by sticking clean knife blade in centre. It should come out clean. Cool to room temperature. Chill the pie and when you serve it put a spot of whipped cream on each wedge.

That Pinto Bean Pie is good groceries, I tell you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Recently my daughter Stephanie called and asked me about cooking EDAMAME. That reminded me about my years working in a grain elevator, and the tons of soybeans I’ve seen. The beans were crushed for their oil, and the remains were dried and became soy meal, for export. Nobody thought of consuming soybeans because they took forever to cook and were very bland. Only industrial processors could appreciate soybeans, turning them into meat analogs or textured vegetable protein, used to stretch or replace meat in recipes. Meat prices got outrageous in the early 1970’s, and a national boycott ensued. Soy- based meat substitute products became ubiquitous in local supermarkets, but soon vanished when beef prices stabilized.

The latest soy “product” on the market has taken off like a rocket; and for good reason. It is easy to prepare and extremely versatile. Called edamame, they are fresh green soy beans available everywhere, even in the freezer section. Mame means bean in Japanese, and Eda means branch. The name edamame means that the soy beans are harvested while still attached in branches.

Edamame are a beautiful jade green. They have a creamy texture, pleasant crunch and they are very healthy. If you are a vegetarian, edamame is a great way to get complete protein (all eight essential amino acids). A ½ cup of cooked edamame has 11 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre, something to cheer about; as well as hard to find vital omega-3 fats, which are abundant in edamame.

You can puree edamame and serve as a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes, or to make a lovely Hummus. Try adding edamame to soup recipes during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Substitute edamame for lima beans in succotash. Use it to replace green peas once in awhile. You can enjoy edamame added to salads.

Try this hummus recipe, using edamame in place of garbanzo beans.

2 cups frozen shelled edamame, cooked as per directions
¼ cup of tahini (substitute creamy peanut butter if you cannot obtain tahini)
¼ cup of water
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
Good pinch of salt
¼ cup good olive oil

Combine all in a food processor and enjoy with crisp pita chips, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

Used to be if you wanted to enjoy the many health benefits of soybeans, you had to start with the dried beans. That meant you had to soak them overnight or quick soak them (bring to boil in covered water, then let sit for one hour), and then either cook for 3 hours, or pressure cook for 13-15 minutes. The now widely available edamame is much more convenient.

Try edamame, its good groceries.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


If you liked the onion cream soup, I’d like to offer an old-time favourite, a leek and potato soup called Vichyssoise. But plan ahead, it needs to cool down to room temperature and then subsequently chill for 6 hours. But this classic is worth it. It serves 8, easily halved if you wish.

2 tablespoons butter
4 large leeks, cleaned and sliced, mostly tender white part
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 quart (32ounces) good chicken stock
2 cups milk
Pinch of white pepper
2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped chives for garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the leeks and onion, stirring until translucent.

Add the potatoes and stock to the pan, stir and simmer for 30 minutes. Potatoes should be very tender.

In an electric blender, puree the contents of the pan, one cup at a time and return to the pan.

Add the milk, pepper and light cream and heat, not quite to boiling.

Cool the soup and then add the heavy cream and chill at least 6 hours.

Serve this marvelous soup in small bowls or cups, garnished with chives.

I know there are some folks who don’t care to indulge in cold soups, but they who have responded to my gentle prodding are mighty pleased every time. Vichssoise is classic French cookery, rightly esteemed. I hope you will try it.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Cream is a wonderful food to have in your home, important in both rustic farmhouse and gourmet haute cuisine, or anywhere in-between.

Light cream is about 30% butterfat and heavy cream is at least 40%. Many people cringe at these butterfat amounts, but they shouldn’t. It’s the manufactured industrial fats that are more troublesome. Any packaged foods you could now find in supermarkets are more dangerous than sweet cream could ever be. But if you cook from scratch using natural un-processed groceries, using real cream will be a healthy and tasty addition to your diet. Instead of a “powdered” cream in your coffee, try a ½ and ½ blend of light cream and milk instead. While you are enjoying your cuppa java, read the ingredients on the dry cream label and then quickly toss in the refuse bin. Good riddance and welcome to wholesome cream.

You can make delicious whipped cream garnish toppings for waffles, soups and drinks.

Crème Chantilly is simply beating a teaspoon of honey and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract into one cup of heavy cream.

Crème Amandine is one cup of heavy cream whipped with the addition of one teaspoon almond extract, a couple drops of lemon juice and a tablespoon of toasted, shredded almonds. Or you could skip that and just add ¼ cup of almond paste.

Soups made with cream are always toothsome and satisfying. Here is an interesting Onion Cream Soup:

2 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cups of milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 egg yolks
12 fluid ounces of light cream
6 slices of French bread baguette, fried in butter till browned on both sides
Pinch of black pepper

Heat the milk gently
Fry the onions in butter until tender
Thoroughly stir the flour into the onions. Slowly add the hot milk and pepper
Cook on low flame for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, and then remove from heat
Beat the egg yolks and cream in a bowl
Beating steadily, slowly drip 1 cup of soup into the bowl to temper the yolks
Now pour this into the soup, heating gently
Put the toast slices in each bowl and pour on the soup.

You’ll enjoy this delicious soup for sure.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Rosh Hashanah refers to the Jewish New Year, a celebration of the creation of the world. It is also a 2-day event for devout followers of Judaism to re-examine their life and repent for any transgressions.

After the prayer service, Jews eat a festive meal. This includes their special Challah bread baked in a round to symbolize the cycle of time. Another important food custom observed on the feast of Rosh Hashanah is eating a piece of apple dipped in honey signifying hope for a sweet year. On the second day, a new fruit not yet eaten this year is eaten. Worldwide, symbolic foods like dates and beets are eaten also, depending on which traditions are observed.

One universally popular holiday side dish is called Potato Kugel, which is like a savory pudding that goes well with poultry and fish dishes. I love it.


6 potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 tablespoons matzoh meal, or cracker meal
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons melted chicken fat or butter
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat oven to 375F
Grate peeled potatoes into salted water, and then drain well.
Mix them in a big bowl with the onion, egg yolks, meal, baking powder, salt and pepper, and two tablespoons of fat. When thoroughly mixed, fold in the egg whites carefully.
Pour into a well greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Now pour the remaining fat on top.
Bake for 1 hour (mixture is set and lightly browned on top).

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Potato Kugel. Enjoy anytime.
Shana Tovah (Happy New Year).

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Years ago, when I was single, often I worked overtime. I’d have a plate lunch, and after a 12 hour day, go back to the flat and look for something quick, easy, nutritious, and of course, tasty to eat. What soon became a twice weekly meal were ramen noodles. They were very inexpensive and quick to prepare. But tasty was another story. By themselves they were just a salty liquid with noodles. One way to cut the salt was to add vegetables. I bought some 16 oz bags of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mixture, and after some experimentation, I came up with a tasty dish.

Here is how to doctor up ramen noodles, with the wonderful benefit of eating more than enough fresh frozen vegetables. This could be two servings, but even if you eat it all yourself, it’s still only about 300 calories, although light on protein. But, if you ate enough protein during the day, this complex carbohydrate meal is perfect for your supper.

1 packet of ramen noodles, your choice of flavour
16oz bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mixture
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon of oriental sesame oil
Dash of onion powder and garlic powder (optional)
Dash of 5 spice powder (optional)

Put one cup of water in a pot. Turn on flame and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, onion and garlic powder and 5 spice powder, if using. Before opening the noodles, break in half and then break each half in half. Add the contents of the flavour envelope, stir, and add vegetables. Cover and bring to boil, then boil uncovered about 3 minutes. Add the quartered noodles and stir well to fully immerse. Boil 3 minutes and serve.

Friday, September 3, 2010


All over Latin America and India too, people eat legumes (beans and lentils), almost daily. Combined with grain they make it a complete protein. It could be corn, wheat or barley, but most often is rice.

From the infinitive “dalna,” which means “to split,” Indian bean dishes are usually called “dals.” Like our split peas, numerous Indian beans are split.

Many Indians do not eat meat, but thrive on dals. Not only are they nutritious, but also inexpensive and easy to prepare. Best of all they taste fabulous due to the fragrant spices utilized. You could set aside one day a week for dals. Because of the many varieties, one could go for months with a different dal each week. Or, use dals as an interesting side dish.

If you have a lot of spices in your cupboard that you hardly ever employ, dals may afford you the opportunity to use them. Spice mixtures are known as garam masalas, and they add wonderful warm flavour to dals. They may consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and other spices. Masala means mixture, so use those most pleasing to you and mix it up. If you don’t have a lot of spices, you can purchase a single garam masala in the spice section of any supermarket.

Actual Chana Dal is made with hard to find, split garbanzo beans, but a bag of dried yellow split peas is a reasonable substitute. If you have a slow-cooker or a pressure cooker, dals are as easy as making coffee. If you don’t, they are as easy as making tea.

Chana Dal
2 cups dried yellow split peas
6 cups water
1 large onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
salt to taste
Chop the onion and fry in oil. Caramelize it starting with medium high heat, then lower it and stir frequently to avoid burning it. While the onion is browning, simmer the peas in salted water until tender, as package directs.

When the onions are browned, add the garam masala to the skillet. Stir well and then add the onion mixture to the peas.

Serve over steamed rice. You can put a spoonful of plain yoghurt on the dal if you like.
If you’ve never made a dal, try this basic recipe. It’s delicious and a good way to use those untouched spices you may have on hand.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Years ago I used to eat breakfast at a diner just outside New Orleans. Most times I would get a breakfast sausage patty with my meal and I always enjoyed using those little jellies on the meat. Recently I got to thinking about fruits and meats cooked together when I made a piccadillo and added the obligatory raisins. Well, a lot of situations call for fruits and they make a valid contribution. You eat cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving turkey, right? There are lots of examples of fruits used for dinner foods. Not just duck a l’ orange, but applesauce with pork chops, just to name a few.

Thirty years ago, Jinx Morgan wrote an article in Bon Appétit magazine about meats with fruit. The photos were very beautiful (by D.E. Wolfe), and the first one I tried got me hooked. It was called mandarin teriyaki. Others were pork chops with cherries and peach glazed leg of lamb and a few others. They were all excellent recipes.

Since then I haven’t seen a lot of new fruit/meat combinations, which is a shame. I am going to try a meatloaf made with horseradish and chopped apples soon. I think meats with fruit should be more popular.

In the meanwhile, here is that mandarin teriyaki recipe, which serves 4-6.

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
2 tablespoons oil
4 thin slices peeled fresh ginger. Or in a pinch, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
2 pounds (900 Grams) flank steak, cut into ½ inch strips

2 tablespoons oil

1 small onion, sliced
1 green pepper (bell pepper), cut into ½ inch strips
¾ cup pineapple juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups canned mandarin orange slices, drained

1 Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add beef and marinate for 2 hours, stirring several times. Remove beef and pat dry with paper towels. Discard fresh ginger, reserve marinade.
2 Heat one tablespoon of oil in wok or skillet and brown half the meat. Remove to warm dish. Heat second tablespoon and brown remaining beef. Remove to the warm dish and pour the ½ cup marinade around it, reserving the rest.
3 Place onion, green pepper and pineapple juice in the wok now and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine reserved marinade with the cornstarch, stirring till thickened. Do not boil. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the vegetables. Throw in the beef and orange slices and cook just till heated. Serve over steamed rice.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I’ve always enjoyed Italian food, especially pasta. Even small unassuming restaurants with candle-topped old Chianti bottles on red checkered tablecloths have pleased me. I love the aromas. The parmesan cheese, the Mediterranean herbs and the fragrant sauces all arouse the appetite. And I love the music, whether it’s opera or simple mandolin music. But most of all I love the food.

Italian pasta dishes are revered for their bright, sunny richness and imaginative flair. Considering that there are hundreds of pasta shapes in use, imagination has really worked, because most people will tell you that spaghettini tastes different than mostaccioli. Many of these shapes have been paired with specific sauces, thus becoming classic dishes.

An appropriate sauce is generally determined by the shape, and more specifically, the lightness or heaviness of the shape. That’s why thick pasta like rigatoni or ziti pairs well with highly flavored sauces such as ragu Bolognese, while a more delicate sauce suits vermicelli more optimally.

There are four basic Classic Italian pasta sauces.

1. Butter Sauces

The most famous perhaps, would be Fettuccine Alfredo, a popular dish from Rome. Fettuccine is called tagliatelle everywhere else in Italy. Other classic butter sauces would include pancetta (Italian bacon) which can make a lovely spaghetti alla carbonara, and the superb fresh white truffle, called tartufi bianchi.

2. Olive Oil sauces

Coupled with garlic, the simplicity of aglio e olio is well appreciated. Spaghetti with smothered onions and Penne with cauliflower, garlic and oil are also beloved.

3. Tomato Sauces

Three particular tomato sauces fundamental to pasta are perennially popular.

· Butter and tomatoes and carrot. No garlic or olive oil.
· Marinara sauce, primarily employing tomatoes and garlic.
· Ragu Bolognese, which is made with beef and pork, plus the aromatic onion, celery and carrot.

4. Pesto

This incomparable sauce from Genoa makes good use of all that fresh basil
growing in your garden. Basil and olive oil go together like: (your favorite
simile here.)

So immerse yourself in any of these delectable sauces. They will thrill your
soul and delight your taste buds. As my beloved wife says: “Mangia

Saturday, August 28, 2010


When it comes to tailgate parties, super bowl parties, or get-togethers at most any sports bar, Buffalo wings are usually the most ordered item.

Back in the 1960’s when they were introduced; the combination of fried wings with hot sauce and bleu cheese sauce became an instant hit. And of course, since the tavern was in Buffalo, N.Y., they named the chicken wings after the city.

Many people have trouble making Buffalo wings at home Here is how to make great wings successfully, in case you have a big screen TV with HD and want to invite the crowd over to your place.


4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup hot sauce (originally was Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce)
Add some of your own personal favorite hot sauce if you like (Tabasco or Habanero perhaps)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Buffalo wings:
2 quarts of peanut oil
½ teaspoon red pepper, more or less is up to you
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 lbs chicken wings, wingtips removed and remainder separated into 2 parts at the joint. If you’re not sure about this, ask a butcher to show you.

MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt butter in a small pan on low. Beat in everything until combined. Set aside.
MAKE THE WINGS: Heat oven slow (200 degrees F). Put a drain rack on a baking sheet (or paper towels).
Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to get to 370 degreesF. A thermometer is great for this, or if you have an electric deep fryer that’s good too.
While the oil is getting hot, blend the peppers, salt and cornstarch in a bowl.
Dry the chicken with towels (important) and put into a big mixing bowl. Sprinkle the spices over the wings and stir and toss until they are evenly coated. Fry half of the wings or less until golden crisp, about 10 minutes. Watch the temperature so it doesn’t get too hot. Depending on the size of your Dutch oven you may have to put less than half in. Don’t crowd the fryer, it will cool the oil down too much and the crisp quality of the chicken will be compromised.
When wings are done, transfer to the drain rack. Place in the slow oven to keep hot while more are frying.
When ready to serve the Buffalo wings, pour the sauce into a large bowl. Throw in the wings and turn until evenly coated.
You can serve a bowl of bottled blue cheese dressing along with the Buffalo wings to temper the heat. This really makes the wings taste great. Additionally, serve celery sticks with it.

Buffalo wings are deservedly popular. The spicy heat, coupled with the tangy blue cheese dressing and the crunch of the celery elevates this dish to praiseworthy status. And, if organized beforehand, you can easily make it yourself.

Friday, August 27, 2010


There are a lot of good uses for sour cream. My Hungarian grandmother used to make a sour cream soup that was delicious, and my beloved spouse loves mushrooms in sour cream. For dessert, you are sure to savor a sour cream pound cake.

Here they are, submitted for your culinary approval.


½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 ½ quarts chicken stock, reserve a little cold stock for the paste
12 ounces sour cream
1/3 cup of flour
Three slices stale rye bread, cut into croutons
Butter for frying the croutons

· Bring stock to boil, lower heat, toss in the seeds and simmer 15 minutes.
· Stir the sour cream and flour together and add a little cold stock to make a paste.
· Slowly add the paste to the simmering stock and stir until blended.
· Keep stirring until stock thickens.
· Fry the croutons until crisp.
· Serve soup in soup plates or bowls and garnish with croutons.


4 tablespoons butter
11/2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
2 large onions, minced
1 cup beef consommé or broth, save a little to mix with flour
2 tablespoons flour
16 ounces sour cream

· Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and brown the mushrooms. Remove to a dish.
· Cook the onions in the rest of butter until transparent.
· Add the mushrooms back in, add the broth and simmer.
· Take the reserved broth and mix with the flour.
· Whisk the paste into the skillet until thickened.
· Add the sour cream and simmer for 5 minutes.


1 cup butter
1 cup honey
6 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

· Cream the butter and honey in a large mixing bowl.
· Beat in the eggs, one at a time
· Add the extract and sour cream and beat well
· Mix in the flour and baking soda
· Pour the batter into a well greased, flour dusted 9 inch springform pan.
· Bake 1 ½ hours, a knife inserted in center should come up clean.
· Let it cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing, at which time you could frost it if you wish.

A simple frosting of 1 cup honey, 1 cup cream cheese plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond) is nice. Beat all together and use at once. If still not rich enough, add nuts and apply to cake quickly after mixed.

These sour cream excursions are a delight to the taste buds, but perhaps best not all at one sitting. Please enjoy responsibly.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


If you want to make sour cream at home, it is not difficult. All you need is a double boiler, a dairy thermometer, a quart glass canning jar with a sterile cover, one quart of heavy, sweet cream and about 3 tablespoons of cultured starter. You could try omitting the starter, but sour wild bacteria may make the resulting product taste bad. Starter for sour cream can be found at cheese- making supply sources, just be sure the acid level is at least 1% for a crisp clean taste. Always pasteurize the cream before adding the starter.

· Put cold water in the bottom of a double boiler. Pour cream in the top; let the bottom touch the water in the lower vessel. Bring the temperature slowly to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain for ½ hour.
· Cool the cream as quickly as possible by setting the upper pot in ice-water. Have a second pot of ice-water ready and put the pot in that as soon as the first ice melts.
· Pour half the cream into the sterilized canning jar and add the starter. Mix thoroughly and add the remaining cream to within ¾” of the top. Affix cover and shake vigorously only until mixed. Too much shaking will make butter.
· Put jar in warm (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit), draft free place for about 20 hours. You can wrap a towel around the jar to insulate it.
· Lastly and very important, chill the jar for at least 12 hours.

There you have it. Next time I will talk about tantalizing ways to enjoy sour cream.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Rich, smooth and creamy, with just the right amount of tartness. Yoghurt right? No, I’m talking about sour cream, that delicious condiment many people enjoy on their baked potatoes. But sour cream is much more versatile than that.

My lovely bride is ecstatic about this renowned cultured dairy product eaten with fruit. Sometimes she mixes a little brown sugar in some sour cream and dips fruit in it. Give her blueberry pancakes and she asks for a spoonful of sour cream with it.

Sour cream is easy to make (see Part 2), but today most people purchase it at the market. If you do, make sure it doesn’t contain gelling agents or stabilizers.

While yoghurt is fermented milk, sour cream is fermented cream with high butterfat content, and unlike yoghurt must be re-pasteurized when fermentation is complete. Each uses different bacteria in their making.

Sour cream can be whipped, made into ice-cream, or used in many other ways. It is popular in Viennese and Russian cookery. If you make baked goods such as pancakes or biscuits, you can replace some of the fat with sour cream for an interesting change of flavor.

Next time I will talk about how easy it is to make sour cream, and explain it’s culinary diversity.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


My stepdaughter went to a wedding in New York recently, and while there, she and her family visited New York City. Although she comes from that area, her spouse and children are from northeast Georgia, where they all reside. When they came back, they told us of the sites they had visited,like Central Park and Rockefeller Center. I've been living down south for a few decades now, it was nice to see photos taken of Central park and Radio City. In fact, a couple of photos taken by my teen-aged granddaughter were very artistic, because the angle of view was stunning, showing the height of the building from base to top.
I got to thinking of a street food I used to get all the time when I lived there. So I said, "Did you eat a knish (pronounced kuh nish)while you were there?" They all said "no" like it was no big deal. But my mouth got to watering, and soon I couldn't think of anything else. The next day I went to the market and bought the groceries for it. I have an old Molly Goldberg Jewish cookbook with a knish recipe in it, so I went at it.
A knish is an eastern European savory pastry, brought to America by Jewish immigrants. You could sort of compare it to an empanada. Knishes are usually made with mashed potatoes or Kasha (buckwheat groats).
I baked up a batch of knishes, and I really enjoyed them. My spouse loved them too. Here is the recipe I used from The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook by Gertrude Berg.
6 Tblspns oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cups mashed potatoes
3 eggs
3/4 cup sifted flour
1 tspn salt
1/8 tspn white pepper
2 Tblspns grated onion
Saute the 2 onions in 4 Tablespoons of the oil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove and cool. Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix the potatoes,eggs,flour,salt,pepper,grated onion and remaining oil. Knead until smooth. Break off pieces and shape into 2 inch sized balls. Make a depression in the center and fill with a teaspoon of the sauteed onions. Cover the filling with the dough. Flatten the balls slightly with your palm. Place on a greased baking sheet, bake for 25 minutes, or until browned.
These were a special feast for me and my wife. You may need more flour when you mix these. Simple ingredient list, succulent treat.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Everyone loves pasta, and why not? You can elevate a box of pasta into a very delicious meal, and do it quickly and simply. Just add a nice salad or soup and some quality bread and you’re done. I see many people in the market purchasing prepared bottled pasta sauces, but that can be very limiting. Forget about it, try these three recipes and you can have pasta more often and it needn’t ever get boring. If you have a pressure cooker, you can boil the pasta water very fast. While it is coming to a boil, you can get the ingredients ready, and complete the sauce before it is done.


1 pound (500 grams) Spaghetti or any pasta shape you prefer
1 clove of garlic
½ cup (4 oz, 150 ml) smoked almonds
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
¼ cup (2oz, 75ml) best quality olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil a big pot of water, add a little salt, stir in pasta, cook for about 9-10 minutes or as package directs.

Meanwhile, chop garlic, almonds and basil finely. Transfer this mixture to a serving bowl and stir in the oil, cheese, salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta, toss into the bowl, stir thoroughly and serve.

Many people grow string beans, and if you do or just plain like them, you will want to try this dish:

Lemon Garlic Ziti with Green Bean Sauce Serves 4

1 pound (500g) Ziti (Penne would be good too).
1 pound green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons (1oz, 40ml) best quality olive oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Boil a big pot of water, add a little salt, stir in ziti, cook for about 9-10 minutes or as package directs. But three minutes before done, add the green beans to the water

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in big skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, the garlic and cook for half a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest

Drain the ziti and green beans. Stir them thoroughly with the sauce in a serving bowl.

Lastly, here is a sophisticated wine and cheese sauce that can be quickly made. Select a cheese you are fond of, such as: Edam, Gouda, Muenster, Gruyere, Bel Paese or Monterrey Jack.

Cheese Sauce Serves 4

1 pound (500g) fettuccine
6 oz (200g) cheese, rind removed, shredded or finely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons best quality olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Boil a big pot of water. Add salt and fettuccine, stir and boil for 9-10 minutes, or as package directs.

Meanwhile, combine cheese and cornstarch and set aside. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and stir. Add the wine and boil for 1 minute. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

A minute before the fettuccine is finished cooking, bring the sauce back to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese and whisk until the sauce is smooth.

Drain the fettuccine and toss in a serving bowl with the sauce and parsley.

Try these delicious recipes. They are easy and sure to please.



Years ago I used to visit Juarez Mexico, and always enjoyed the street vendor tamales. Later on, I remembered eating those tamales on the street, with Mariachi music pouring forth from a nearby tavern and enjoying the excellent Mexican beers (Cruz Blanca, or Carta Blanca). So, one time I bought a can of tamales and put it in my cupboard. One night I took it out, removed the wrappers and mixed it with a can of corn kernels, some sautéed onion and green pepper, and mixed in a little bottled salsa and some oregano. The whole family really liked it. When you need a quick meal it’s very easy. And of course, you can tweak it as you choose.

Recently a friend said,” I always have a couple cans of Tamales on hand. It is great for breakfast.” Here’s a recipe which is convenient for holiday mornings, because it’s like a casserole.


1 15oz can of tamales
8 eggs
Splash of milk (2 tablespoons) or water
Dash of salt and chile powder
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Small can of diced tomatoes with chilies
2-3 tablespoons minced onion
5 oz (about a full cup) shredded Monterey Jack or Fontina cheese

· Preheat oven to 350 F, or use microwave
· Drain tamales, reserving the sauce from the can. Remove the wrappers.
· Place tamales in one layer in a baking dish (10by6 inch or 8by8)
· Cover with sauce (you may not need all of it) and bake 10 minutes to just heat it. When finished, remove from oven, shut oven and turn on broiler. ( You can skip the oven and do this in a microwave with an appropriate dish)
· Beat eggs, milk and salt in a bowl and set aside.
· Melt butter in large skillet over medium flame. Add tomato, chilies and onion. Cook till heated and add egg mixture. Stir gently until just barely set.
· Spoon the eggs over the tamales and sprinkle on the cheese.
· Broil 4 inches beneath heat briefly, until cheese melts.
Serves 4 or more.

You can adjust for 2 servings or even just one, but give it a try, ‘cause it’s good.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Today I will share with you some useful lunchtime suggestions to help slow down fat storage.

· One 12 ounce soda pop has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. Nowadays it is not cane sugar, of which too much would be cloying, but corn sugar, which allows you to drink 32ounces as if it were water. I’m not sure about artificial sweeteners either; I think the jury is still out on their insulin- stimulating status. A better beverage would be a mineral water or skim milk.

· Put aside potato chips and other high fat salty chips, you don’t need the impending bloat in the middle of the day. If absolutely necessary, eat whole-grain crackers or baked tortilla chips.

· Soup can be a great weight-loss food to have, but not fat laden cream soups. Soups as a first course can be appetite suppressing, if they are broth and vegetable types, not cream-based.

· Salad bars can be great if you avoid the hazardous items many people put on them. Fresh greens are wonderful along with fresh vegetables, but go real easy on the dressings. A little lemon juice and a teaspoon of oil is enough for a salad. Even if you go back again for a second helping.

· Be dairy diligent because cheeses’ fat adds up. Watch out for sandwich fillings and spreads. Mayo has 11 grams of fat in a tablespoon. That combined with bread leads to fat storage.

· I like to make hamburgers, but am careful not to have one very often. I can eat one with a knife and fork, but most folks use a bun. To have a hamburger sandwich every day can be a problem.

. We love pizza, I make it frequently. But to me, the crust is important. I don’t go crazy with the cheese (usually Asiago and/or Provolone). The simple “Margherita” style is still the best. I portion Parmesan like I would a salt shaker, just a moderate sprinkle. Pepperoni particularly puts plenty of fat atop the crust, less would be more suitable.

· French-fried potatoes are like hamburger sandwiches, that combination of fat and carbohydrate. Best to enjoy them infrequently and if you do, you will really relish them.

· A great dessert would be something like fruit and cheese. Apples are easy to eat and the health benefits are enormous (the pectin alone for your skin is terrific). A small amount of cheese, if it is the only cheese eaten that day, won’t kill you or your diet. Yoghurt (unsweetened) and fruit is good too.

Eating should be an enjoyable, unrushed pleasure. If you can’t eliminate fat storing foods, please limit them. What’s that old saying? Everything in moderation. Yes, for a more abundant life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I am not a fat-phobic person, and neither is my spouse, the Education Tipster. But it is difficult to avoid eating a lot of fat, which is twice as caloric as carbohydrate or protein. For that reason we try to avoid using too much lard or bacon fat. Fat alone is not so much of a problem. Added sugars are. Not just soft drinks, but sugary foods too. The high-glycemic foods like white- flour baked goods plus the fats are what are really dangerous because the “sugars” bring on the insulin which stores the fat. The fat by itself is practically neutral (except for the calories) and only becomes problematic when consumed with carbohydrates.

Many people must eat out during the day, and I appeal to them to be careful of their dietary choices. Tomorrow I will share with you some useful lunchtime suggestions to help slow down fat storage.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We are trying to eat more vegetables at my house, but of course they have to taste good. We love Chinese food and stir-fries are always popular. Recently I have been cooking southern Indian dishes, and decided to fuse some left-over coconut milk into a traditional Chinese stir fry. It was well liked by all who ate it. I think you will like it too.

Curry Stir Fry

2 teaspoons coconut oil, or light olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup halved or sliced mushrooms
1 bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
1 cup of sugar snap peas
Dash of oriental sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water


½ cup, or more, coconut milk
Splash of soy sauce (2 tablespoons)
½ teaspoon of curry powder
1 ½ tablespoon of brown sugar, or molasses

Blanche the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots until they are crisp-tender. Rinse in ice-water, then drain. Combine curry sauce. Heat skillet, add oil, fry onions and bell pepper 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir one minute. Add blanched vegetables, snap peas and mix. Stir in sauce, simmer a minute. Stir cornstarch into cold water and add to skillet. Stir 10 seconds. Add sesame oil, mix. Serve with steamed rice or noodles. Serves 2-4 persons.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sour Beer Makes Sauerkraut

One of my homebrew club buddies made a bad batch of beer once, and while he was busy crying in it, I recalled what I did when that happened to me. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade. I used to cook sauerkraut with a bottle of homemade beer, and, not wanting to waste a four gallon batch of what ended up being beer vinegar, I decided to try using it instead of my good stuff. It came out really well. I actually do not like cabbage, except in two instances; coleslaw and sauerkraut. Otherwise cabbage to me is very unappealing. I was working on a boat in the gulf one time, and the cook they hired was more a baker than a cook. He cooked a large pot of cabbage and the whole vessel stunk like crazy for hours. Everyone complained, but fortunately his baking skills endeared him. His breads, biscuits and cakes and cookies were always welcome. I told him, next time you boil cabbage (if you must); cook it in an open pot. For the several months I was with him, he never even used cabbage again. But fermented cabbage made into sauerkraut is very healthful and can be a hearty meal. Here is how I like to make it.

2 Tablespoons bacon fat, lard or oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 large jar of refrigerated sauerkraut, drained
½ cup (or more) diced sausage or a mixture of diced pork loin, frankfurters and sausage
1 cup Ale, Beer, or even white wine (but beer is better I think)
¼ to ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
Heavy pinch of black pepper
Pinch of brown sugar

Melt the fat in a large skillet or Dutch oven (I use cast iron ones). Over medium heat add the onion and stir for about a half minute or so. Add everything else and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until it is almost dry. It should be moist but not soupy. If using pork, be sure it is cooked through. I like to use a malty brew, but whatever your choice might be, use that. Serves 4.

If you don’t think you like sauerkraut, try this once. I don’t like cabbage, but I love this. You just might too.
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