Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cabbage Soup and Life with my Niece

Its been 16 years since you invaded my life and three years since I  moved into yours.

Three years of you sharing your bedroom with your younger cousin. I can't thank you enough for being such a trouper about our cramped living accommodation.

Three years of you babysitting on demand for me.

Its because of you I am still sane

... and broke.

Three years of shared eye rolls when the burden of living with someone with bipolar disorder becomes overbearing or hilarious. It can swing either way and sometimes laughter is our only defense for not crying and becoming insane ourselves.

Three years of yelling behind you to wipe up the bathroom counter and not leave it wet.

Three years of you yelling back that its not you but a leaky pipe.

It IS so you ;-p

Three years of seeing you go from a gangly girl transformed to young lady. You are beautiful inside and out.

Three years of lolling about on my bed talking about secret crushes.

Three years of asking me to check your French homework. Hey, I keep telling you I suck at French!!!

Three years of making me laugh, cheering me up when I am down, bringing me cups of coffee.

And more importantly, three years of you being brave enough to taste test EVERYTHING from seaweed accra to this which you loved, this which you didn't and now this soup.

FYI I loved that you 'squeeeeeeed' over the fact that there were turnips in this and that you were über excited to try it because of 'The Enourmous Turnip' children's story.

You are too funny;-)

Cabbage Soup 

4 turnips
1 1/2 cup cooked corned beef, ham or bacon, chopped
1 cup onion, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup celery, chopped

4 cups shredded cabbage
1 ( 10 1/2 oz ) can white beans, drained
6 cups beef broth
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper or multi-coloured pepper corns


Boil turnips in a small saucepan until almost cooked through. Throw away the water. Peel and cut turnips into cubes.

In a large pot, sauté chopped corned beef  ( bacon or ham ) for a minute or two.

Add onions, garlic, celery  and cook to soften.

Add the remaining ingredients. Bring soup to a boil. Lower to medium heat and cook for 10 mins - 15 mins. Taste and adjust salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and serve with thick slices of crusty bread

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trinidad Kurma

Trinidad is blessed to have a culture that embraces the festivals of different religions and every year I look forward to Divali, the Hindu festival of lights. If I lived abroad I think this is one of the holidays that I would miss like crazy.

Divali would be incomplete without the many offerings of Indian sweets that make their appearance at this time. Kurma, a traditional, Trinidadian sweet is basically a fried dough that is coated in a sugar glaze. There are two varieties. A thin, crisp variety which is sold in shops all year round. Then there is the version pictured above which seems to be more popular around Divali. This kurma is thicker with a crunchy exterior but with a soft fluffy interior. It is made with a sweeter dough than the thin kurma.  It would be interesting to find out how this snack got its name because although it is Indian in origin the word  kurma in India refers to a creamy curry.

Most recipes for kurma yield impossibly large amounts. Too much for a single family. This is because when one makes kurma it is usually for commercial purposes or to give away to friends and neighbours at Divali time. I seriously had to scale back the recipe that I found. The original called for 5lbs of flour! Feel free to scale it back again by half if you don't plan on sharing with friends.

Yeild approx 48 Kurma


10 cups flour
2 cups butter

4 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground  elychee (cardamom)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup condensed milk
1 1/2 cups water (+ or - as needed to for dough)

Vegetable oil for frying

For Phaag (Syrup)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Cut butter into small cubes and rub into flour until it looks like bread crumbs.

* You can use a pastry cutter for this or if you wish blitz it with your food processor in two batches.  Put 5 cups of flour and 1 cup butter in food processor. Give it a whir then process the second batch. This is not a pastry dough that you can mess up with over processing. No stress promise.

Mix in the grated ginger, elychee and cinnamon

Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and water. Combine everything to make a soft dough.

Let rest 5-10 mins

Divide dough into two balls

Heat enough oil for deep frying kurma in a pot over high heat.

Roll out dough about 1/2 " thick

Cut into strips about 1/2' wide.

Roll each strip until rounded.

Cut rounded strips into finger length or slightly shorter lengths.

Fry on low heat until golden brown.

Drain on brown or absorbent paper and place in a large bowl that can take heat.

Boil water and sugar until it forms a syrup that is just about to crystallize.

Pour all over kurma. Get someone to hold the bowl steady  so you can turn the kurma briskly  so that it does not stick. Turn kurma until the sugar crystallizes.

Cook's Tip:
The most difficult thing for me in making this was the frying. If the flame is too high the outside will cook but the insides remain as raw dough. It took a couple tries to get it going. Bring the oil up to high heat, then turn down to a low heat before putting the kurma to fry. Frying the kurma takes a bit of patience which if you know anything about me from following this blog, I do not have. I am am an impatient cook. So, in order to ensure that the kurmas cooked through, I took a bamboo skewer and poked holes in them while they were frying. Perfect results.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Modak ( Steamed, Coconut Dhal Dumplings)

Divali is nearly upon us and my mind is already on the food, especially sweets. This one is a sweet, steamed, rice dumpling from the South of India. Modaks are usually made for the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in honour of Lord Ganesh. While not a Divali sweet per say, it was just too tempting to pass up.

Traditionally modaks are filled with with coconut, jaggery (unrefined brown sugar) and spices. However modern versions use a staggering variety of fillings. I have come across everything from mango modaks, to ones filled with raspberry coulis. There are even chocolate modaks. I love that it is a dessert which can be customized to just about everyone's taste.

For my first go at it, I decided to start with a more traditional version. Most people use modak molds to obtain a pretty fluted shape. It is possible to form the pleats by hand. if you are so skilled. Clearly I am not. I gave it the old college try but people I have a day job that I won't be quitting anytime soon. 

The lady in this video gives a good explanation of the pleating process at about 3.33 mins into the video.

The little red dots on top of my modaks are not traditional but if I were making these with different fillings, then different coloured dots would be an easy way to remember the stuffing of each dumpling. Plus it makes my sad looking, little, dumpling balls look just that more festive - or so I tell myself. A small amount of self delusion is quite healthy, isn't it? 

The reality is that working with any kind of dough takes practice as you need to develop a feel for it. Clearly, I need more practice to get a smoother dough. Luckily, these little dumplings are such a treat that making them over, and over, and over again, in order to perfect my technique will not be a hardship.

Modak (Coconut Dhal Dumplings )
Makes 24 modaks

For the dumpling
2 cups rice flour *
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp white sugar
1/8 tsp salt

For the Filling
1 cup dried yellow split peas
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger


1. Cook split peas in pressure cooker with 3 cups of water. Bring pressure to high then cook for 10 mins

2. Mash peas with a wooden spoon. Mix in the grated coconut  and set aside.

3. In a saucepan dissolve one cup of sugar with half cup of sugar and cook for a few minutes until you have a thin syrup.

Add the syrup to the peas and coconut mixture. To this add salt, cardamon, and ginger.

4. Return to the stove over a medium high heat. Cook for a few minutes tirring constantly until mixture has thickened, is no longer watery and can be shaped into small balls.


Place rice in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring to a boil  2 1/2 cups water, sugar  salt, and oil.  Slowing pour over rice flour while mixing with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.

Grease your hands and have a small bowl of water nearby to wet your hands if needed to help maintain a good dough consistency. Make lemon sized balls and flatten to make a small cup place the coconut/dhal filling in the cup. Wrap and seal dough around the filling. Set aside and cover with a damp cloth while you shape the other modaks. Steam in a steamer for 10 - 12 minutes

Cooks Notes
*I could not find rice flour so I used a plain white gluten free flour blend that had rice flour listed as one of its ingredients.