November 15, 2015

Pure Vegetarian Giveaway Winner

November 15, 2015
My husband played Lady Fortuna and drew Vishakha Dasi’s name from the hat – Pure Vegetarian giveaway book goes to her. Vishakha Dasi, please e-mail me (laksmi at purevege dot com) to give me your contact information and postal address. Congratulations!

Thank you, everyone, for participating. I wish I could send you all a copy!

Love, Lakshmi

November 8, 2015

An Interview

November 8, 2015
Please continue to Kajal Dhabalia's Wholesome Soul - a blog dedicated to yoga life - where she interviews me about cooking and spirituality. You'll find my current favorite breakfast recipe there, too.
Thank you.

November 2, 2015

Peach Pie & Giveaway

November 2, 2015
My aunt, who is in her seventies now, did a long career in Helsinki University. Besides teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, she wrote and co-authored twenty cookbooks.

As a kid, I admired her unconditionally! Not because of her academic achievements, but because she came with open arms and connected with a shy girl like me. My brother was her Godson; I envied him for that! Although I’ve since learnt that my brother’s merits are due to his own good nature, I still dote on my aunt.

When Pure Vegetarian came out, I handed her a copy, “Look aunty what I did,” feeling like a kindergartener who gives an object made of empty paper rolls to a renowned sculptor! I was nervous knowing she would examine it as a professional.

She called me five days later to offer feedback. By browsing through the recipes she had noted that she isn’t the target reader because her dietary habits are settled – she wouldn’t use Indian ingredients or learn new cooking methods, like tempering spices. Nonetheless, she appreciated the clarity of the recipes and found the instructions articulate. She enjoyed exploring details about hing, tej patta, bitter melon and other items that are foreign to her, listed in the end of the book.
When I dedicated to bhakti-yoga in my late teens, many of my relatives were embarrassed and cut contact with me, but my aunt remained broadminded. Therefore, she wasn’t surprised that I approach cooking as meditation in the book. She nailed my purpose of writing Pure Vegetarian by saying that even before she read the non-recipe content she saw that the photographs respect the elements and ingredients I work with. She found the images delicate, telling a story about commitment to spirituality, and concluded, “I will be proud to show your book to all of my colleagues.”
I admit, I read the book again after hanging up the telephone. Are authors allowed to do that? Is it a shameful confession? My aunt claimed she never opened any of her books after publishing them. I’ve rendered aloud mine at least 20 times!

Pure Vegetarian is imperfect – or, impure – in many ways, like I am. Trust me, I’ve beaten myself for every sentence I could’ve written more genuinely, every recipe I could’ve tested again, and every picture I could’ve put more effort into. However, the book inspires me. It reminds me, and hopefully everyone who reads it, of different ways to associate with and around food. Isn’t it true that you and I are ultimately looking for the sustenance of the soul that comes from connecting to the divine nature – our source, and the source of bread and butter – through consciousness? Nutrition, as metabolic and physiological support, doesn’t satisfy the hunger for fulfilment; matter alone will always be inadequate for us, spiritual beings.
Think of Pure Vegetarian as a rest stop on the path of elevation all humans travel from inside out – instead of outside in – searching for lasting happiness and love. Press your breaks and sit down with me! Let’s dive into the essence of food and the potential of cooking, while I’ll serve you rice, dal, vegetables, salads, savories, sauces, sweets and beverages.

Tell me who has encouraged you recently in your life under this post to enter Pure Vegetarian giveaway (or write anything else). I’ll randomly draw a name from a hat on November 15, announce it on the blog, and ship a copy of Pure Vegetarian to the winner – hopefully you – anywhere in the world! Meanwhile, enjoy the peach pie; the recipe is from the book.


Step I
63 ml (1/4 Cup) wholegrain spelt flour
250 ml (1 Cup) all purpose spelt flour
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
120 g (1/4 lb) cold unsalted butter
63 ml (1/4 Cup) ice cold water or as needed 

Step II
1 ½ kg (3 1/2 lb) peaches
3 liters (12 Cups) boiling water for scalding 

Step III
2 Tbsp lemon juice
188 ml (¾ Cup) sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder
A pinch of salt
3 Tbsp corn starch

Step IV
Milk, yogurt, cream or water for brushing
Sugar for sprinkling on the top

Make the dough by mixing the flours, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and fork it into the flour until it resembles a coarse crumble with visible (pea-size) pearls of butter. Add the water gradually while pulling the dough into a rough ball with a spatula. Adjust the amount of water, depending on the quality of flour.

Divide the dough into two parts and wrap a plastic film around each one. Flatten them slightly and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the peaches. Cut a shallow cross on the top of them. Plunge them in a pot of boiling water for a minute. Drain and rinse them with cold water. Slip the skins off with the help of a paring knife. Pit and slice them. Set aside.

Preheat the oven at 200 C (392 F).

Take one portion of the dough. Roll it into a thin round between two baking sheets sprinkled with flour. It should cover the bottom and sides of a 25 to 28 cm (10” – 12”) pie form. Remove the top sheet and transfer the crust into the form by flipping it over with the help of the bottom sheet. Remove the second paper, too. Trim the edges. Put it back to the refrigerator.

Unwrap the other portion of dough and roll it, similarly, into a thin disk. Use a cookie cutter to cut small hearts out of it. Alternatively, you may use it as such (pierced with a knife), or make a lattice top for the pie.

Combine the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, spices, salt and corn starch. Take out the pie form and pour the filling in it. Cover with the hearts and brush with milk or water. Sprinkle it with sugar and bake on the bottom third of the oven for about 50 minutes. If the edges are becoming too dark, cover them with a piece of foil, wet baking sheet.

Serve hot or cold. The filling settles as it cools down.

Thank you.

October 13, 2015

Sunchoke Chips

October 13, 2015
After Sophie Charlotte Elisabeth Ursinus married an elderly privy councilor at the age of nineteen, she enjoyed the upper class privileges of Prussia for decades, until her fate changed on the evening of March 5th 1803. While she was hosting a card game at home, police stormed in and arrested her. The trial that followed shook Berlin. No longer did “Lotte” draw attention as a well-dressed widow, a pietist and a poet, but as a serial killer.
The scientist Valentin Rose was an expert witness on the trial. He submitted a report stating he was unable to prove that Madame Ursinus had poisoned any of the victims – Officer Rogay (her lover), her husband, or her aunt. The suspicion, though, was overwhelming. When Benjamin Klein, a servant and a murder attempt survivor, stepped forward to testify that his mistress had served him a bowl of prunes she had first marinated in arsenic, Mrs. Ursinus was convicted and sent to prison. Although pardoned thirty years later, she failed to recover her social standing, and died alone.

After the trial, Valentin Rose became obsessed with developing a method of detecting arsenic in the body. He succeeded in 1806 but, before the breakthrough, he discovered another peculiar – yet less harmful – substance, inulin, while distilling horse-heal extract in his laboratory.
Inulins are dietary fibers that occur naturally in many plants, such as agave, banana, garlic, asparagus, chicory, wheat, onion and sunchoke. Inulin acts as an energy reserve and regulates the cold resistance of these plants.

Enzymes in the human alimentary system, designed to metabolize starch, cannot digest inulin which is a different kind of complex carbohydrate, called fructan or a polymer of fructose molecules. It passes through the upper gastrointestinal track all the way to the colon where the local flora feasts on it. If you have ever thrown such a party in your hindgut, you know it releases a lot of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane – to put it politely. John Goodyer, an English botanist, says it more bluntly in John Gerard’s Historie of Plants from 1621: “which way so ever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men.” Although he referred to sunchokes, the phenomenon applies to all inulin-contained foods.
Native Americans, long before Europeans arrived, cultivated sunchoke tubers and used them as root vegetables. When the early colonists learnt that these underground nubs were edible, they sent seeds back to the Old World. Now Jerusalem artichoke (another name for sunchoke) is a popular crop around the continent. Pleasing to harvest, each root can produce hundreds of tubers a year!

Despite the name, Jerusalem artichoke doesn’t hail from Jerusalem, nor is it a close relative of artichoke (although the two have a similar – sweet and nutty – taste). Italian settlers in America called it girasole, which in Italian means a sunflower. If you twist your tongue, you may hear how “Jerusalem” and “girasol” sound alike. Some other names are French potato, topinambour, lambchoke, sunroot and earth apple. How can such an ugly lump have so many names?
You can substitute sunchokes for potatoes in some recipes. The two have a similar consistency and texture, and become mushy when boiled. However, introduce sunchokes in small doses to your diet, and examine how you react to them. If you are sensitive to fructose, your body may respond in a more hostile way. The zero glycaemic index of sunchokes offers no solace if you have to suffer from gastric pain and flatulence!


The ingredients for the chips:
Sunchoke tubers
Little olive oil
Himalayan salt
Cayenne powder

The method:
Wash the tubers carefully. You don’t have to peel them if they are young, and organically grown. Slice them very thinly, either with a sharp knife or mandolin.

Sprinkle very little olive oil on the slices and rub it in.

Roast the slices in a hot oven (225 C / 400 F) until they are golden on both sides. You may have to turn them during the process.

Add salt and cayenne before serving the chips (with tomato chutney, for example).

Thank you.