October 3, 2011

Cooking With Kurma

October 3, 2011
My Indian mother, Italian uncle, French brother, British teacher... The list goes on and sounds like an international mafia, but is not! These affectionate attributes belong to an Australian vegetarian guru, Kurma Dasa, to whom I’ve turned countless times in a need of cooking instructions. His book, Great Vegetarian Dishes, introduced me to the culinary field from boiling rice to making sweets.  I studied the book to the point of it falling apart. The pages became spilled with tomato sauce, syrup and pesto. When the binding failed, I cut the pages out and preserved them in plastic. Later I obtained his second book, Cooking with Kurma, which consists of equally versatile, simple but sumptuous recipes from all around the world. There are two other books published by him: Quick Vegetarian Dishes and Vegetarian World Food. Some of the recipes are available also as a stack of laminated tabletop cards!

Unlike the wicked TV-cooks and reality-chefs who promote competitive and frantic kitchen craft, Kurma presents cooking in the mode of goodness and beyond! In our yoga tradition cooking is held in the highest esteem. Attention is paid not only to the external cleanliness and quality of ingredients but, above all, to the state of mind, the consciousness, while cooking. It is a sacred act of enlightenment and upliftment.

Besides a renowned cook, Kurma is an educator. He has hosted three television cooking series seen in around 50 countries. He is giving gourmet cooking masterclasses, besides in Australia, Europe and the United States, anywhere from Peru’s Machu Picchu to an Indian village of Mayapur.  He is writing columns for various magazines and working on new recipes.

He has a website Cooking With Kurma and a blog Life And Travel With Kurma. Take a look at his delightful recipes, get to know his kind and approachable personality and check out his travel schedule: next time he is in town, enroll in his class! He is a gentleman of character and lifestyle that may pleasantly surprise you!

The recipes below I've learnt from Kurma. A good teacher is able to show the principle behind the subject. Once we grasp the idea of how something works, we can expand the details connected to it. In cooking it means we can be innovate, add or subtract ingredients and flavours as long as it is in harmony with the principle. An interesting recipe inspires to see the preparation in a new light and to combine it with something else than it originally was. The changes I’ve made to these recipes are under the title: NOTES.


AMISH APPLE DUMPLINGS

Kurma Dasa: In this monumental dessert, sweet red apples are wrapped in a rich pastry and baked in an even richer sauce. This recipe, originally from the Amish people of Pennsylvania, is definitely not diet food. The Amish are famous for their hard work. If you’ve been building barns or ploughing the fields all day, you won’t feel guilty returning home to these deliciously saucy, individually packaged apple pies.

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 15-20 minutes
YIELD: 8 apple dumplings

The apples:

3 cups (750 ml) plain flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) cold butter
2 tablespoons (40 ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (40 ml) cold water
1 tablespoons (20 ml) lemon juice
8 sweet red apples

The sauce:

½ cup (125 ml) butter
1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar
4 tablespoons (80 ml) water

Sprinkle the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the buttermilk, water and lemon juice, and stir it into the flour mixture to form a soft pastry. Knead the dough briefly, then set aside for a few minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a large floured surface until it’s big enough to cut into 8 squares, each big enough to completely fit around an apple. Cut the pastry into 8 squares, place an apple on one square and wrap it, lightly sealing the pastry on the top. Repeat for all the apples. Place the apples on a lightly buttered 22.5 cm x 32.5 cm (9-inch x 13-inch) baking pan. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (355F).

Combine butter, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over moderate heat. Pour the sauce over the apple dumplings, place the pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden brown and the apples yield easily to a knife. The Amish like to pour cold milk over their warm dumplings. Try cream or ice-cream. Happy ploughing!


NOTES:

I used half and half plain wheat and wholegrain spelt for the dough, for the taste and nutrients. Before baking I brushed the dumplings with a mixture of sour milk and water, and sprinkled them with caster sugar. I baked them on a regular oven tray without the sauce. I made the sauce by gently boiling cream and brown sugar (with molasses) until it became thick and saucy. Then I added a dab of butter, as if it was not fatty enough! I poured the sauce over the dumplings just before serving. Oh my! I wouldn’t mind giving a helping hand in the Amish community if such a treat was served after a day of work. Celestial!


I made a bit bigger dough, used the left-over for baking small tartlets with carrot & gooseberry jam and served them with vanilla custard.

ALMOND TOFFEE FUDGE

Kurma Dasa: I can honestly say that I've cooked more fudge than any other one preparation in my quarter-century kitchen career. Different versions of the same basic recipe, often prepared in 2,000-5,000 piece batches, have been devoured with delight at innumerable expos, food fairs, alternative life-style events and catering programs. I've supplied the recipe hundreds of times to "fudgeaholics".

Here's the original almond variety, immortalised in print. You should know that the best-tasting fudge requires top quality unsalted butter, premium quality cream and, most important, full-fat powdered milk.


PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: about 30 minutes
YIELD: about 50 pieces of fudge

250g good quality unsalted butter (I prefer Danish style)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) raw sugar
1 cup (250 ml) pouring consistency pure cream
1 cup (250 ml) whole unblanched almonds, oven-roasted or fried, and very coarsely chopped
About 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) full cream powdered milk
Extra toasted, crushed, slivered, flaked or whole almonds for decorating the surface of the fudge (optional)

Gently melt the butter in a heavy 5-litre/quart saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar, increase the heat to moderate and, stirring constantly, cook for about 3 minutes or until the sugar melts into the butter and becomes frothy.

Cook for a few minutes more until it develops a light caramel colour. The caramelised sugar will give off a light toffee fragrance. Be careful to avoid over-darkening the sugar at this point; excess caramelisation will give the fudge a bitter flavour. The butter will probably be completely separated from the caramelised sugar at this stage, but that's normal.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and nuts. Using a wire whisk, gradually mix in the powdered milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously to avoid forming any lumps. When the mixture just hangs onto the whisk, it is ready. If it reaches this stage before you've added all the powdered milk, don't add any more. If it's still too runny after adding it all, add a little more.

Very lightly butter a 25 cm-30 cm (10-inch - 12-inch) tray. With a spatula, scrape the hot fudge mixture into the tray. Smooth it out and sprinkle the top with the optional nuts. Allow the fudge to set in a cool place for 1 hour. Cut into approximately 3.75 cm (1-inch) squares, and stand back.

NOTES:

The full-fat milk-powder we get in Finland is grainy and unpleasant. I never use it in making sweets, or in anything, as a matter of fact! Instead I use non-fat, low-lactose one that is refine and gives a good texture. For the amount of butter above, I use a little less sugar and much less milk-powder, about 600 ml.

When making the fudge this time, I could’ve caramelised the sugar a little longer. It should have a darker colour. Oops...

If you make the fudge a little thinner and softer, you can use it as a spread in filling cakes, pastries and cookies. You might want to omit the coarsely chopped almonds and try vanilla or some other flavour. I had so much left-over fudge that I decided to fill cookies with the rest. Because both, the fudge and cookies, were rich, I accompanied them with black-currant & chokeberry jam. A match made in heaven!

Here is the recipe for the cookies. By Kurma, of course!



CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES

Kurma Dasa: These simple and tasty almond cookies are great served anytime.

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 30 minutes
YIELD: 1 dozen

½ cup (125 ml) softened butter
1/3 cup (85 ml) raw sugar
1 cup (250 ml) plain flour
3 tablespoon (60 ml) ground almonds
A few drops almond essence
1 dozen blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 180 C (355 F).

Cream the butter with sugar in a bowl. Add the flour, ground almonds, and the almond essence and combine thoroughly.

Roll the mixture into 12 balls. Press each ball firmly in the palms of your hands to flatter. Press a blanched almond in the center of each cookie.

Place the cookies on an ungreased biscuit sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Allow cool before serving.

NOTES:

Again, I replaced half of the flour with wholegrain spelt and rolled out the dough between two baking papers. I used a cookie-cutter to get uniform size cookies. I omitted the almond essence and blanched almonds. Instead, I gave the dough a squeeze of lemon.


Once the cookies were cool, I piped a circle of almond fudge around the edges and placed a spoonful of jam in the middle. Finally I decorated the cookies with sugar-paste made with powdered sugar and a drop of jam.


Actually, I doubled the recipe and found myself, for the pleasure of my husband :-), with left-over dough again! I pressed the dough thinly on the tart forms and filled them with a mixture of thick quark, powder sugar, cardamom, and lemon zest and juice. I placed a thin slice of lemon on the top, pushed them in the oven (175 C) until they looked baked and beautiful. They were some fresh and tasty puppies!

ICED TAMARIND SODA

Kurma Dasa: This summer refresher makes an unusual change. Dark and tangy in flavour, tamarind drinks are popular wherever the tamarind tree grows. There are many varieties of tamarind in the shops. I have suggested tamarind concentrate for this recipe. It usually comes in small plastic jars – “Instam” and “Tamcon” are two common brands. You may wish to add extra water or sugar, and adjust the flavour of the drink according to your taste.


PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 15 minutes
YIELD: 6 cup (1.5 litres)

¾ cup (185 ml) raw sugar
½ cup (125 ml) water
3 tablespoon (60 ml) tamarind concentrate
4 cups (1 litre) soda water
Crushed ice

Stir to dissolve the sugar with the water in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add the tamarind, mix well and bring the syrup to a boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Place the crushed ice in your glasses, fill half with soda water, stir 2 tablespoons (40 ml) tamarind syrup per glass and mix well. Top up the glasses with soda and serve.

NOTES:

Instead of concentrate I used tamarind pulp that comes with the seeds intact. It has to be covered and soaked in boiling water for some time and sieved in order to separate the seeds. Due to its acidic nature, non-metallic bowl is used.

Tamarind fruit is a legume. The pulp is ugly as anything. It is sweet and sour in taste, and is high in sugar, B vitamins and, interestingly for a fruit, calcium. It is widely used in chutneys and jams, but also in soups, like rasam and sambar, to give a unique signature to the specific lentil dishes.

When you serve the drink, give the guests something to stir it with. I used cinnamon sticks.

63 comments:

  1. Ohh, thank you, Laksmi!
    Your post and the recipes are BEAUTIFUL! I liked everything, but more with the apples.

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  2. I'm enchanted Laksmi
    Thanks for your generosity and all the details. I can hardly chose only one sweet ;-)
    Your photo are amazing, sometimes funny and sometimes almost sensuaL
    Have a nice evening!

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  3. Laksmi, I am stunned and speechless with this post. My limbs are weakening in awe when i see the photographs and recipes. I have to check out the above mentioned sites soon, and for now I am going to linger here for ever.

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  4. Hah,hah...my ladies you are funny! Soma, tell me if I you need an ambulance :-) We don't want you to fall in the cyber-traffic, it can be dangerous.

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  5. Those apples are just gorrrrgeous! I just stumbled upon your site and love the photos and the whole vibe. it makes me want to linger in the kitchen on a lazy afternoon and create these delights for my little girls. I am definitely trying the apple dumplings and the almond cookies...

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  6. Laksmi..I'm amazed. Definitely. This post is not just interestng, but superb. Because of the photos, the recipe. This post is superb because you are superb. Great. I don't need other words to comment. And what about the apples? I have never seen so cute and tiny apples as they are!

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  7. SO beautiful and tempting, Laksmi! It's, each time, a deep pleasure to come visit this place. Thank you!

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  8. I think I am going to buy his book. All the recipes and photographs are just fantastic. Lovely to be able to read such a lovely post.

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  9. such a beautiful post, Lakshmi! I loved every single thing in this post, the apple dumplings being my favorite!

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  10. Wow. Your pictures are just stunning. I just subscribed based on this post alone, saw that you do mostly things with vegetables (which I sadly hate) but I don't even care. I look forward to seeing more pictures of yours! I'm going through your Flickr pictures now and it seriously makes me hate all my pictures and want to give up because I'll never be half as good as you are. I guess that's a horrible attitude but really, I'm just taken aback by your photos. They're amazing.

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  11. WOW! That's all I can say!!! Such a beautiful post and all the recipes and photos are just amazingly beautiful.

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  12. I now know what to do with all of my excess apples! I blog about pie and I may just have to link this recipe. Yum!

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  13. Lakshmi, your photographs and words inspire me to cook and explore more flavours. Thank you!

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  14. Stunning. I have never seen apples with such a beautiful pink tinge to them. Now I know why you've been missing for so long- you've obviously been too busy cooking up a sweet storm.

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  15. This is a stunning post! the images are beyond beautiful :)

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  16. Thanks for visiting and taking time to drop your well-wishing words here.

    Dubai Veg Growers, the apple dumplings are perfect for bringing kids in the kitchen and baking them together. The process is interesting enough for the children. Your girls would love it!

    Texanerin, please don't feel discouraged about your photography! I had a look on your blog, and you are doing very well. I love your wholegrain recipes! In my "real life" I don't use refined flour. If you don't mind, I'd like to link your site on the resources page here. Looking forward more recipes from you!

    Sukaina, the apples were amazing! The ones I used for the dumplings were the sweetest ever. They had such a beautiful hue, too, even after being peeled! No sugar was needed in the dough. The caramel sauce was there only for the looks :-)!

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  17. I have no words Lakshmi! This just has to be one of the most beautiful posts i have come across in a VERY long time! Each photo is perfect!
    Thank you for all the inspiration! You are gifted :)

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  18. ................
    I'm speechless!

    This is my 5th visit to same post and I’m still finding it difficult to say anything! First time when I saw those pinkish apples warped in pastry and then beautifully baked, I thought I may be able to come back again and leave a note.

    Second time when I came, I just got lost imagining the taste of Tamarind Soda!!! And just left without leaving any comment!

    Third time, it was those perfect almonds fudge which transformed me to some other space… and again, I left without leaving any words…

    I thought fourth time will be easier to say something but again Chinese almond cookies left me…speechless!

    At last I decided I had to say the first thing that comes to my mind! And it’s just SUPERB, STUNNING, GORGEOUS and BREATHTAKING!

    and now let me go back to the post and pictures and become speechless AGAIN! :)

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  19. Thank you, Chinmayie and Sia!

    Sia, you made me laugh! It seems you are good with words, not in lost with them :-)! Tamarind soda is an interesting drink, please try it! It is sweet, sour and salty at the same time. Like a liquid chutney with bubbles :-)I don't drink carbonated water or soft drinks myself, except when making tamarind soda once or twice a year. It has to be made with carbonated water, regular water won't do the trick.

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  20. Lakshmi, thank you for your kind comment! I don't mind at all and I'm really honored that you did that. There will be many, many whole grain recipes to come. :)

    And I'm with Sia. I've visited this page maybe a dozen times today and I still can't describe how your pictures move me.

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  21. Erin, great! Your cheesecake looks fabulous. After cooking for this post I promised myself to stay away from sugar for some time. I was determined until I saw your cheesecake :-).

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  22. lakshmi ... how do I resist that fudge and those cookies! You know how much I love your photoshoot and your styling but this one will remain in my thoughts for a very long time! Just love your work so much.There is so much to learn from you, wish I could meet you sometime, somewhere!

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  23. You could always save it for when you have a bunch of others to feed! That's what I have to do. Otherwise I eat almost all of it by myself within a day or so. Like that almond fudge up there will just have to wait until someone has a birthday or party. I don't even like almonds but I have to make that. It looks amazing.

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  24. AH-MA-ZING!
    Lakshmi, I could write a page here on how good your post+photography+writing is! I repeat that there is a certain amount of calm and serenity and an ethereal beauty to your space here along with the photographs you make. Just feels like lingering here for however long it takes!
    Missed your posts when you were gone on a vacation...
    Amen! Kankana.. I wish too..

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  25. Aah it seems all the words in apprecation of this post has already been said...all I can is that is really heartwarming post, with beauty and calmness along with delicious food.

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  26. love your blog so much ! what's even better is this extra sweet post, delicious ! i have a big sweet tooth ;-)

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  27. OMG, you worked a lot to make all these wonderful sweets! The photos are so beautiful, I want to taste everything now!

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  28. Lakshmi, I have recently started practicing yoga and true to your words eating and cooking seem to be a purest form of treating and respecting ourselves, I am becoming more aware of what and how I cook, your post gave me all that energy and vibe, gorgeous pictures as always

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  29. This's mindboggling!! Stunning, strikingly beautiful, exquisite... I can keep throwing adjectives, and much more. Seriously lady, you have this effect on me, and not just me by the looks of what I see/read here. Ah. I'm so inspired to create such beauty. Love you and your work my friend!

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  30. Lakshmi... I am glued to my screen looking at your gorgeous photos.
    I dont know how to put in words to desribe these feelings everytime I look at your photos... its calming, serene and at peace within. Inspiring :D

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  31. Thank you, sweet-hearts :-)!

    Kankana & Radhika, if there is a will, there is a way. That's my motto. We can make anything to happen, if we want - even meeting one another. Only time is separating us :-).

    Erin, you can substitute almonds with any other nuts, dry fruits or even fresh berries if they are not too mushy! Or you you can omit almonds and add any other flavour of your taste: vanilla, lemon zest, cacao, cardamon... You may have to adjust the proportions a bit then.

    Sreelu, you are right. Cooking but also the way we eat, when we with, with whom we eat, the environment we eat in...affects our health - mental and physical - a lot. Eating is such a fundamental pillar of wellbeing but it has lost a lot of magic in our time of inattentive and unaware rushing through life.

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  32. Liquid chutney with bubbles.

    I like that description :) And I will be giving it a shot pretty soon. My Amma (mother) makes tamarind rasam and gojju (sweet, spicy and sour) that I always end up eating more. Have u tried Tamarind Rice (called Puliyogare)? It's served as Prasadam in many south Indian temples along with Pongal.

    And glad my comment made u laugh ;)

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  33. I feel like I have landed ina cookies wonderland suddenly. So many variety of baking oh how i wish i was there to taste all tehse goodies.

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  34. What an outstanding and absolutely wonderful post!! I have never seen something like this before!!

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  35. Stunning like all of your posts -- love the vibrant colors and I want to taste them all!

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  36. Your blog is gorgeous! I can't wait to try some of these recipes!

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  37. Just chanced upon your blog Lakshmi!!!! Its beautiful - simply love that fudge!! I spent an early spring in Helsinki some years ago - its a good city for foodies :)

    Apu @ Annarasa

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  38. Thank you! I'm happy to hear you find the post useful.

    Xiaolu,♥!

    Apu, interesting that you've spent time in Helsinki. I can't imagine anyone visiting such a remote & austere place! It may become as a surprise to you, but I've never eaten out in a restaurant and have no idea what the food scene is here, other than being told there are less vegetarian restaurants than there used to be.

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  39. Love this post! And your tribute echoes my sentiments too! Kurma Prabhu has been a guiding light, answering questions right from what milk to use to more complicated cooking questions! Wonderful!

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  40. What an absolutely gorgeous post! Everything looks so good.

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  41. Hi Lakshmi - your blog is extraordinarily disciplined and beautiful.

    Do you know the name of the apples, the pale pink-fleshed apples? I have been looking for them for years.

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  42. Better late than never...I almost missed out this wonderful read and some of the stunning pictures I have ever seen in food blogging.
    OOmm..that fudge is making me go weak in knees..but have to try it for sure.

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  43. Marie, the apples are Finnish, I don't know the variety. Externally they looked plain. It was a surprise to see them after peeling. Usually Finnish apples are sour to my taste, but these were juicy and sweet.

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  44. OMaGyana! such great photography. mindboggling yumness

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  45. Thanks Prabhu! ...kṛṣṇa baro doyāmoy, koribāre jihwā jay, swa-prasād-anna dilo bhāi...

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  46. What a beautiful, inspiring and mouthwatering list of absolutely must make recipes!!

    Thank you!
    You are WONDERFUL!

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  47. Joanne, thanks. Please try the recipes, they are delicious.

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  48. Hi! I just found you via Pinterest ~ now I am hooked. Stunning blog & recipes :)

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  49. Thank you, Marla. I created a link to your blog.

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  50. Lakshmi your recipes and photographs are so addictive! I enjoy reading your posts a lot! Am heading to make myself a tamarind drink now.

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  51. If you can offer that to your British teacher, I'm sure the entire mortgage deals for teachers in the UK would be delighted to get that as well. Cheers!

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  52. I love everything about this page. Beautiful photos, beautiful recipes. Thank you!

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  53. Beautiful photos Lakshmi! My first taste and memory of the almond fudge you've posted here was at our Hare Krsna Temple in Melbourne - Prasadam after wonderful songs and prayers to Lord Krsna! I tried making it at home yesterday but alas, you are right about the milk powder - the resulting fudge was grainy and crystallised. Will have to keep trying...

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  54. Oh, Bhuvana, sorry to hear about the burfi becoming grany! I've recently had very bad experiences with milk powder. I hardly ever use it, because I don't like the taste. I prefer cooking down milk for sweets myself. I wish you luck and strenght trying again!

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  55. So many incredible treats! I don't know which one I want to try first. Gorgeous shots as always!

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  56. I just came across your blog and oh my gosh, I am so glad I did! I shall now be a regular visitor for sure. Have to try the tamarind soda today. Thanks a bunch for giving us the gorgeousness, images and recipes wise.
    Namrata
    StoryofaPantry- Facebook page

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  57. AnonymousMay 14, 2013

    I wanted to try something new in baking breads and so I visited my favorite site http://www.thekneadforbread.com/ while browsing flat breads section I saw Kitchari Roti and ended up at your blog. Your blog is delightful! Thanks for sharing your expertise with us :)
    I can't wait for my next trip to grocers so I can get some milk powder to try the 'Almond Fudge'. I do have a question about the recipe... Can the quantities be halved or quartered to obtain the same results as your pictures depict? Thanks Again!
    shree

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, yes, the quantities can be adjusted. The exact amount of milk powder depends on it's quality. I use much less than the original recipe calls for.

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    2. AnonymousMay 25, 2013

      Hi Lakshmi,
      Tried the Almond Fudge today, I halved the recipe & it turned out well. The toffee flavor is amazing. We(spouse & I) simply can't stop eating it. It is wonderful! Thanks for replying and sharing :)
      Shree

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    3. Sounds great! Happy to hear.

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  58. AlekandandaMarch 13, 2014

    My oh my, Lakshmi devi dasi, I am delighted to come across your blog. I tried Amish apple dumplings once, but were poorly done, and I am not sure if I would even tried them again, until I found your post, which instilled me with new inspiration and vigor. Thank you so much. Hari bol!

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