These are indigenous to the South American continent where they have been grown for their food and medicinal properties since at least 7,500 BC. They were taken to the subcontinent by Spanish and Portuguese trader in the 16th century, and replaced the indigenous pippali pepper, as they proved easy to grow.
If you use fresh chillies of any description-and there are a good many of them, you should wash your hands thoroughly immediately after chopping them, as they will irritate your eyes or other parts of your body if you rub your hands on your skin.
Christopher Columbus thought they were another type of black pepper when he found them growing in the West Indies. I guess he was surprised when he tasted one!
Now in India, you can see 2 chillies and a lemon hung over doorways to ward off evil. Also, if you burn them, they will rid the place of any evil that might be lurking. They are the food of the poor as they are really cheap, and can be eaten raw with chapattis as a lunch time meal. They are from the same family (Solanaceae) as the tomato and potato.
You can use these as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats, and we think they are good for the blood. They are used in creams in the West to relieve muscle pains.
Here we have ground red chilli pepper, which is just that, although while researching red chillies I found that some commercially produced ‘chilli powder ‘is mixed with other spices such as ground cumin. When buying the powder, go for the real, unadulterated stuff, which you may need to find in an Asian store.

12 red chillies finely chopped, with seeds
1 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil
a third of a cup white wine vinegar
a third of a cup whisky
3 or 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

Put in all ingredients in a glass jar with airtight lid and shake to mix. Leave for a month before using, but turn the jar upside down every day. You don’t need to shake it vigorously.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


This recipe is authentic. I was given it by a bar owner in a backstreet bar/restaurant in northern Portugal.


Turmeric is a relative newcomer to the West, although it has been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for around 5,000 years. At first it was used as a dye, and later for its uses in medicine and cooking. In the West it’s used extensively as a yellow food colouring, in mustards, piccalilli, sweets etc. It is a very strong dye, so you need to be careful when using it, as it will stain everything it touches- not good for messy eaters (or for kitchen surfaces).
It has spiritual uses in Hinduism and Buddhism and is applied to a bride’s face and body as part of a pre-marriage purification ceremony. Generally it’s thought to be good for the skin. In Indian medicine it is used to prevent liver diseases, and people take it in warm water, before breakfast to prevent liver problems. If you inhale turmeric smoke, it is said to stop hiccups. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to help counteract the ageing process. It can help with stomach disorders, and can stop diarrhea.
In the West, scientists have been slow to research the properties of turmeric, but it has been shown in one study that it can have beneficial effects in some cancer treatments if it is used on the skin. Scientists now also agree with the ancient practitioners that it may protect the liver.
It is often called ‘poor man’s saffron’ as it gives food the same colour as saffron does and is much cheaper. It can be found in commercially produced curry powder, but we don’t use this in our cooking. It gives a very different flavour to that of the delicate saffron, so although people use it as a substitute, the taste of the dish will be affected, although it will look the same.
Some people eat the fresh rhizomes of turmeric (which resemble those of ginger), and they may be eaten raw in salads, if you have the chance to buy fresh rhizomes.
We use it in ‘curry’ sauce with pakoras. However, this is not the same as the curry sauce you are served in typical Asian restaurants.
We also think it’s good to clean wounds and staunch the flow of blood from them. If you have pimples or spots, you should mix it with chopped onion and a little flour and water to a paste, then warm this and apply it while warm to the affected area.

250 gr cooked diced potatoes
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ inch piece of ginger root, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 handful shredded coriander leaves
freshly ground black pepper and salt
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

Heat oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic along with the cumin seeds, ginger, coriander seeds, chilli powder and turmeric. When cooked add the cooked potatoes and the chopped tomatoes and thyme. Cook over a low heat and add the beaten eggs and fresh coriander leaves. Season to taste, and cook, stirring constantly until the eggs are cooked-about 5 mins.
Serve immediately.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


There’s a lot of information about coriander leaves, and as the seeds come from the same plant, this description will be brief-but there is a great recipe for them below.
Coriander was used and cultivated by the Greeks at least since the early Bronze Age, as excavations in Macedonia have shown. In the ancient world they were used do aid digestion and were written about in Sanskrit texts dating from around 1500 BC. Their use in Europe was spread by the Romans. The seeds were found in the pyramids, and even now the Chinese believe that by eating the seeds, you will attain immortality.
They are used in the manufacturing of English black pudding and Italian mortadella, (and if you’ve eaten both, you’ll understand their versatility). Beware of eating too many handfuls of them, though, as they are a mild narcotic, and known as ‘dizzycorn’ in some parts of the US.
Modern medical studies have shown that they are useful in lowering cholesterol levels.
You could put them in a pepper mill along with black pepper (or in a separate mill) so that you can have them freshly ground on your meats and fish. They’re good to add to soups and stews, and to use in the liquid when you poach fish.We use them every day in our cooking.
When a recipe calls for ground coriander, it’s best to grind the seeds freshly, as the powdered stuff you can buy doesn’t have the same flavour. This goes for all other seeds too.

250 gr chickpeas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 slice white bread soaked in water
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
2 tbsps coriander leaves, finely chopped
Oil for frying

Soak the chickpeas over night then cook with the bicarb in plenty of water for about an hour, or until soft. Blend to a puree with all the other ingredients, having squeezed the bread and removed the excess water from it. Let the mixture stand for about 2 hours, then roll into small balls, and deep fry. You need to heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan and cook the balls on all sides until they are golden brown. This should take 2 or 3 mins for each ball.
Serve with a salad and pitta bread.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


There are basically two types of cardamom seeds, green and black. They have very different flavours, so don’t think about substituting one for the other. They have been around for thousands of years, and were allegedly grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. They are native to the subcontinent, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, but are now grown commercially in Guatemala and Tanzania too.
Cardamoms are the third most expensive spice in the world, after saffron and vanilla, but as you don’t need to use many at a time, they don’t really seem to be all that expensive.
They have had many uses, in religions, they were used as incense and Cleopatra is reported to have used their smoke to perfume her palace, particularly when she was expecting a visit from Mark Anthony. It was highly prized in the ancient world as a spice, for its medicinal properties and its smell. It was used to cure mouth infections and digestive problems. Now it is chewed to get rid of bad breathe, and the Arabs and Turks use cardamom seeds to flavour their coffee, either putting freshly ground cardamom into the coffee, or putting a seed pod into the coffee cup or adding several seed pods to the coffee pot.
It is also supposed to break up kidney and gall stones and is used for this in different fields of traditional Indian medicine. It isn’t used in Western medicine for its healing properties yet, but is used to flavour some medicines, to make them taste better.
It apparently came to Europe with Alexander the Great’s returning soldiers. The Greeks used it as a perfume, as did the Romans, and it was valued by the ancient Greeks for its medicinal qualities and as a culinary spice. The ancient Egyptians used it to clean their teeth.
The green cardamom pod is sweeter than the black one, which has a more earthy flavour. You can use green cardamom seeds in apple pies along with cinnamon, but use the seeds from the black cardamoms in savoury dishes, such as curries.
We use it in teas a lot and it’s really good in mint tea. That’s very refreshing and great when the temperature soars.

1 tbsp green tea
2½ cups water
2 green cardamom pods
1 tsp lemon juice
sugar to taste

Bring the water to the boil in a pan, then add the green tea and cardamom pods. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 mins. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and stir well, lifting the tea out of the pan and pouring it back in so that air passes through it. Strain and serve, garnished with slices of lemon if you wish.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Yes, common or garden black pepper is not quite as it seems; believe it or not is known as “the King of Spices” and has been greatly prized. It used to grow wild in Kerala in India, and probably still does, as it’s now cultivated there. India is one of the major exporters of pepper today, as it was in the ancient world.
Peppercorns were very expensive commodities, and rents and dowries were sometimes paid with them. You know that we now use the phrase a ‘peppercorn rent’ to mean that you pay virtually nothing in rent, but it used to mean the exact opposite.In Europe, in the Middle Ages, pepper was used to preserve meat and to cover up its deficiencies, after it had been stored over winter and then cooked. It has been traded for more than 4,000 years, and along with ginger is one of the oldest exported products.
One tidbit of information I gleaned while researching its history is that Attila the Hun wanted 3,000 lbs of this valuable commodity, along with other items, for the ransom of the city of Rome. It didn’t say whether or not he got it, but I guess he didn’t.
It has been used in traditional medicine on the subcontinent for centuries as a cure for problems in the digestive system, and to cure coughs and colds. Scientists of today have reported that it has anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties, and can assist in the treatment of fevers. It is also reported to be an anti-inflammatory and can kill and repel insects.
Ants hate it, so if you have ants in the house, sprinkle their paths with pepper, and this will deter them from using them. If you mix ½ tsp of freshly ground black pepper in 2 pints of warm water, this will kill ants on your plants in the garden or in pots, and will even kill cockroaches (even the BIG ones).
In 1498, Vasco da Gama reached the coast of India and is accredited for opening up the lucrative spice route to India. Ships could voyage there safely before the monsoon season- which I’m currently impatiently waiting for.
White, black and green peppercorns come from the same plant, but I prefer not to use the white ones as I’ve had a few culinary disasters with white pepper. If your hand slips when you’re putting it into food then start again, as the result will be inedible. Black pepper on the other hand isn’t too bad; if your hand slips you can still eat the food, although you might not like the pungency of the taste. Green peppercorns are good and milder, I think, than their black and white siblings, and they look pretty (see pic).
In the recipe below, you can use a mixture of peppercorns if you wish, but if you’re using white ones go easy. You’ve been warned!

Steaks, beef or pork
2 tbsps peppercorns, crushed, by rolling them with a rolling pin
butter for grilling

Having crushed the peppercorns, rub them into the steaks on both sides, and cover them with aluminium foil. Leave for 30 mins.
Preheat the grill to high and grill the steaks according to your taste, blue, rare, medium etc. Use the butter so that it keeps the meat tender. Put a pat of butter on each side of the steak as you grill it.
Serve with our rocket salad.
These are a Treat and have Taste.


First of all I think I should clear up any confusion you have regarding these two spices. You can substitute on for the other and it really doesn’t make much difference, although true cinnamon quills are sweeter than cassia bark. There’s a lot of stuff written about how you tell one from the other, but in Britain, if you buy from a shop which has imported things from the subcontinent, cassia is clearly labeled as such, and looks darker, is thicker and a duller colour than actual cinnamon. Cassia is the cheaper spice. Now you know!
Cassia comes from China, Vietnam and Indonesia, whereas cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean. It originated in the subcontinent and was first exported to Egypt as early as 2,000 BC. It came to Europe via Arab traders. The Venetians bought it in Alexandria, and shipped it back to Italy. Later the Portuguese ‘discovered’ Sri Lanka, where it grew in abundance, in the early 16th century.
Pliny the Elder wrote complaining about the cost of cinnamon, as it cost the equivalent of 10 months wages for 327 gr .It was used in cooking and in temples as sweet-smelling incense. Interestingly, modern studies have found that the odour of cinnamon increase cognitive processes.
The ancient Greeks used it to flavour wine, and we still use cinnamon as an ingredient in mulled wine.
The Arabs made up myths about cinnamon to protect its origins from the Europeans. Herodotus got wind of one of these myths and relates that the Phoenix used cinnamon sticks to build its nest, and the brave Arabs would trick the bird by giving it huge pieces of meat which it would take back to its nest. The meat was so heavy that the nest materials would fall to the ground and that’s where cinnamon came from (it’s actually the harvested bark from trees).If you are interested in other stories by Herodotus the historian you should look up his description of a crocodile!
We use cinnamon quills in desserts and cassia in savoury dishes, but it doesn’t really matter all that much, just use whichever bark you have. Cinnamon and cassia can be brought as a ground powder, but we prefer to make our own when we need it from the bark.
Whichever you use is good in teas if you have a cough, cold or flu, especially when mixed with finely chopped ginger root.

1cup broken rice
1 litre milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup rose water
2 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp freshly ground cinnamon

Wash the rice well. Put the milk and sugar in a pan and let them boil. Add the rice and cardamoms and cook over a low heat for 2-3 mins. Add the rose water and continue cooking over a low heat, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. When the rice is well cooked and has absorbed some of the liquid, remove from the heat and pour into small dishes. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top of each, and put in the fridge until cold.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


We guess that summer’s happening in Europe now, so we thought we’d post some tasty salad recipes for you to try. It’s been sweltering here in Pakistan for about two weeks now, and we haven’t wanted to do much cooking- even sitting typing at the computer is thirsty work. Luckily we have a supply of lemon squash, liberally laced with tukh malanga-see our basil page.
For those of you where it’s hot, but not this hot, you’ll probably be planning BBQs, and these salads will be ideal for these occasions. You can eat them alone or with any kind of meat or fish. We give alternatives to some ingredients so that you can more easily find appropriate ingredients. We’d really like to know what you think of these recipes, so please leave comments when you visit Herbs- Treat and Taste. This site can be much more interactive than it is at present. We‘d really appreciate more feedback.
So here they are; give your taste buds a treat.

2 tsps cumin seeds
250 gr carrots, grated
2 medium sized courgettes (zucchini) grated
30 gr pine nuts, lightly fried in olive oil
30 gr sultanas
4 tbsps lemon juice
1 lettuce, cos or iceberg, shredded
salt and black pepper to taste
1 handful fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Soak the grated carrots in the lemon juice, mixed with cumin seeds. Leave for 15-20 mins. Add all the other ingredients, including the oil you fried the pine nuts in, but not the lettuce, to a large bowl and mix together.
Arrange the lettuce in a salad bowl and place the other ingredients in the middle of it.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves or leaves of flat parsley.
You can serve it with a tomato and cucumber salad, or with meat, chicken or fish.
It has taste and is a Treat.

150 gr chickpeas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 curry leaf
½ tsp salt
80 ml sunflower oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium mangoes
2 green chillies (more if you like) finely chopped
1 handful shredded coriander leaves
3 tbsps lemon juice
1 lettuce (cos or iceberg)

If you’re using dried chickpeas, soak them over night and drain them. Put them in a pan of boiling water with the bicarb.,and cook for 30-40 mins, or until they are cooked through. You can use tinned ones for ease of course, but remember to rinse them well to get rid of the preservative juice. Drain the cooked chickpeas and leave to cool.
Dry fry the seeds and curry leaf until they change colour then crush them to a powder. Alternatively, use a tbsp of our garam masala (see recipe). Add the turmeric, and the salt.
In the same frying pan, heat ½ the oil and fry the onions for 5 mins. Add the spice mix and cook for a further 5 mins. Remove from the pan, leaving some of the spicy oil. Put onions in a large bowl.
Blanch the cauliflower florets for 1 min in boiling salted water. Drain and when dry, fry them in the remaining oil until they change colour. You can use a high heat to do this.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the chickpeas, coating them in the residue of the oil. Add the contents of the pan to the bowl. Stir well. Leave to cool to room temperature.
Peel, cut and dice the mangoes, and add to the bowl, stirring with all the other ingredients.
Serve immediately.
This has Taste and is a Treat

250 gr bulgur wheat
2 carrots, grated
½ tsp chilli powder
1-2 tsps cumin seeds
300 gr tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
40 gr sultanas
6 hard boiled eggs
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded

Cook bulgur wheat according to directions on the packet; don’t be tempted to add water, as you don’t want soggy wheat. Add the cumin seeds and chilli powder to the water and cook for about 5 mins, until the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.
Soak the grated carrots and sultanas in the lemon juice. Leave for 15 mins.
Mix all ingredients together when bulgur wheat is cold.
You can either garnish with slices of egg, or chop up the egg and mix in the salad, or garnish with egg halves. Sprinkle the coriander leaves over the salad and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

1 bunch rocket (or an oak leaf lettuce and radicchio)
300 gr fresh tomatoes peeled and sliced (or sun dried tomatoes)
100-150 gr black olives or a mixture of black and green pimento stuffed olives
1 tbsp capers
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
250 gr of Parmesan cheese, cut into thin slivers
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded, or fresh flat leaved parsley shredded
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Thoroughly wash the rocket or substitute lettuces, drain and dry thoroughly. Arrange on a large serving platter, or in a salad bowl and add the other ingredients, and toss well. Place the cheese on top and pour balsamic vinegar and olive oil over to taste.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

1 cup cooked red kidney beans
1 red onion thinly cut in circles
1 lettuce, shredded
6 green chillies, finely chopped
1 Mediterranean tomato, peeled and seeded and roughly chopped
½ handful each of fresh mint and coriander leaves
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 hard boiled eggs cut in slices for garnishing
olive oil
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a salad bowl with the salt and black pepper. Place the egg slices on top, and drizzle with oil.
Serve immediately.
You can use tinned beans as long as you wash them thoroughly to remove the taste of preservatives, and dry them before using in the salad. If you wish, sprinkle some dried oregano over the egg slices before drizzling them with olive oil.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

1 small white cabbage, rinsed in cold water after shredding, drained and dried
1 large mooli, thinly sliced
1 small bunch of dill

2 tbsps tahini
200 ml natural yoghurt, Greek yoghurt is best
a little olive oil

Mix together the cabbage, mooli and chopped dill in a salad bowl.
Make the dressing in a separate bowl. Mix the tahini and yoghurt well until you have a mixture which will pour from a spoon, but which is not too runny. To make the mixture thinner, add olive oil’ but only a little and stir, briskly into the yoghurt mixture.
You can make your own tahini using ¼ cup vegetable oil to 1 cup of sesame seeds and blending these to form a paste.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


We know that these have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, and were used in cooking and in medicine. The Egyptians buried them with their pharaohs, as they believed they would be useful to them in the afterlife. Apparently cumin was once used as currency, as it was so valuable.
Pliny the Elder wrote that cumin seeds produced a pallid complexion if smoked and as students in ancient Rome believed that scholars should look pale, after all those hours of study in a library, they probably took his advice. Other sources say that if you drink the essential oil of cumin seeds, this will also produce a very pale complexion
Cumin plant
The ancient Greeks weren’t worried about having pale complexions; they kept cumin on the table and used it as a condiment, as it is still used today in Morocco.
In the Middle Ages it was believed that cumin would stop people and animals from straying, so soldiers going off to battle would be given a loaf of cumin bread by their wives and sweethearts. It was reported that if you feed pigeons or hens with it they wouldn’t go far from home.
In Ancient Rome, it became a symbol of greed and miserliness, and people were given nicknames with ‘cumin’ in them. We know that the Celts baked fish with cumin in the first century A.D. In the Middle Ages, people smeared it over peacocks and hens before cooking them, and it was then a symbol of love and fidelity, taken to weddings.
It has been used to energize the body, and is rich in iron, and it is an anti-oxidant. There are many claims for this little seeds, including that it can protect us from stomach cancers. Whatever the case we use it almost every day, as we love its flavour and the punch it packs when added to food. Try one of our salad recipes to check this out.
We have also found that it helps when we have coughs and colds, mixed with honey and water and drunk hot. However, I think we are addicted to the taste.
It came from Iran and the Eastern Mediterranean originally, and is now used throughout the world.
In Pakistan the following mixture is used to stop a small child wetting the bed. You give 3 gr in the morning and 3 gr in the evening; if you have a bedwetting child, here’s the mixture. 12 gr each of caraway seed, thyme, and cumin seeds; grind them to a powder and mix in 24 gr of sugar cane sugar. (We guess other sugar would be ok.)
Here we have given a Treat(ment), and one recipe.

250 gr natural yoghurt
1 medium-sized onion
1 cucumber
1 tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
½ handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded finely
½ handful mint leaves shredded finely
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Rub onion and cucumber with salt and leave them for 2-3 mins, then wash them thoroughly. Put yoghurt and cumin in a small bowl and mix well. Grate the cucumber and finely chop the onion and put all the ingredients into the bowl with the yoghurt and cumin. Add ½ cup water, stir well and leave for 15 mins or until the cumin seeds become soft.
Serve with a Chicken or Lamb Biryani.(See our recipe for Chicken Biryani)
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The official name of this plant is Melissa officinalis, and Melissa, as all females with the name will know, means honeybee in Greek, or ‘little honey’ in Latin. It certainly attracts bees, and if some is planted next to a bee hive, or the juices of the plant are rubbed with the oil from lemon balm, bees will not stray from their hives, and more bees will be added to them. According to Pliny the Elder, bees were ‘delighted with the herb above others’.
It was used in ancient times to cure ‘the stings of venomous beasts’, or so wrote Dioscorides. He also believed that if the leaves and their juices were rubbed on areas affected by gout, the pain would be lessened.
It originated in the mountain regions of southern Europe and is also native to the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Asia and North Africa, and was used to calm the nerves, soothe wounds, stings and rashes and in medieval times it was used to flavour soups and sauces.
Culpeper believed it was good for the liver and spleen and that it could ‘…open obstructions of the brain’.
It was one of the ingredients of Carmelite Water, which was used to mask the smell of death in the plague years and to cover the bodily odours of the great unwashed majority in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
In the language of flowers and herbs, it represented sympathy for others and Shakespeare mentions it in some of his history plays as being used in ceremonies to consecrate kings, and to later help those kings deal with their sorrows and grief.
We know that its juices can get rid of unsightly cold sores, and recommend it as a soothing tea, especially if you have a fever or cold. It induces perspiration, so will lower the temperature of your body when you have a fever. Crush about 6 leaves and put them in a cup; pour boiling water over them and leave them to steep for 5 mins. You might want to add some sugar when you strain the liquid into a clean cup.

Melissa’s Favourite Potato Cakes
¾ lb potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
125 gr white fish, cooked, flaked and bones removed
12-14 lemon balm leaves, softened in boiled and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
flour to coat potato cakes
Oil for cooking

Mix the flaked fish into the mashed potatoes and add the lemon balm and seasonings. Make the potatoes into rounds, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and coat in a little flour on all sides. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan and cook the cakes on all sides i.e. until they are slightly crispy and golden brown. You will probably need to cook them in several batches.
Serve with salad, or vegetables of your choice and a fresh tomato sauce. (See our tomato and basil sauce recipe.)
Kids love this, and it’s better for them than fish fingers. You can make these cakes with tinned tuna instead of white fish, but drain excess liquid from the tuna before adding to the mashed potatoes.
These potato cakes have Taste, and are a Treat.

PAKORA:what is pakora?

These are popular snacks in Pakistan and northern India, and are easy to make. People serve them to unexpected guests washed down with cups of tea, as the ingredients are readily available in subcontinental kitchens. You can make them with aubergines (eggplants), or potatoes, but the most important ingredient is the chickpea flour, or besan as it is called. You can grind your own from dried chickpeas if you can’t buy it at your local supermarket.
People enjoy eating these while sitting on their verandahs or balconies, and watching the rain in the monsoon season.

250 gr chickpea flour (besan)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
100 gr spinach, washed thoroughly, dried and finely shredded
6 green chillies, very finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala (see our recipe)
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried mint
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, finely shredded
1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds, soaked in water for 5 mins before using
¾ cup water
salt and pepper
oil for deep frying

Put the chickpea flour along with the vegetables, spices and herbs into a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water and knead until everything is evenly mixed. If you feel you need a little more water add some, but not too much.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or deep-fryer and when it starts to bubble, take a tbsp of the mixture and drop it into the pan. Continue doing this until you have a layer of Pakora and fry until they are lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on absorbent paper while cooking the next batch. Keep warm (in a preheated oven) until they are all cooked.
Serve with our mint and yoghurt sauce and the traditional cup of tea.


Sage is native to the Mediterranean region, and seems not to be used in cooking on the subcontinent. Its official name, salvia, comes from the Latin, salvare, meaning, to save, as it was believed that sage was a cure-all.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it conferred wisdom, and enhanced their mental abilities. For them it symbolized wisdom, skill, longevity, good health and increased psychic powers. In the Middle Ages it was used as a treatment for assisting those who had become forgetful, and infusions of it were given to cure fevers and intestinal problems. It was also thought that it could cure eye problems, liver diseases, epilepsy and infections of all types. Europeans used it to protect themselves from witchcraft in the 14th century. There is an English proverb 'He that would live for aye, Must eat sage in May’. This echoes an Arabic saying, ’How can a man die when he has sage in his garden?’
John Gerard wrote ‘Sage is singularly good for the head and brain; it quickeneth the senses and memory…’He went on to detail other benefits. Dioscorides used the leaves and stems to clean wounds and staunch their blood flow. Culpeper used sage tea to help ease sore throats and coughs. He also suggested its juice could be used with vinegar to ward off the plague and used sage along with other summer herbs to make cooling drinks in summer.
If you are attractive to biting insects, you should rub the crushed leaves over exposed parts of your body to deter bugs.
Scientists have found that sage boosts oestrogen production so can help women who need such a boost.
Try boiling sage with potatoes, or use it with other cooked potatoes .You can use sage instead of basil in our basil and tomato sauce recipe. Try the one below:

14 sage leaves, each one torn but still leaving the leaf intact
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
olive oil for frying

Heat the oil over a low heat and add all the ingredients. Cook for 5 mins, remove from the heat and pour over your favourite pasta. Then add freshly ground black pepper and salt if you wish.
This has Taste and is a Treat-especially as it’s so quick to rustle up.


Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, although it was first used in medicine and not food. Its name comes from the Greek, ‘petros selinon’ meaning, "rock celery”. There are many different types of this herb, but we refer to the curly leaved variety and flat leaved or Italian parsley.
The ancient Greeks believed that parsley had sprung from the blood of one of their fallen heroes, Archemorus, and it was sacred to Persephone, goddess of the underworld. It was never used in food or placed on their tables as it symbolized oblivion and the dead. However it was used to crown victorious athletes at the Isthmian games.
In contrast, the Romans used parsley to cure the ‘morning after the banquet feeling’, and Pliny the Elder wrote that no salad or sauce should be prepared without it. We often use it to take the smell of garlic from our breath. In medieval times it was placed on tables and worn around the necks of those at a feast, because it was thought to absorb food odours.
The parsley root has been used in infusions to break up kidney stones, and we use its juice to take the pain away after being stung by an insect. It offers quick relief.
Scientists have found that it contains a substance which can inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, and some believe that in the future it may prove to be an aid to preventing cancer.
It is a rich source of vitamin C and can be used in salads, such as this one; chopped Florentine fennel, orange slices, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and parsley. It’s tasty, try it.
Parsley has been used in hair lotions to rid the scalp of dandruff and promote hair growth and to produce yellow and green dyes.
Curly parsley has been used as a garnish, only to be discarded, but if you find a piece of this herb on your plate eat it and give your taste buds a treat.
You might have seen these terms in recipes and this is what they mean: persillade-chopped parsley and chopped garlic; gremolata, the same but with grated lemon zest too.
Try our parsley sauce recipe below. It’s great with fish.

½ pint milk
20 gr plain flour
40 gr butter
6 tbsps finely chopped curly leaved parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and add the flour, stirring to a smooth paste. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the time. When the sauce boils, add the chopped parsley and simmer for 5 mins.
It’s ready to serve with fish.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Basil has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years in India and Asia where it originated. It is a herb over which there has been some dispute over the centuries. Even the origin of its name is in dispute. Some believe it comes from the Greek Basleias meaning king, while others say it is derived from the Latin, Basilescus, meaning basilisk (the fire breathing monster made famous by Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets).Whatever the origin, it was believed by the Romans that it would keep them safe from attacks by the basilisk, and it has been used to scent the bath water of both Greek and English royalty.
In Italy and Mexico it symbolized love and in Romania, men would give it to the woman they loved, and they were then officially engaged. In Persia and Malaysia bush basil was planted on graves.
It’s still used in France and Greece to keep away flies and mosquitoes, and you can see it growing in pots outside many of the houses on Greek islands. This is bush basil. Sweet basil is more commonly used, especially in Italian cuisine.
Dioscorides didn’t advocate using it internally, but Pliny the Elder championed it as did Arab physicians. Culpeper thought that it was good for drawing poison from the bites of ‘venomous beasts’ and for wasp and hornet stings. However a French physician, Hilarius said that a friend of his sniffed basil so much that scorpions bred in his brain.
It is now said that basil lowers blood pressure, can cure nausea and vomiting, and stop stomach cramps. Make a tea with boiling water and a sprig of fresh basil and let it steep in a cup for 5 mins. Strain, then add honey to soothe a cough, or 1 tsp fresh orange juice instead of honey to calm your nerves or perhaps to stop nausea.
In the subcontinent today, the black seeds from basil are used in drinks to cool the body down when the temperature soars. These seeds are called tukh malanga (pronounced took mal-anger) and they really do work as long as you can get over the fact that they look like frog spawn when soaked in water. We use them with fresh lemon squash for a cooling drink.

Tomato and Basil Sauce for Pasta
½ kilo tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely sliced
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
½ cup water, or red wine and a little water
salt and pepper to taste
(Omit onions and garlic and wine for a plain, classic sauce)

Fry onions and garlic until the onion is soft, then add all the other ingredients. Stir well and continue stirring intermittently for 10- 15 mins.
(You can liquidize tomatoes, basil, seasonings and red wine and water, and just heat this liquid for 5 – 10 mins for a really quick meal.)
Serve with cooked pasta, and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.

This has Taste and is a Treat.