Saturday, 31 July 2010


Grape vines have been around for at least 60 million years, according to fossilized evidence. Wine hasn’t been around for that long, obviously, but we have clearly been enjoying it for some time. Grapes were first cultivated around the Black Sea, in Georgia, as ceramic jars dating from 6,000BC which had contained wine, were found at the site of a Neolithic village. There is evidence that they were cultivated in Asia in 5,000BC. Vineyards were mentioned in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” which was written sometime between 2,750 and 2,500 BC, although it was a written record of a much older tale.
There are many health benefits gained from eating grapes and drinking grape juice, but if you consider the longevity of people in some parts of Italy and France where the grape is grown and wine is consumed, there must be some benefits to the drink.
Grapes contain minerals, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium as well as being rich in vitamins A, C and B6.They contain flavonoids and so are powerful antioxidants. It has been claimed that they can help asthma sufferers, they lower cholesterol levels, so help prevent heart disease, are useful as a laxative, cure indigestion, reduce uric acid and so help the kidneys function better, and if you drink fresh grape juice every morning, this is supposed to stop migraine.
Of course the Greeks had a god of wine and orgies, Dionysus, also associated with fertility, and the phallic fennel stalk was his thyrsus or wand, with a pine cone on top. His Roman equivalent was Bacchus. Both Romans and Greeks drank diluted wine, and only the lower classes drank it without water. Pliny, writing in 154 BC says that wine production in Italy was unsurpassed, and of course, it is still very good. Varro wrote about viticulture in 37 BC in his “Res Rusticae” (Of Country Matters), and we know that some Roman wine had to be drunk within a year of its production, while wines such as Falernian would mature. Romans favoured a concoction of wine mixed with honey just before drinking called Mulsum
  In English we have the expression to “have sour grapes”, which comes from the Aesop Tale of the Fox and the Grapes. A fox couldn’t reach a juicy looking bunch of grapes, so told himself they were sour. Now the phrase means to behave meanly after being disappointed in some way. Grapes also feature in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” published in 1939 and made into a film the following year.
Apart from wine, we also get oil from the grape seeds, and the leaves are edible too (see our dolmades recipe). However the best product from grapes, arguably, is wine. Below is another dolmades recipe which is a fusion of Greek and Asian cuisines.

12 vine leaves
200 gr cooked rice
30 gr pine nuts
30 gr raisins
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tbsps shredded coriander leaves (fresh)
½ tsp paprika (sweet)
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If you are using fresh vine leaves, then blanch them for 3-5 mins before using. If you’re using prepackaged ones, wash them to remove the preservatives.
Fry the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and put in a bowl.
Lightly fry the pine nuts and raisins, and cumin seeds, just to coat them in the oil. Remove and add to the bowl. Put the cooked rice in the bowl. Add the paprika, salt, pepper and coriander leaves and mix well.
Place some of the mixture on each vine leaf and then roll them into a sausage shape, folding the ends inwards. Put them in a single layer in a frying pan with ½ inch water. Alternatively use our chicken stock if you are not vegetarian. Cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
Serve hot, or cold as appetizers with Tzatziki and/or feta cheese.
These have Taste and are a Treat.

Friday, 30 July 2010


This plant should not be confused with Lemon Balm or Lemon Grass. It has had a few changes of Latin names, but is now officially known as Aloysia triphylla. It has been called Lippia citriodora, Aloysia citriodora, and is commonly known by a variety of names, including, Lemon Beebrush, Cedron, Yerba Louisa and Lemon Louisa. It originated in South America and was brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 18th century. It arrived in Britain in 1784, and is easily grown.
It can be used in teas, or tisanes, the leaves can be dried and used in pot pourri mixture, and it is good with fish, chicken, salad dressings vinegars and marinades.
It was named after Maria Louisa, Princess of Parma in 1819, and in the Language of Flowers is a symbol of purification and love and enchantment. It was thought that it would attract a suitor in folk superstitions.
It is used in medicine to relieve stomach cramps and colon spasms, and it is believed that it will give you a mental boost and help if you feel depressed. A tisane made from the leaves can also help reduce fevers. If you infuse it in cider vinegar it makes a good tonic for the skin, as it softens and refreshes it. You can put the leaves in finger bowls too. The essential oil from the leaves is said to boost the liver’s functions and assist the respiratory and digestive system.
Below is a refreshing tisane for you to try.

Lemon Verbena, Hibiscus and Ginger Tisane
1 handful lemon verbena leaves, torn roughly
1 handful dried hibiscus flowers
2 tsps finely chopped root ginger
7 cups water
sugar or honey to sweeten

Put 7 cups of water in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and put in the ginger, dried hibiscus flowers and lemon verbena leaves. Leave to steep for 5 mins, then strain and serve.
Serve with honey or sugar if necessary.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


             POPPY SEEDS or KASH-KASH
The poppy plant, Papaver somniferum (Poppy of sleep) originated in the Mediterranean region, and is believed to have come from southern France and Italy. It was cultivated by the ancient Sumerians who called it the “plant of joy”. It spread throughout Europe and to Asia, although the Egyptians didn’t know about it until it was introduced by the Romans. Of course the poppy plant produces opium and the seeds we use in cookery are the ripe seeds from the same plant. However they do not contain narcotic substances. The unripe seeds contain codeine and morphine, which is so valuable in medicine.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recognized that they were good to cure insomnia, for inflammation, fever and dysentery. The ancient Greeks believed they were sacred to the god of sleep, Hypnos, rather than his twin brother Morpheus, the god of dreams. They were used as charms and in amulets to bring luck, money and love.
Remains of poppy seeds have been found in Swiss settlements dating to 4000 years ago and Scottish ones, dating back to 2500 years ago. It is one of the oldest condiments there is, along with cumin seeds.
When opium was introduced to the Muslim world, it was quickly adopted, as opium was not haram according to Islam, as alcohol is. It reached South Asia in Mediaeval times, and now India is the only country to legally export it. The Indian poppies are mainly cultivated in Uttar Pradesh and the Indian Punjab.
The flowers range in colour from white to red or lilac. The lilac coloured ones have a dark purple base. The seeds also come in a variety of shade, from black, or dark-blue, to yellow-white. The ones we have in Pakistan are white. The poppy plant grows to heights of between 50 to 150 centimetres tall. At one time they were grown in Mitcham, surrey, until the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act clamped down on the use of opium based products, so beloved of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Laudanum was very popular in the 19th century and was given to children to put them to sleep. There are the obvious English literary figures who used opium, Thomas de Quincey famously admitted to using the narcotic in his book written in 1821,”Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is reputed to have been under the influence of opium when he wrote “Kubla Khan,” of which only a fragment remains. Coleridge refers to it as the ‘milk of paradise’ in these lines
‘For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of paradise’.
Here he is referring to Kubla Khan.
De Quincey writes of ‘the marvelous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or pain,’ and talks of the ‘cloudless serenity’ he felt while in an opium induced state. However it is extremely addictive and its use should not be countenanced.
In cookery poppy seeds can be used to thicken and flavour sauces, blended with tamarind to make a curry paste, and can be boiled in a little water with salt and oil then added to rice to give it a nutty flavour. They are used as a coating for breads and biscuits, of course.
In traditional medicine on the subcontinent they are used to treat coughs and asthma, but because of the narcotic effects of the unripe seeds, these are not used in prolonged treatments. To treat diarrhea, cook poppy seeds with green cardamoms and sugar, strain and drink the liquid. Poppy extracts are used to reduce fever, help in TB treatments and for kidney and liver complaints.
The recipe below is for a milk-based drink which will cool you down when the weather is hot. It is also good for the stomach and an energy booster. If you don’t like milk, you can use water instead.

1 litre milk
30 gr almonds
50 gr poppy seeds
4 green cardamoms, seeds removed and husks discarded
6 black peppercorns
sugar to taste

If the almonds have skins, plunge them in boiling water for a minute or two so that you can easily slip off the skins. Grind the poppy seeds very well. Then grind the cardamom seeds.
Next grind the almonds.
Put the black peppercorns, sugar and milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, put all the ingredients except ice in it and leave to cool.
Serve with ice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Lemon Grass is one of the main ingredients in a Thai curry, along with coconut milk and lots of fresh coriander. Its Latin name is Cymbopogon citratus, a relative of Cymbopogon nardus from which we get citronella, the well known ingredient of scented oil and candles which is a natural bug repellant. Lemon grass is also a bug repellant, but not as effective as its citronella relative.
It is native to southern India and Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. It’s a grass as its name suggests, and grows in large clumps which can grow to 5 feet tall. It’s used in perfumes, traditional medicine and cooking.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to get rid of intestinal parasites, for stomach cramps and other digestive problems. It has also been used in the treatment of leprosy, bronchitis and fever. In South America it is used as a mild sedative, when drunk as a tea.
It is being cultivated commercially in Norfolk, UK, which is quite a surprise! Maybe it will be cheaper to buy. If you can get it fresh, the new leaves are good chopped and added to chicken or seafood dishes.
In Pakistan it is normally used dried in a tea with green tea. This has a wonderful flavour, and is very refreshing. It can be used to bring down a temperature as it induces perspiration.

2 tbsps dried lemon grass
2½ cups water
1 tsp lemon juice
sugar to taste

Pour the water into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the lemon grass and boil for 3 minutes. Remove pan from the heat. Cover and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Strain and add lemon juice and sugar to taste. (Makes two cups)
This is good for any stomach problems, and will soothe you if you are feeling fraught.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Sesame seeds, or til (pronounced teel) are on of the worlds oldest condiments. Their Latin name is Sesamum indicum which implies that they came from India. There has been much debate about this, some saying they originated in the East Indies, others that they came from Africa, but new evidence suggests that they do indeed come from the Indian subcontinent.
There is an Assyrian myth which relates how the gods drank sesame wine the night before they created Earth (this may explain some anomalies).Sesame seeds were at first not used to cook with, but their oil was used for lighting, and the Chinese used the soot from this oil to make ink for their ink blocks.
We know that the Egyptians used them because they are mentioned in the Ebers papyrus, which listed all herbs and spices known to them in a scroll which was 65 feet long. On the wall of one of the pharaohs’ tombs a picture of a baker mixing sesame seeds with bread was discovered. Even today, we have sesame seeds on bread.
Roman soldiers carried them to give an energy boost when required, and Romans ground them and spread them on their bread in a paste mixed with cumin seeds. They also made biscuits called Itrion with them. Pliny wrote down a recipe for Pear Butter which included sesame seeds. The ancient Greeks mixed them with honey and believed this was an aphrodisiac, and this mixture is still eaten in the Middle East today.
In the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, “Open sesame” was the magic phrase to open the cave that was filled with treasure. It is believed that the phrase is a reference to the way the seed pods explode and eject their seeds. Because they do this, sesame seeds have to be picked by hand before the pods ripen and eject their seeds, and this is what makes sesame seeds expensive- you get about a thousand seeds to one ounce.
These seeds can be black, red, white, yellow and cream. They grow on plants which range from between 18 inches to 5 feet high. The flowers look like foxgloves and range may be white or a pale lavender colour.
Sesame seeds have been used in traditional medicine on the subcontinent for various ailments. They are given to patients with diabetes; to treat constipation (Dioscorides wrote that sesame seeds were good for ‘griefs of the colon’);the oil is used for hair loss and to prevent baldness; it is also used on the skin to keep it young and supple, and to treat boils and other skin diseases. The seeds have cooling properties, so are used to reduce body heat. Sesame oil has powerful antioxidant and antiviral properties. Sometimes children have the oil put around their nostrils to prevent colds.
In Pakistan there are street sellers who go around houses selling the oil to women who use it as a hair conditioner. The oil can also be used to gargle with if you have a sore throat.
The sesame seed is, traditionally, a symbol of immortality, and Hindus put the tila mark on their foreheads.
Medical research has shown that sesame seeds have phytosterols, which lower cholesterol levels; boost the immune system and lower the risk of some cancers. They also have a high copper content and so are thought to be good for arthritis sufferers and the liver’s health.
They are used to make halva in Greece, Turkey the Middle East and the subcontinent, and they are the principal ingredient of tahini paste, from which hummus is made. Of course they are also used in breads, and one good Middle Eastern sweet is sweet fresh dates stuffed with almonds, then rolled in sesame seeds. Also you con make gromasio with them: this is 1 part dry fried sea salt to 12 parts dry fried sesame seeds, ground together, to make a seasoning to add to soups, stews and sauces.
Below is a Pakistani recipe for halva (halwah) which does not include tapioca as is more usual.

500 gr fresh dates stoned
125 gr sugar
375 gr channa dahl
2 tsps rosewater
50 gr pistachio nuts, crushed
50 gr almonds crushed
50 gr sesame seeds
4 green cardamom pods, husks discarded, only use seeds
250 gr oil

First boil the channa dahl, and when it is cooked blend to a paste with the dates.
Heat oil in a pan, then add paste and fry until it changes colour. Add the sugar and fry till it has dissolved (about 5 mins). Mix in the cardamom seeds and the rose water, stir well place in a serving bowl and garnish with the almonds, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds.
If you want, you can cut it into pieces while it is still hot and then you can eat it whenever you want if you keep it in the fridge after it has completely cooled.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Chicken Korma
½ kilo boneless chicken, cut into pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 inch ginger root finely chopped
4 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp dried oregano
1tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of cooking oil
1 cup coconut milk

Mix all the spices together and cover the chicken pieces on all sides. Fry these in oil for 4-5 mins. Remove the chicken from the pan and put in the onion, ginger, garlic and curry leaf and fry for 3 mins. Add tomato, chillies, spices and seasoning, and cook for 3 mins. Add chicken and coconut milk and cook on a low heat for 20 mins.
Remove from the heat and add the herbs, stirring them into the dish, allow to stand for 5 mins, and it’s ready to serve.
Serve with boiled rice or your choice of breads, pitta, naan, chapattis etc.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Chicken Biryani
½ kilo chicken
½ kilo basmati rice
1 large onion, sliced
1 tomato, diced
4 green chillies, chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 inch piece ginger root, chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 curry leaf
1 tbsp thyme
1 handful of mint leaves
1 handful coriander leaves
1 cup cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste

Clean the rice and wash in water. Put oil in a pan and fry onion until brown. Add ginger, garlic and curry leaf and cook for 1 min. Then add chicken, tomatoes, spices, salt, pepper and cook for 5 mins on a low heat. Add 3 large glasses of water and when it begins to boil, pour in the rice, mint and coriander, and stir slowly. Cook until the water is at the same level as the rice. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave it to cook for 10 mins.
Remove from the heat and allow the dish to stand for 5 mins. Now it is ready to serve.
You can serve it with natural yoghurt or Raita(see recipe).
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The saag aloo you get in Indian restaurants is probably spinach and potatoes, but in Pakistan saag is made with mustard greens. However there are a lot of leafy green vegetables that can be substituted for mustard greens if they are unavailable. In Britain, they are used for animal fodder, so your supermarket probably won’t have any on the shelves.
amaranth leaves
You can use spring cabbage, or amaranth leaves, or Swiss or Italian chard. You can even pick your own dandelion leaves and use them. Whichever leafy green vegetable you choose, you should wash the leaves very thoroughly, so that there’s no dirt remaining. Wash in salted water, and change the water at least once. The type of leaves used in Pakistan varies from region to region: for example, in Lahore and the surrounding area, people use only mustard greens or spinach, while in Rawalpindi, people use the tops of mooli for a type saag. They also use faluda which is purslane, we finally discovered.  We often use fresh methi (fenugreek leaves which are available in Rawalpindi but again were not in Lahore) and spinach, which is a very tasty combination.
After you’ve washed the leaves, you need to cut them finely, so that they will soak up the butter, ghee or oil you cook them in more readily

1 kg spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger root, finely chopped
6 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried methi (fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp garam masala (see recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup oil

Cook the spinach in 2 glasses water for 7 mins. Strain and discard the water, and blend.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan, and add the garlic, ginger, cumin and thyme. Fry for 3 mins, then add the tomato, spinach, salt, pepper, methi, garam masala and turmeric with ½ glass water. Cook for 5 mins.
In a frying pan, heat the rest of the oil and put in the onion and green chillies and fry for 5 mins. Mix with the spinach. Stir well to mix thoroughly and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

If you cook the spinach on its own, you can keep it in the fridge (covered) and use it any time you want to make saag.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


The rose has been on the planet for longer than we have. It is believed to have grown in what is now Central Asia in the Eocene period, around 60 to 70 million years ago. An imprint of a rose found on stone in the Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado has been dated as being around 40 million years ole. Other rose fossils have been found in Oregon and Montana which are believed to be around 35 million years old. Such fossils have also been found in Germany and former Yugoslavia.
This data ties in with a Pakistani folk tale, which says that before there were people, fairies and djinns populated the Earth. When people arrived in the paradisiacal garden they had made the supernatural beings left, but left the rose behind as a reminder that they had once roamed the Earth. It is said that fairies and djinns are still attracted to the rose, while evil creatures, such as the snake, go to the Night Flowering Jasmine, or raat ki rani in Urdu, Queen of the night.
It is believed to have originated in northern Persia, and from there spread to Mesopotamia, then to Palestine, and from there to Asia Minor and Greece. The first written mention of the rose is in Sumerian cuneiform script, the text being from around 2860 BC. It was a sacred flower in ancient Egypt and offered to the goddess Isis. It has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In Greek mythology, the rose is said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis.
The damask rose (Rosa damascena) is believed to have made its appearance in 900 BC and this is the rose from which the best rose water is said to be made. In 50BC the Romans were delighted by the Rosa damascena semperflorens or the Autumn damask. This was a cross breed of Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata (musk rose). In Latin, rosa means red. Interestingly people have been unable to breed a black rose and Pakistani folklore explains this, quite simply. The rose is a symbol of love and beauty, while black is the colour of sorrow, evil and death, so there can never be a black rose as this would be contrary to the nature of the rose.
Of course in England the rose was associated with war, as in the Wars of the Roses, with the House of York‘s symbol being the white rose, and that of the House of Lancaster being the red rose. They are now combined on the English coat of arms.
In ancient Rome they put rose petals in wine and wore garlands of roses around their necks at banquets to prevent drunkenness. Brides and grooms wore crowns of roses as did depictions of Cupid, Bacchus and Venus. In 600 BC the Greek poetess Sappho calls them the Queen of the Flowers.
In England it was a custom to hang a rose over a dining table as a sign that whatever was said sub rosa (under the rose) was confidential and not to be repeated. Even now the ornate plaster ornament in the centre of a ceiling from which some light fittings hang, is called the rose.
The Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon I, planted roses at Malmaison and it was her ambition to stage a rose renaissance and have all known varieties in her garden, in the 1800s.Culpeper in his 17th century Herball said that distilled rose water, rose vinegar and rose oil extract was “good in hot fevers, jaundices and jointache”.
In Pakistan a few drops of rose water are good for tired or sore eyes, and rose water will also help soften the skin and get rid of skin problems.
On the subcontinent and throughout the Middle East as well as in Turkey, desserts are often flavoured with rose water. You can add 2 tbsps to our rice pudding recipe. It is used in pink Turkish delight so you will probably know what it tastes like. Below we give a recipe for rose petal jam, as rose water made at home doesn’t last very long and it’s readily available online from Asian food suppliers.
The best rose petals to use for this jam are red ones, but any sweet smelling rose petals can be used. Preferably though, use the red damask rose pictured here. This is good for the liver, and gets rid of acid in the stomach, and can be used as a laxative in traditional medicine. It is one of the ingredients that can be put in paan.

Equal amounts of sugar and rose petals

Put the sugar and rose petals in a clean glass jar and leave in the sun for 10 days. After that it is ready to eat, but can be kept for years. The longer you keep it the better it will become, especially if used as a medicine.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


Saffron, from the crocus, Crocus sativa, is the most expensive spice in the world, and probably always has been. This is because it is still hand-picked, and each crocus flower produces only 3 stigmas. These have to be dried and allowed to ferment a little before saffron is produced. It is labour-intensive, and it takes 14,000 stigmas to make 1 ounce of saffron spice, which sells at $50 for a quarter of an ounce. This being said, you only need a couple of saffron threads in a dish, so for $10 you can make one dish. Its best to buy it if you holiday in Greece, where it is cultivated, as it’s cheaper there.
The crocus is native to southwest Asia, the wild crocus known as Crocus cartwrightianus, and Crocus sativa was bred from this by choosing croci with unusually large stigmas to cross-pollinate. It is believed that this species may have started in Bronze Age Crete. It was found depicted on frescoes at Knossos by Sir Arthur Evans, and also at Akrotiri and on Thera or Santorini.
The first text which mentions saffron was an Assyrian one, written at the behest of Ashurbinapal. Much later Herodotus and Pliny both recommend saffron from Assyria, and Babylon, believing it the best to treat gastric ailments. Long before, however, the ancient cave artists used saffron based pigments to paint the walls of caves in Iraq. These have been dated and are believed to be around 50,000 years old.
It was used as a dye, and the saffron coloured robes of Buddhist monks are traditionally dyed with saffron, because it was a colour so beloved of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. It has been cultivated in Kashmir for centuries, although there are conflicting stories regarding how long, as historians believe it was introduced from Persia and first harvested in Kashmir in 500BC.However there is a story that it was introduced in the 11th or 12th century Ad by two Sufi saints who gave a local chieftain a crocus bulb in return for his having cured them of their illness. Whatever the case, there is a shrine to these two Sufis in the town of Pampore, India, to Khwaja Massood Wali and Hazrat Sheikh Shariffudin.
The Romans and Greeks both used saffron to mask smells of the hoi polloi when attending theatres, and other public entertainments. The Greeks associated with high class prostitutes, and it was thought to be an aphrodisiac. Cleopatra made use of it in her baths. It was cultivated in Gaul, where it was taken by the Romans until the fall of Rome in 271 AD.
It returned to Europe with the Moors who reintroduced it to the Iberian Peninsula, southern Italy and parts of France.
In the years between 1347 and 1350 the Black Death ravaged Europe, and saffron was much in demand, as it was believed to be effective against the plague. Unfortunately trade in saffron was interrupted by the Crusades. The Greek island of Rhodes, where saffron was cultivated became a major supplier of the expensive spice.
The Greek myth about the crocus flower is perhaps worth mentioning here. Crocus, a handsome youth, fell in love with the nymph Smilax, and they enjoyed a brief affair. However, Smilax tired of her lover, and left him. He pursued her, and she grew tired of this and turned him into a crocus flower. Ovid tells the story much better in his ‘Metamorphoses’.
The market town of Saffron Walden in Essex got its name from the fact that it began to cultivate saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. Up until that time it had been called Chipping Walden, and had prospered due to the wool trade.
If you buy saffron, don’t buy the powdered form as this will probably have been adulterated with turmeric. Buy the saffron threads. It’s good to flavour rice dishes such as biryanis, paellas and can be added to soups and sauces. One or two threads is sufficient.
Below is a recipe for fish soup, but you can work out the quantities for your needs, and use any white fish with any of the other ingredients. What is important is the stock.

Fish stock
2/3 litres water
250 gr onions whole and stuck at top and bottom with 2 cloves each
250 gr carrots peeled and quartered
12 black peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme
small bunch parsley
3 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
trimmings of all fish and shells of shellfish used

Fish and seafood
1 kg sea bass (head, bones and skin in stock)
1kg John Dory (head, bones skin in stock
1 kg coley
250 gr prawns (shells in stock)
1 small octopus, Beak removed and discarded, then cut into 2 inch pieces
500 gr squid, backbone removed and used in stock, cut squid into pieces
1 lobster flesh removed from shell, and shell used in stock
3 glasses white wine
1 glass brandy
2 threads saffron
freshly ground black pepper

First clean all the fish and seafood so you have the trimmings for the base of the soup. Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil. You can tie the herbs together in a bunch if you want to. Remove any scum, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Check every so often and remove any further scum. If you think it’s really necessary to add more water, do so.
Next strain the liquid and put al the other ingredients into a large pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for a further1½ hours.
And your delicious, but expensive fish soup is ready to serve.
This has lots of Taste and is certainly a Treat.

Friday, 23 July 2010


The pomegranate tree originated in Persia and the Himalayas was taken to Syria in 1600 BC and was cultivated in the Mediterranean region, the subcontinent, Africa and Europe. It is mentioned in the Eber Papyrus, and was found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, being one of the food items that were needed in the afterlife. In many cultures it is a symbol of immortality and fertility. (In Rome wreaths of the pomegranate tree were worn by brides.) In 700BC it was imported from Carthage to Rome, and it gets its Latin name from these origins; Punicum malum means Carthage, or Punic apple. Its botanical name is as unique as its properties, as so far, it is the only plant known to contain estron.
It was recommended by Dioscorides, in the first century AD, as a treatment for mouth ulcers and those that are found on the genitals and in the anus. As it has astringent properties its juice was used for binding wounds and staunching the flow of blood. Pliny said it was good for women during pregnancy. The leaves and seeds were used in decoctions in the ancient world to get rid of intestinal worms and the tree bark was used to flush tapeworms out of the intestines.
In traditional medicine the rind of the fruit is used in decoctions to stop dysentery and diarrhea, while the pulp and seeds are used as a laxative and to reduce stomach pain.
Modern medical research has shown that it is high in antioxidants, so it can help patients with cardiovascular diseases. However, research is still continuing into the possible uses of the pomegranate.
The pomegranate features prominently in the myths of Persephone and Hades. There are many versions of the abduction of Persephone to the underworld, but to cut a long myth short, Persephone was unable to return to her mother Demeter because she had eaten seeds of the pomegranate while in the underworld. She was allowed to return to the upper world for spring and summer, but had to return to the underworld in autumn and winter.
It has been a potent symbol throughout history, and was popular as a design on cloth in the Italian Renaissance, as Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo de Medici was depicted in paintings wearing dresses decorated with the pomegranate motif. It is said that as she was the mother of seven sons, the pomegranate symbolized her role as valued mother, or possibly her fecundity.
Henry VIII is reputed to have planted the first pomegranate tree in England, and Shakespeare refers to it in three of his plays, All’s Well that Ends Well, Romeo and Juliet and Henry IV. It was also mentioned by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.
If you’ve been to the Alhambra in Grenada you will have seen the pomegranate motif in archways and mosaics, as the Moors used it as their symbol of their Grenada kingdom. It was a royal fruit, perhaps because of the ‘crown’ on top of the fruit, left over from the blossom.
The French called the ‘grenade’ after the seed-splattering properties of the pomegranate. Greeks splatter a pomegranate on the threshold of houses at New Year, to bring luck in the coming year.
You may never have eaten a pomegranate, but if you’ve had a cocktail containing grenadine (Tequila Sunrise for example), then you’ll have an idea of what they taste like; sour-sweet.
We use the seeds in our pakora and chutneys (these are more like thick sauces, than what we call chutney in English-see recipe below) and sometimes cooked in vegetable dishes. Fresh seeds are used to garnish sweet dishes in many cuisines, including Turkish and Greek. The juice is refreshing, and here you can buy cordial of pomegranate to dilute. It’s very refreshing on swelteringly hot days. The seeds are usually dried, but if you soak them in water for 15 mins and then crush them they add a piquant flavour to a dish. Try the recipe below.

2 tbsps dried pomegranate seeds (anar dana) soaked in water for 2 hours
2 green chillies, chopped
½ handful mint leaves
2 tbsps fresh coriander leaves, shredded
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Grind the seeds very well, and then grind all the other ingredients with the seeds. Add a little water, mix thoroughly and the chutney is ready to serve with meat of fish.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


The kachnar tree is known as the Orchid tree, Mountain Ebony, Pink Butterfly tree, Bois de Boeuf, and the Purple Orchid tree. Its Latin name is Bauhinia variegata. In Indian mythology it is associated with Shiva one of the principle Hindu gods.
It has many uses in traditional medicine on the subcontinent. Its bark is used as an astringent and a tonic. It is good for skin diseases, and has been used to treat leprosy. A decoction of the bark is used to cure dysentery, while the dried buds are used to cure diahorrea. A decoction made from the root of the kachnar is said to prevent people becoming obese. An infusion of the flower buds is good to get rid of coughs.
The kachnar tree grows all over the subcontinent, and is even to be found lining the roads in parts of the capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad. The flowers of this tree vary in colour from white with pink veins to almost purple, and when in bloom it can take your breath away with its beauty and aroma.
Apart from its aesthetic value, the flower buds are considered a delicacy. They are relatively expensive as they are only available in spring for a limited period. When cooked, they taste a bit like liver. And are good with beef or as a vegetarian dish-that way you get to taste the real unadulterated flavour of this bud. You can faintly taste the perfume of the flower still captive inside the green sheath, and that is delicious. Apparently the flowers themselves are good in pakora.
In Pakistan there is a movement to plant more of these trees in an effort to help the environment, whereas in places like Florida, where these trees have been imported, they are considered a threat to the ecology.

½ kilo minced meat
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
4 green chillies, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger root, finely chopped
½ handful mint leaves, shredded
½ handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp thyme
1 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
½ cup oil
½ kilo kachnar buds
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, thyme and coriander seeds. Fry on a low heat for 3 mins.
Add the minced meat, tomato, green chilli and all the spices, stir occasionally, and cook for about 10 mins.
Now add 2 glasses of water and the kachnar buds. Stir well then cover the pan and cook for about 30 mins. After this time, check and if there’s water left, cook for a further 5 mins.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the mint and coriander leaves. Stir well to mix, cover and leave to stand for 5 mins.
Serve and sprinkle with lemon juice if this is to your taste. (We think it improves the flavour.)
It’s good with naan, chapattis, or any other kind of bread, and our mint and yoghurt sauce (See recipe)
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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