A mango is a mango is a mango you might think, but this is not so. There are more than 500 types of mango and there may even be more than a thousand. Living in Pakistan I realize the truth in this. If you’ve never walked in a busy street, sucking the juice out of a small ripe mango, believe me, it’s quite a refreshing experience. You roll the small fruit between your hands to make the pulp soft, make a little hole in the top of the mango and suck out the juice. The alternative is to buy freshly squeezed mango juice from one of the many juice kiosks that line shopping streets. Then you may get a plastic cup or be given the juice in a plastic bag, with a straw. But it’s satisfying to suck the juice out of the fruit and then eat the pulp left on the stone.

Mangoes are native to India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, although there are mango groves all over south Asia now. Cultivation of the mango tree began amore than 4000 years ago, and as you can imagine with such a history, they are very much part of the culture. It’s monsoon time now and the mango has come into its own. In India it’s known as the King of Fruits, and is the national fruit of that country.

Buddhist monks took plants to Malaya and East Asia in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, and Persian traders took it to the Middle East and East Africa sometime before the first millennia (AD). When the Portuguese explorers reached the subcontinent in the 15th century, they introduced it into South America, the Philippines and West Africa.

The mango is associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. It is said that Buddha converted many people miraculously when he metamorphosed into various forms in front of a mango tree. This tale is told in the Jataka Tales, and Buddha is often portrayed with a mango tree in works of art. It is said that he liked to meditate in mango groves. He is also said to have caused a mango tree to sprout from a seed instantaneously to convince unbelievers that he was the Buddha.

In Hinduism, Shiva is said to have appeared in his Lingua (phallic) form under a mango tree, and where the manifestations occurred Hindu temples were built. Now many Hindus hang the leaves from the mango tree in their homes for good fortune to smile on them. In Hindu rituals of divine blessing, a clay pot is filled with water, with the pot symbolizing Mother Earth and water the life-giving force. The top is decorated with fresh mango leaves, representing vibrant life and a coconut, symbolizing divine consciousness. The whole entity is a symbol of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

In art on the whole subcontinent, pictures of paradise almost always contain the mango tree because it provides both shade and the wonderful fruit. The mango represents love and fertility.

In the 18th and 19th century cows were fed solely on mango leaves so that their excretions could provide a yellow dye called “Indian yellow”, but this practice was banned in the 1920s as it was deemed cruel to feed cows solely on mango leaves. However the tree bark is still used as a dye, which is light yellow. The stems of the trees are beaten and the juice is collected from them is mixed with turmeric and lime to make a rose-pink dye for cotton. The wood from the tree is treated with preservatives (salt water in some cases) and used to build boats and for furniture. The flowers are very fragrant and their oil is used in perfumes. Gum from the trees is tapped and used instead of gum Arabic, so it has many uses apart from its medicinal and culinary ones.

Of course mango trees and the fruit have their role to play in traditional remedies. In Ayurvedic medicine the flowers are dried and used to cure dysentery, diarrheoa and inflammation of the urinary tract. It is believed that mangoes can strengthen the nervous system and the blood system, so can treat anaemia effectively. They also help to rid the body of toxins. In folk medicine they are used in the treatment of rheumatism and diphtheria. The bark is known to have astringent qualities. The gum from the tree trunk is put on cracked soles of the feet and is also used to treat scabies. Powdered seeds help stop bleeding, and it is believed that mangoes cure headaches an dare good for the kidneys. Western medical research tends to bear out all these properties, and it is said that eating mangoes can prevent colon cancer. The fruits contain a compound called mangiferin, which promotes heart action and production of urine. They also contain gallic acid and quercetene which protect against viruses. The powdered seeds have antimicrobial properties, and it has a whole host of other benefits.
Peeled, sliced and dried mangoes are ground into a powder which is the spice amchur. This gives dishes an added tartness, and it can be used effectively in curry sauces lentil dishes, and anything that needs an extra tart addition.

You can eat green mangoes raw, and they are good cooked and pickled too. In fact, the mango is a miraculous fruit: no wonder it was so loved by Buddha.



1 kg green mangoes washed well, dried well then cut into quarters, stones discarded
150 gr salt
3 tsps fenugreek seeds

6 tsp anise
15 gr black seeds (Kalvanji, Kalonji, Nigella sativa)
7 gr turmeric
2½ cups mustard oil

Rub all the ground spices, salt and turmeric onto the cut mango pieces, with about 12 tsps of the oil.

Put these in a jar in the sun and leave for 2 days, making sure to shake the jar every day.

Pour in the remaining oil and leave for two weeks in the house, not in the sun.

Remember to shake the jar on alternate days.

You can eat it after 20 days but it can be kept for about 2 years - if it isn’t eaten by then.

Keep the pieces of mango covered with oil.

Don’t throw the oil away when the pickle is finished; use it for the next batch of mango pickle.

This has Taste and is a Treat.


Chives are the smallest members of the onion family, and have been grown in British gardens since Elizabethan times. They were grown because they are herbs, and they have flowers, but not only are they attractive and good to eat; they also ward off unwanted insects. They are good to grow in your garden as they can be cut three or four times in a season, and can be saved for winter by chopping and freezing them.
Chives are native to the northern hemisphere and still grow wild in parts of Italy and Greece. They have been cultivated in Europe only since the 1500s. The first recorded use of chives comes from China, and where they were used 5000 years ago.
There are also ‘garlic chives’ or Chinese chives, which have star-shaped white flowers. The chive normally used in cookery has purple pom-pom flowers, something like those of a clover.
The Romans believed that they could cure sore throats and relieve sunburn. The ancient Greeks used them in baths, and in Mediaeval Europe it was thought that hanging a bunch of chives in the house would ward off evil and disease. They have been used in love potions, and in fortune telling, according to some. It is said that gypsies used them to tell fortunes but exactly how they did this has not been reported.
Their medical uses are still under investigation, but preliminary research has suggested that they might help to fight several types of cancer, and have mild antibiotic properties. They have anti-inflammatory properties, so the Romans may not have been wrong to use them as they did.
Chives are rich in vitamins A and C and contain the minerals potassium, calcium and folic acid. They are said to aid digestion and stimulate appetite. Oil from chives is rich in sulphur, as are other members of the onion family.
In cooking they can be used in soups, stews and sauces; as a garnish and in salad dressings. They are one of the ‘fines herbes’of French cuisine, along with tarragon, parsley and chervil. Chives can be added to scrambled eggs to give them a more interesting flavour and make good additions to dips. You can add them to boiled or mashed potatoes, or use them to garnish potato salads. Below is a dip using chives.

500 gr cream cheese
½ cup of fresh, chopped chives
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Mash together the oil, cream cheese and pepper, and mix until smooth, then add the chives and mix thoroughly. Put in the fridge until required.
This has Taste and is a Treat.



The sandalwood tree is probably native to Indonesia and/or the Indian subcontinent, although there is some evidence to suggest that it was introduced to India some 2000 years ago. It is mostly valued for its fragrance and resistance to insects although it is also used in religious ceremonies and in traditional medicine. In 1792 the Sultan of Mysore decreed that the Sandalwood tree was a royal tree, and as that decree still stands, all sandalwood trees in India and Pakistan technically belong to the government, whether they are on private property or not. Interestingly the trees are never felled but uprooted during the rainy season, so as to get the precious oil out of the roots as well as other parts of the tree.

Hindus have been using a paste made from the sandalwood tree for more than 4000 years, to make the tilak mark on the foreheads between the eyes, where the Third Eye is said to be located. It is mostly used by devotees of the gods Shiva and Vishnu and protects the spot where Hindus believe power resides, as it cools the spot and the smell when combined with that of smoked sandalwood, clears the mind so that meditation can begin. In religious ceremonies the paste from the tree and the ash, represent one of the four elements, earth.

The wood from the sandalwood tree (Santalum album) is burnt at funeral ceremonies to help the departed soul on its ascent to paradise and to give comfort to the grieving mourners.

The sandalwood tree and its spicy, pungent fragrance can ward off evil spirits, but it also attracts snakes. It is a symbol of indescribable sweetness which remains unchanged in spite of danger. In pictures in Hindu legends, it is usually depicted with its trunk completely covered by writhing serpents.

You have probably come cross joss sticks made from the sawdust of the sandalwood tree, or perfumes with a sandalwood base. People waft incense which comes from the sandalwood tree around their homes to keep evil spirits out.

It is used in traditional medicine for many purposes. Its paste, when applied to the forehead will reduce a fever, and it may be mixed with rose water to quench your thirst. An infusion of sandalwood powder mixed with rose water is said to be good for headaches, scorpion stings dry skin, dermatitis, psoriasis, prickly heat, warts and even some skin cancers. Clinical trials are currently being undertaken to see how effective it actually is.

Sandalwood powder mixed with honey, sugar and rice-water is used to aid digestion and treat some digestive disorders. The powdered wood has been used to treat snake bites, and an infusion of sandalwood is used as a mouthwash and a deodorant. Oil from the sandalwood tree can relieve itching and inflammation of the skin.

So far, medical research has shown that the sandalwood tree has antibacterial qualities. It has soothing effects on people who are distressed and /or mentally disturbed and is used to calm them in stressful situations, so if you’re feeling stressed. Or depressed, try lighting a sandalwood candle and see if you feel the benefits of its soothing qualities.

People don’t cook with sandalwood, but there is a concentrated sandal drink- much tastier than orange squash!


Chicken Jal Frezi


½ kilo boneless chicken breasts

4 onions, sliced

4 tomatoes, peeled and diced

10 green chillies, finely chopped

1 inch ginger root finely chopped and crushed to a paste

6 cloves garlic, well chopped

1 handful of both mint and coriander leaves, fresh

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup cooking oil

6 eggs

1 tbsp garam masala (see recipe)

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 curry leaf

1 tbsp thyme

1 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper to taste.


Put chicken breasts into a pan with 11/2 cups of water and boil them until only half a cup of water is left. Remove chicken from the water and allow to cool. Then shred the meat.

Cut the mint and coriander leaves into small pieces and mix half with the eggs and a pinch of salt. Reserve the rest until later.

Put half the sliced onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, spices, tomatoes and chillies along with salt and pepper into the remaining water and cook them over a medium heat, stirring until all the water has evaporated. Now add the oil to the pot and stir it into the mixture. Cook for a further2-3 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and the remaining onions and cook on a low heat for 5 mins. Now put the egg mixture into the pot with the other ingredients and cook for 5-7 mins.

Remove from the heat and mix in the mint, coriander and lemon juice, cover it and leave to stand for 5mins.

Now it’s ready to serve. Try it with pitta, chapattis, naan or other breads.
This has Taste and is a Treat.



Chervil is native to Eastern Europe, and grew in the Caucasus region. Chervil was spread by the Romans, who, according to Pliny, used it as a green vegetable, and also used the roots as a vegetable. The ancient Greeks referred to chervil as the ‘herb of joy’ and used to make wreaths to put on heads, when a cheerful event was celebrated. It was once called ‘myrrhis’ because its volatile oil smells like myrrh, one of the gifts the magi gave to the baby Jesus according to the Bible. Because of this association it is often used at Easter, and it is also in evidence then, because it symbolizes new growth after winter and the beginning of spring. The oil comes from the seeds and other parts of the plant.
Chervil is one of the ‘fines herbes’ and is also used in bouquet garni along with a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary and a twig of thyme. It is also one of the herbs used along with lavender in herbes de Provence. When chervil is used to flavour sauces or stews it should be added about 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, as if it is exposed to too much heat, it loses its flavour. It is known as ‘gourmet’s parsley’, but with its mild liquorice and pepper taste, it doesn’t taste like parsley. It enhances the flavours of the other herbs it is cooked with, and has been cultivated in France for centuries.

The ancient Greeks combined it with dandelion leaves and watercress as a way to combat nutrient deficiency in winter, when there were few green vegetables to be found. Culpeper believed that it was good for digestion, and in folklore it was believed to make men ‘merry’ and sharpen the wit as well as making old people feel young again. In the language of flowers, it symbolizes sincerity.

Chervil has been used in medicine to aid digestion and stimulate the appetite, as a blood purifier and eye tonic. Chervil juice has been used to treat eczema and lower blood pressure. In the Middle Ages the boiled roots were thought to ward off plague, and if you had hiccups, they would stop if you ate the whole plant. It has also been used as an ingredient in dyes and perfumes. Washing your face with chervil water is supposed to maintain the suppleness of the skin and to keep wrinkles at bay.

To make an eye tonic for tired eyes, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 tbsp of fresh chopped chervil, and keep it covered to keep in the volatile oil. Let the chervil steep for 20 minutes and then put some of the liquid on cotton wool and place it on the eyes and leave for 10 minutes. This infusion is also supposed to be good for the skin.

In cookery chervil makes a useful addition to salads, light sauces, chicken, fish and seafood dishes. In Norway and France it is used as a condiment and bowls of freshly chopped chervil are place on the table, to add to meals. It can also be used in herb butters.



1 cup fresh chervil, chopped
¼ cup pecorino cheese
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (or ones that have been lightly fried in olive oil)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsps olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender and store in the fridge until you want to use the sauce. It will keep for up to 3 days.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


star anise

Star anise originated in China and Vietnam, and is still mainly grown there and in Japan. Japanese star anise caused a scare back in 2006 when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about drinking teas and tisanes made with Japanese star anise. This was after reports of people suffering from vomiting, jitteriness, rapid eye movement, and even seizures after drinking a tea or tisane made with it. It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese star anise just by looking at it, so unless you are certain the star anise you have is Chinese, don’t drink a tisane made with it; put it on your skin instead as it’s good for skin diseases.

Star anise is so called because of its stellate shape; it’s a very attractive spice with a pungent aroma so is good in pot pourris. It is actually the fruit of a tree which in Japan is an ornamental tree, and often planted on tombs and in temples. This fruit is picked before it is ripe and dried. The powdered bark of the tree is used for incense. The oil is used in the West in alcoholic drinks such as anisette. It has a strong liquorice-like taste and is stronger than anise, or aniseed.

It doesn’t grow on the Indian subcontinent, but is used there, particularly in Bengali cuisine. You have probably encountered it if you use Chinese Five Spice powder as it is one of the ingredients. Other ingredients include ground fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and Szechwan peppercorns; powdered dried orange peel may also be included.

It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat infant colic and rheumatism, and is also used to treat headaches, coughs, chills, bronchitis, digestive problems and flatulence. People also use it as a stimulant when they need energy. Small amounts of seeds from the dried star-shaped fruit are chewed to freshen the breath. The fatty oil can be found in some soaps.

In modern medicine, the shikimic acid contained in the fruit is extracted and used as the base of the drug Tamiflu which was made to fight avian flu (H5N1). Once again, modern medical research has found that the traditional use for a spice is effective. To make the drug the pharmaceutical giant Roche uses star anise only from four of China’s provinces.

In folklore, one star of star anise is put under a pillow to banish nightmares, and it is also said that if you do this you will dream of someone who is far away. It is carried around whole for good luck and burnt to aid clairvoyant powers and psychic awareness.

It’s also good to cook with and here’s a recipe for a quick stir fry dish using it.

250 gr rice, cleaned, washed and soaked for 15 mins (or leftover cooked rice)

1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ inch piece of ginger root, finely chopped
1 head broccoli cut into florets
1 carrot cut into thin strips
1 tomato peeled and finely chopped
assorted vegetables either fresh or frozen, cooked
2 tbsps soy sauce (dark)
¼ tsp paprika pepper
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Chinese chilli paste

Cook the rice and drain it well, or use leftover rice.
Fry the onion, garlic, ginger for a few mins then lower the heat and add the vegetables and rice.
Stir well and add all the other ingredients.
Cook for about 5 mins, and serve.
You can eat this cold as a salad too if you keep it in the fridge overnight.
Break an egg or two into the rice mixture and stir continuously until the egg is cooked for egg fried rice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The Indian Almond tree, or Desi Badem in Urdu, is not a relative of the almond tree you probably know, Prunus dulcis,(sweet almond tree) which is related to the peach tree, so please don’t try any of the remedies below with the almond tree in your garden. They won’t work. The Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa) is also known as the Sea Almond, because it has a high tolerance of salt, or the Tropical Almond. Actually it is related to Terminalia arjuna or arjuna and Terminalia chebula or hareer. It is believed to have originated in south western Asia, but it grows in South East Asia too, as well as in parts of South America. The nuts, which like other almonds are the seeds of the tree, are edible, and can be eaten raw, whereas the ones we know have to be treated before eating. In South America, the oil from the seeds is used in cooking, but on the subcontinent it is mainly used in medicine, and is sometimes used as hair oil.
The sap from the leaves has been used to treat skin diseases, ranging from mild itching and rashes, to leprosy. The leaves can be boiled and made into a mushy paste which is put on rheumatic joints to help ease the pain. The sap or gum from the tree is good to treat dysentery and to get rid of intestinal parasites. Because the leaves and seeds are rich in tannin, they have been used in South East Asia to produce dark dyes, for centuries.
Nigerian and Indian medical researchers have been investigating the medical properties of this plant, and have discovered that the traditional medical practitioners were right about its uses. They now believe that the seeds and leaves have properties which could help in the treatment of HIV, they have anti-clastogenic properties, which means they can prevent chromosomes breaking. They are also astringent and can help staunch the flow of blood from a wound. They also have antioxidant properties and there are hopes that they can help in the treatment of diseases associated with diabetes, as they assist the liver and pancreas to function properly and protect the liver from acute damage. Eating the kernel or ‘almond’ will, say medical practitioners, help men with sexual dysfunctional problems, such as premature ejaculation, or impotence.
Traditionally the leaves have been used to relieve headaches, and are said to be refreshing. Like the Neem tree, the Kikar tree and the banyan, this tree is important for medicine, and you can eat the ‘nuts’.
The recipe below however is for almonds (Prunus dulcis) which are readily available wherever you are.

4 mackerel, cleaned
1 glass white wine
500gr green beans, topped, tailed and sliced length ways
75 gr blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 tbsp oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to a medium heat. Put silver foil on a baking tray and the sliced beans and almonds, in a layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil (olive is best) and cook for 10 mins.
Now add the fish, on top of the beans and almonds and pour the white wine over them. Cover with another tight fitting piece of foil and cook for a further 45 mins.
Serve hot.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Gur or Jaggery is called panela in Mexico and South America. It is made from boiling sugar cane juice, although the process of obtaining gur from sugar cane juice is more complex than just boiling the juice. It contains the minerals magnesium and potassium and is also rich in iron. It has been known in India for thousands of years, and in the Sushruta Sanhita medical text from 2500 years ago, it says that it purifies the blood, prevents rheumatism and is good for the digestion. It is also good to eat if you have a cough.
Modern medical research does not yet have evidence to support these beliefs, but a study conducted in France showed that eating gur can protect the lungs from silicosis, which is caused by dust or smoke in the environment, so it’s good for traffic police to eat gur, for example.
In India, people will eat a few pieces of gur for luck when starting a new venture, as they believe that doing this will bring them luck, especially in business.
Gur can also be made from the date palm, coconut palm and sago palm, but in India and Pakistan it is made only from sugar cane. It is sold in hard, solid blocks and in lumps with the consistency of dough.
It can be used to make a good nut brittle, either with peanuts or other nuts as a praline, or with sesame seeds.

225 gr basmati rice (cleaned and soaked for 30 mins)
2½ glasses water
200gr gur, broken into small pieces
¼ cup oil or ghee
1 tsp fennel seeds
8 green cardamom seeds (from 1 or 2 pods), crushed
4 cloves
100gr blanched almonds, chopped
50gr unsalted pistachios, chopped
40 gr sultanas
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Put water and gur in a pan and boil for 2 mins. Strain.
Heat oil and add cardamoms seeds, fennel seeds and cloves, stirring constantly for a few seconds. Add rice and syrup. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer.
Add nuts, sultanas and lemon juice, stir once cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for approx. 30 mins or until the syrup has been completely absorbed.
Serve hot with natural yoghurt if you like it.
This is a traditional recipe and there are some variations. When you add the nuts, you can also add ½ cup of grated carrots, OR channa dhal which has already been boiled. However we prefer the plain one given.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Sugar cane juice is a very refreshing drink and can be bought on almost every street corner in the Punjab area of Pakistan. It is available throughout the subcontinent, but seems to be especially popular here. The juice is rich in vitamin C is said to be good to ward off colds and flu, and it can relieve a sore throat. It can rehydrate the body quickly too after you have been out in the sun for a long time. It really does cool you down. It is a diuretic too so keeps the kidneys functioning well. There are also claims that it helps fight prostate and breast cancers. It also gives you an energy boost because of its glucose content.
If used externally, sugar cane juice helps to heal wounds, and it is believed now that it might stimulate the immune system, although tests are still being carried out by medical researchers.
While sugar is known to cause tooth decay, it is thought that the compounds in sugar cane juice protect teeth from the decay caused by white sugar.
In traditional medicines on the subcontinent, the juice and roots are thought to have many healing properties. It is believed that these can be use to treat urinary tract disorders, such as cystitis, so the juice can be used like cranberry juice, to help sufferers from this disorder. Medicines derived from the roots and stem are also used to treat such varied ailments as bronchitis, anaemia (the juice is rich in iron), heart conditions, coughs and constipation. Some practitioners believe that blood pressure can be lowered, and sufferers of jaundice can be aided in the recovery stage with extracts of these two components of the sugar cane.
In folk remedies, the juice mixed with ginger is used to stop hiccups, and a plaster made from equal amounts of sugar and yellow soap is put on boils to get rid of them. Unrefined, raw sugar is said to be good to put on carbuncles.
Sugar is also used with water and lemon juice as a depilatory. Make a paste using hot water, and smooth onto the skin. Place a layer of cloth over the paste and tear it off quickly to remove unwanted hair-apparently you become immune to the pain, after some time. It’s also used in some soaps to exfoliate the skin, but so far there’s no medical evidence that shows it is good for the skin. Some medical trials have found that the juice can help fight prostate and breast cancer, but these trials are not conclusive.
One good, refreshing drink is to mix a litre of sugar cane juice with a chopped green chilli,1/2 an inch of finely chopped root ginger 8 mint leaves, and lime juice from a big lime. Blend all the ingredients together well and then blend again by the glass full. Serve in tall glasses with lots of ice. This is guaranteed to take your body temperature down on hot days.

1 glass broken basmati rice
5 glasses of sugar cane juice
3 green cardamoms
4 cloves
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
25 gr almonds, crushed
25 gr pistachios, crushed
25 gr desiccated coconut
25 gr sultanas, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

Clean and wash the rice. Leave it to soak for 30 mins.
Pour the sugar cane juice in a pan with the cloves and green cardamoms and bring to the boil. Then add the rice, lemon juice and sultanas, and simmer over a low heat for about 30 mins or until most of the juice has been soaked up and the rice can be moulded. You should stir all the while so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat; allow to cool a little before turning it out into a serving bowl. Garnish with the nuts and coconut and put in the fridge until needed.
Serve chilled with natural yoghurt.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Sugar cane originated on the island of New Guinea and spread along the migration routes of early people. It is known that people were using sugar cane in New Guinea from 6000 BC, so it was probably in use for much longer than that. This early migration took sugar cane into Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where it cross-bred with wild sugar canes, its close relatives, to produce the sugar cane we have now. From New Guinea it also spread to other areas in the Pacific region. It spread into the Mediterranean region much later, between 600 and 1400 AD. The Arabs were responsible for taking it to Syria. Cyprus, Crete and into Spain around 715 AD. Around 1420 the Portuguese explorers took it to Madeira, and from there it went to the Canary Islands, the Azores and West Africa. Christopher Columbus too sugar cane to the New World and it soon spread across the South American continent. Today it is grown in Brazil, and Mexico. From the New World, it was taken by the British and French to the West Indies.
Europeans soon realized that sugar cane could make them rich, and so the sugar plantations of the West Indies were born. The production of sugar cane was very labour-intensive and so began the slave trade. Ships leaving the ports of Bristol and Liverpool took goods to West Africa, picked up cargoes of slaves and took them to the plantations in the West Indies, and then, later, took sugar cane to be refined in Bristol and Liverpool; both cities prospered from this trade. Sugar production suffered when the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed in Britain in 1833.
Now, 70% of the world’s sugar comes from sugar cane, with the remaining 30% coming from sugar beet. In the production of sugar from the sugar cane, we get a variety of by-products: ethanol increasingly used for fuel instead of petrol; alcohol for the pharmaceutical industry; bargasse, from which paper and chipboard can be made out of the extracted fibres and which can also be used as animal fodder and fertilizer. Molasses and yeast are also by-products of the sugar manufacturing process. We also get lactic acid and butanol (solvents) from it and citrus acid and glycerol, both used in food products.
Molasses were used to distill rum in the 17th century in the West Indies, when they were a haunt for slave traders and buccaneers.
Cane wax is also a by-product of the sugar refining process, and this is extracted from the residue of ‘filtre-cake’ and used as an ingredient in polish and waxed papers.
Sugar cane is used extensively in the cuisines of the subcontinent. In India, tender young sugar cane shoots are steamed or roasted and eaten as a vegetable Its juice is used in cookery as well as being a drink, and gur is also used to flavour dishes.
Different types of sugar are produced from the sugar cane, white being the one that is commonly used, but as this is more refined, it has fewer health benefits than other types of sugar. Less refined sugars are the brown ones we know as demerara and muscovado. Crystallized sugar is known as misri, or rock candy, and gur is jaggery made by boiling sugar cane juice.
In India, sugar cane is given to the Hindu elephant-headed god, Ganesh, as elephants love sugar cane. The sugar cane is also a symbol of a person’s search for his/her true self. The hard outer shell (the ego) has to be stripped away, and this takes some considerable effort, in order to discover the true, sweet nature of the pure self, the sugar cane flesh and juice.
Sugar cane can be chewed and is eaten like this very often on the subcontinent, and is sold on street corners. However if sugar cane is stored in damp conditions it becomes poisonous. A whole village in northern China went down with “mouldy sugar cane poisoning” a few years ago.

1 piece of sugar cane
black salt, according to taste

Slice away the hard outer bark and discard. Cut into pieces (1 -2 inches) and remove the hard core in the middle. Put the pieces in the fridge for an hour.
Sprinkle with black salt and chew as much as you want.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Chicken with Herb Yoghurt


½ kg boneless chicken breasts

250 gr. natural yoghurt

1 onion sliced

1 inch piece of ginger root finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 handful fresh mint leaves shredded

1 handful fresh coriander leaves shredded

6 green chillies, finely chopped

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup cooking oil


Mix green chillies and cumin seeds into the yoghurt with half a cup of water.

Mix the garam masala, turmeric, salt and pepper together, and then cover the chicken pieces with the mixture.

Pour the oil into a frying pan and fry the chicken for 2 mins, to seal it. Remove the chicken and fry the onion in the oil until it is brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 mins.

Pour the yoghurt mixture into the pan and bring it to the boil over a low heat. When it is boiling, put the chicken pieces inside the mixture and cook for approx.15 mins.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the mint and coriander, stirring it well. Allow it to stand for 5 mins before serving.

Serve with plain boiled rice, salad, and naan, chapattis, pitta etc.

This has Taste and is a Treat.


Paprika pepper is native to the West Indies and the South American continent, as is cayenne pepper. The paprika we but comes in powder form and its colours range from a bright red to a brown-orange, similar to cayenne pepper. It isn’t as pungent as cayenne pepper, and ranges from mild to hot. The mild form of paprika comes from the USA and Spain. These countries tend to produce sweet paprika pepper. The country most famous for its paprika production is Hungary.
Paprika pepper plants were introduced into Hungary by the Turks in the 16th or 17th century and it has been cultivated there ever since. Paprika is rich in vitamin C and one pepper has 7 times more than that found in an orange. However, much of this is lost in the process of drying it and making it into a powder. It has antibacterial properties, and like cayenne pepper, Paprika is a natural stimulant. It has much the same medicinal qualities as cayenne, but these are not as potent. It can help circulation and is good for digestion, and can help normalize blood pressure.
In Hungary, paprika is grown in Szeged and Kalocsa where there is a paprika museum and a paprika festival, held annually in October. If you go there you can see the peppers hanging outside houses to dry, as you can  on some Greek islands.
Paprika is used as a food colouring and as a flavouring in some cheeses. In Spain it is an ingredient of spicy sausages like chorizo.
Below is a recipe for traditional Hungarian goulash (gulyas) with csipetke (Hungarian dumplings).

600 gr beef (shin or shoulder is fine), cubed
2 tbsps oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
leaves from 2 celery sticks
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 green peppers, deseeded and sliced
2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 bay leaves slightly torn to release flavour
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onions for 5 mins then sprinkle them with the paprika and fry, lowering the heat as paprika must not be allowed to burn, or the dish will be destroyed! Stir constantly to prevent this happening.
Add the beef and seal on all sides. If the beef doesn’t have much juice, add a cup or two of water.
Now add the garlic, caraway seeds, bay leaves and seasonings and simmer, covered, on a low heat for 1½ hours.
Add carrots, parsnips, celery leaves and more salt if necessary. And add 2 or 3 cups of water.
When the meat and vegetables are almost cooked (about 1 hour), add the tomatoes and green pepper.
Cook for another 15 minutes. If you think the sauce needs to be thicker, remove the lid.

1 small egg, beaten well
pinch salt
1 tsp water

Add flour and salt to the beaten egg until you have a stiff dough, add water as necessary. Make into thin pieces, about 1 cm long and add to the boiling soup. Boil for 5-10 minutes. These will thicken the soup, so if you are adding them you won’t need to remove the lid from your goulash.
Serve with crusty bread for a traditional Hungarian meal.
This has Taste and is a Treat.