Archive | September 2012

A steaming cup of tea and Bonda

We are suppose to be at the end of our Monsoon Season – or so we like to think, until suddenly the clouds above us thicken and heaven darkens and within minutes a deluge of rain comes down on all of us, drenching the unprepared but bringing blessed relief to most of us from the heat.

I just, in my mind, think of Autumn back in Europe and before I can go all nostalgic I find my way into my larder to bring out a few items which are needed, to quickly prepare a batch of “Bonda” to go with Jo’s steaming cup of tea. And then the telephone goes and friends announce that they will drop by on their way back to Coimbatore in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, which is a good enough reason to make a bigger batch of those snacks as originally planned. I also had promised some of our friends in Madrid/Spain to send the recipe – so here it is, Maria.

So, therefore without further ado, I herewith share with you “Jo’s Special Bonda”.  But first there are two points I like to make here; I am a coffee- and not a tea-person at all, and despite this I have to admit, Bonda’s taste better with tea (question of personal taste, of course) and when we make Bonda’s for a buffet table here in Cochin or abroad, we prefer to serve them just about ‘bite-size’, i.e. not bigger than our tiny lemon. One ‘ladylike bite’ and they are gone (same goes for cutlets etc. – but more about this another day).


1 kg potatoes

3 cups onions, chopped not too small

3 green chillies (or more or less), chopped

A few curry leaves  (if too big, just cut them smaller)

1 tsp black Mustard Seeds

1 -2 tsp. red chilly powder (taste first and see how HOT you like it)

2 tsp. Urad Dahl

2 cups Gram Flour

Pinch of Turmeric powder

1-2 tsp. of lemon juice (again, taste!)

Some Garam Masala

Vegetable Oil for frying


Boil and mash potatoes coarsely!

Heat oil, add mustard seeds and Dhal and let it go ‘pop’.

Add chopped onions, green chilly, curry leaves, turmeric, red chilly powder and stir this for a minute or so.

Now add potatoes and stir briefly again.

Turn off heat and let mixture cool somewhat before adding lemon juice. Keep tasting to see if you have the right consistency to suit your own palate.  (I often for parties make 2 different batches, one which nearly requires a fire-engine on standby for us ‘who like it hot’ and the other one is a much toned-down Bonda version).

When your mixture is cool enough to handle slightly dampen your hands with cold water and make small balls (in the photographs are the normal tea-time-Bonda’s).

Roll those balls in (yellow) Gram Flour mixed with Garam Masala powder and some salt.

Deep fry gently in oil a few at a time, drain on kitchen paper and keep slightly warm until ready to serve.

PS. The above potato mixture can be frozen for later use and also to be used as curry. I have even used this as a quick filler for Masala Dosa.

Ciao, Carina



Vypeen (or Vipin) – the Island (Part l)

I have never belonged to the group of people who hated Monday – rather the opposite.

Like Spring following Winter – Monday to me was mostly the start of a new week with all its ups and downs, its surprises jumping at me from unsuspected quarters; but then because I have a “job” I enjoy doing.

So far so good – until this past Monday! So many things were written down on my “what-to-do” list over the week-end, and a couple of them were quite urgent, that I was ready to ‘rock-and-roll’ my way through Ernakulam (what we call our City centre). Anticipating therefore being back home early afternoon ready to cook a nice delicious Kerala curry, take the photographs  and write my Blog-entry to be posted that evening.

So far so good – but then the powers-to-be came and ruined my entire well laid out plans.

You must have had days like this when everything and anything went wrong for you. Hm, yes – just like my Monday!

Traffic that day was absolutely atrocious, people I had to see had either not yet turned up at their office or had to rush off to some more important meeting, items I really needed for my kitchen were not available that day, other people, who normally were always friendly, were wearing their “I-hate-Monday’s-therefore-I-am-grumpy” face, etc. etc. – I knew you understand.

Then when I finally reached home and had my second cup of coffee of the day, I found out that the Internet connection had gone due to ‘line complaint’! And before I even had the chance of starting in my kitchen the electricity went off, too and did not come back for a long long time, by then I had decided to call it a day!

Dreading just a little bit Tuesday (fearing what could possibly go wrong?) I again faced traffic, heat, people not being available etc.

But then I had an idea! And a brilliant one, as it turned out in the end. Since, once again I was in Ernakulam, I decided to re-visit a place not too far away. A place I had last been to appr. 4 years ago – Vypeen!


Vypeen (or Vipin, as it is also known) belongs to a group of islands, forming part of the City of Cochin/Ernakulam only just 5 km away and is now a fast developing suburb of Cochin.

Heavy floods in 1341 shaped this Island – but now once again it is re-connected to the Mainland by various  bridges, known as the Goshree Bridges.

After parking the car by the Bus Depot I went right down to the edge of the sea – a spot which I like very much.

Not much really has changed; in a way I felt time has stood still.

Right along the seafront, a paved path has now been laid out for locals and visitors to walk on and sit and enjoy the fresh sea breeze and watch life on the water go by before their very own eyes.  There are the big ships, many many fishing canoes whizzing through the water like colourful butterflys, the public ferry taking people across to the other side. Birds looking for small fish near the waters edge. And the occasional boys trying to catch a bigger fish just with a line (but I have never seen a catch here).


I love just sitting there and watch the breakers out at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. And I even found a few reminders of the once well maintained ‘Chinese Fishing nets’, now completely dilapidated and still, to my utter amazement, fishermen dare walk those few remaining planks, like acrobats in a circus, lowering a net in the hope to be lucky and not only catch their lunch but also enough to sell.

But, as you can see from one of my photographs here, luck was not much on their side that morning. Look at the little ‘Tiger Fish’ – not even a child’s mouthful! But their spirits were high and they go on looking forward to their next catch, which might after all be the lucky one for them.


It is quite a peaceful place – not (yet) overrun by tourists and the few locals out are a friendly and courteous lot. I will have to go back there, and soon for more fresh sea air and photographs and to write my ‘Vypeen – the Island (Part II)’

Until then, Ciao Carina

Out with the old – in with the new, or Good bye Summer – Welcome Autumn 2012

Officially around 21st September Autumn makes his entrance into England. Although not welcomed by everybody, there are still plenty of us, who quite like the change in the seasons with all their plus- and minus points.

Despite what is always being said about the “good old British weather…” it is a fact, that often Summer will not allow Autumn just  to enter and push her aside, ‘…just like that…’ – oh no. More often than not the country is blessed with some really wonderful warm sunny days before the onslaught of darkness and rain arrives for real.

Take London for example; blessed with a great number of wonderful parks and plenty of tree-lined streets, she will show off a wonderful display of autumn colours before the leaves fall down and bring tremendous enjoyment to children, young and older!!  Who has not felt like a child again walking through a park or wood and playing the old game of kicking up the leaves (especially if somebody had just swept them up into small ‘mountains’ to be taken away at a later stage for composting). Come on; admit it, its tremendous fun.

It is said, that some people start getting depressed around this time of year, but why? For us, who live in a country which is hot all year round, this seasonal change is a blessed relief and full of enjoyment.

Unfortunately we have nearly always just missed this change, returning home to India only a few days before Lady Sunshine burst onto the scene once more with full force. But I can leave you with a picture of one of the trees near our apartment in London. Every day that tree looked different – I only wish I would have taken a picture every day to record this. Hm, there is always another time, right?

And also I like to introduce you to yet 2 more paintings which we like so very much. Both depicting “autumn” (Herbst/Fall).

The first one by Frederic Edwin Church we saw in June this year for the first time in a Museum during our visit to Madrid – I wish you too could see the real thing! The colours are incredible.

The second one is by John Everett Millais and can be found in the City Art Gallery in Manchester, England.

(The pictures of the two paintings courtesy of Wikipedia)


–          Risotto with Gorgonzola al Ruggeri

When I looked through my recipe cards in my collection from around the world, I found one, and had feared to have lost the original recipe long time ago,  which brought back floods of very fond memories.

During our last stay in Milano a couple of years ago, Jo and I had lunch at my most favourite restaurant in that city – BICE – on Via Borgospesso 12.

Beatrice Ruggeri, simply known to everybody as ‘Bice’ was the founder of this famous Restaurant and her two sons, Remo and Roberto carried on with her vision all over the globe.

I had been to BICE’s Milano many times in my past life and was keen to go back to this place and take some photographs. But unfortunately, we had been out on a serious shopping expedition that day and therefore my camera was left behind back in our hotel.

Entering the Restaurant again after so many years was for me like stepping back in time and I was suddenly reminded of the saying “… good things seldom change …” OK, the staff had obviously changed, Signor Roberto, whom I have met at BICE Milano many times, is now settled in America, the décor – not really, the food – hardly and the clientele? What can I say – it was Fashion Week in Milan and therefore (‘like in the olden days’) it was a bit difficult not to trip over the many gorgeous looking models endless legs!!!

There are now 2 BICE Restaurants in nearby Dubai and hopefully soon we here in India will have one too.

The recipe for one of their signature dishes was given to me oh so long ago by Signor Roberto Ruggeri himself and with his permission I pass this on to you. But a word of caution – this Risotto is quite rich and very filling!!

And guess what we are having for Lunch………….right!!!

For: 6


2 1/1 cups short-grain rice

3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

5 cups of chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

200 ml heavy cream

6 oz Gorgonzola Cheese, cubed small

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Some parsley, finely chopped


Take a large heavy frying pan, add ¾ of the butter, all the oil and the rice and sauté for a couple of minutes over moderate heat (avoid stirring as much as possible).

Now add chicken stock, reduce heat a bit more and simmer for app. 10-12 minutes (keep tasting – you must neither under- nor overcook your Risotto!). Shake the pan occasionally to prevent rice from sticking.

In the meantime combine cream and Gorgonzola cheese, salt and pepper in a separate pot and heat this mixture slowly until cheese has melted.

Pour sauce over the rice and simmer again for another 10 minutes or so, keep shaking  (and tasting!!) Make sure rice is very tender, but not overcooked mushy.

When done remove pan from heat and gently mix the remaining butter, which has been softened and mixed with the Parmesan cheese, into the rice mixture.

Take 2 forks to do this as not to break the rice kernels too much. Transfer to a heated serving dish, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley over this and serve immediately.

Buon appetito e grazie Signore Roberto

Ciao, Carina

Pasta alla Norma

-Pasta with Aubergine-     Also known as “Pasta alla Bellini

This simple but wonderful dish is named after the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in 1801 in Catania/Sicily.

His most famous opera “Norma” was always thought to be the favourite of the late great Maria Callas, the undisputed Diva Assoluta of the 20th Century.

In our private music collection is a recording from a 1958 concert in Paris with Callas singing “Casta Diva” – just writing about it sends shivers down my spine – so very beautiful! I would happily have given my eye-teeth to have seen her on stage – anywhere, but alas, I never had the opportunity.

Actually my friends, you know what! If you all will excuse me for a little while. Let me go to my kitchen and whilst preparing this dish I want to share with you today, I will play “Casta Diva”; and if peeling the onion does not bring tears to my eyes the incredible voice of the great Madame Callas most certainly will – always! And for you, who do like classical music but have never listened to this Aria, I suggest you go to YouTube – it will be worth your while.

For: 4 plus


4 Tbsp olive oil

1 or 2 big garlic cloves, roughly chopped

½ kg ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 can of chopped Italian tomatoes)

Some vegetable oil, needed for frying

App. 350 g aubergines (eggplants) diced into small cubes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

450 g dried spaghetti (1 whole pack)

Handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded by hand

App. 150 g ricotta cheese (or any other good hard cheese in desperation), grated

Salt and black pepper, to taste



Heat the olive oil, add garlic and cook over low heat, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes.

Add tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Put the diced aubergines into a large colander and lightly sprinkle each layer with salt, cover and leave to rest for at least ½ hour so that the bitter juices get drawn out. When rested, pat them dry with a clean tea-towel.

Now pour vegetable oil into a deep frying pan or wok. Heat until quite hot but do not allow the oil to smoke. Fry the prepared aubergines in small batches for 5 minutes only until lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Cook pasta in plenty of water until al dente.

Add the fried aubergines to the tomato sauce and heat through. Check seasoning.

Drain pasta and tip immediately into previously warmed bowl or large platter. Add the sauce, basil and a generous handful of cheese. Toss well and serve.

P.S. Of course, here too are any different versions of this famous Sicilian dish, why not try out the one above which I have been making for many years now.

Bon appetito – Ciao Carina



(Picture above by Wikipedia)

 Originating from the town of Amatrice up in the mountainous Province of Rieti in the Lazio Region, the ‘Amatriciana’ is one of the most well-known pasta sauces in Roman- and Italian cuisine.

(Picture above by Comune di Amatrice)

 This simple trattoria-style pasta dish, now eaten nearly all over the world, has as many different variations as there are cooks. It is traditionally prepared with ‘Bucatini’ a kind of thicker spaghetti. A most favourite dish in Rome and Sicily in the south of Italy, whilst in Amatrice itself traditionally spaghetti was used. But I think that now it does not really matter. And if you have neither bucatini nor spaghetti at hand, “…do what the Roman’s (and I) do and….” Use Regatoni.

For: 4


1 pack of dried Bucatini*or Spaghetti (or even Rigatoni)
200 gr Pancetta or nice lean bacon, cut into thin strips
2 medium sized red onions, thinly sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 green chilly, cut into a few large pieces
400 ml good  tomato sauce  (which you have made earlier)
Olive Oil

Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
150 g Pecorino cheese (coarsely grated)

In a large pan fry pancetta or bacon over medium heat until quite crisp, but not so hard that you might have to give some work to your dentist. Take out with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Now add to the same pancetta fat the onion, garlic and the chilly and stir quickly. Cook for a few minutes until onions are done. Add tomato sauce and salt, stir again and cook for maybe another 10 minutes on lowish heat.

In a very large pot boil your pasta until ‘al dente’. When done, drain (keeping just a little bit of the cooking water) and immediately add to the sauce, which is still bubbling in the pan. Switch off the heat and mix everything together quite quickly. If you think the sauce is a little bit too dry for your personal taste, add some of the saved pasta water. Only now add the previously fried pancetta to the pasta – move everything onto a pre-heated platter and serve immediately.

But, make sure that your pancetta is really nice and crunchy – to serve soggy pancetta is an absolute no-no in any Italian household.

And, by-the-way, some Italian say that this dish requires no extra cheese on top, and some say exactly the opposite. You choose according to your taste buds – we like the cheese!!

Bon appetito, Carina

(Photo of Pasta © CS/Manningtree Archive)



(White Capellini Pasta)

Capellini literally means “thin hair”. In Italy you find that it is also known as ‘capelli d’angelo’ (Angel’s hair). But amongst some of our friends and here at home it is simply known as “Bianca’s pasta”, pretending it was named after our eldest. But as most of you by now know, ‘bianca’ in Italian means white and this dish is so called, because there for once is not a single tomato in site. So will you excuse me now, I invited a couple of friends for lunch and therefore I am off to the kitchen. Come; join me, if you like.

For: 4 plus
1 whole pack (450 g) of Capellini (or Vermicelli)
4 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more or less, as you like)
6 anchovy fillets, tinned (for a less strong anchovy taste, soak those in milk for 20 minutes)
2 Tbsp capers in brine, washed and dried
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (or basil or a mixture of both)
2 Tbsp bread crumbs made from multigrain bread, preferably
10-12 olives (black or green – it’s entirely up to you and what you find in the shops) de-stoned and julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta in plenty of water until ‘al dente’ having checked the manufacturer’s instructions first – careful, it should only take a couple of minutes!

In the meantime put olive oil and anchovies into a large frying pan or better even, a wok, and cook over medium heat. Stir until anchovies have dissolved.

Add garlic and sauté until it begins to change colour. Stir in parsley, capers and olives; season with salt and pepper and cook only for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and mix well with cooked pasta, gradually adding the bread crumbs.
Continue to toss until thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito, Carina


The word “stracciatella” derives from the Italian word “stracciato” – meaning “torn apart”.

This recipe is for an Italian egg-drop-soup and is usually called “…alla Romana” (the way it’s done in Rome) but is equally popular in the Marche and Emilia Romagna Region. In fact my mother made this soup when I was a child and she never, sadly, managed to go near Italy nor did she know any Italians.

This here is a slight variation on the same theme as you might call it. Really quite easy and quick to make and certainly delicious. I also find this soup a good ‘pick-me-up’ after a somewhat stressful day and ideal when I really do not feel being in my kitchen any longer than necessary. I always make sure I have a few tubs of beef-, chicken- and vegetable stock in my freezer, very useful in those lazy moments. I just fill the ‘stracciatella’ into the biggest mug I can find in my cupboard, a couple of slices (wicked!) of wonderfully delicious 4-grain-bread (the GOURMET House in Thevera stocks all kinds of first class bread) on a side plate and an apple for afterwards. Then I sit with my feet up on a sofa and listen to some beautiful music and soon I can feel the stress slowly moving out of me.

I’ll tell you what ……. this is exactly what I am going to do after having posted this article and not because I am “gestressed”, no, I just feel like it!

For: 3-4
1 ltr good homemade beef broth, seasoned (or other broth if you prefer)
4 eggs, lightly beaten with

3 Tbsp grated Parmigiano
A couple of small pieces of lemon rind, added just before serving
A pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Beat the eggs with 2 Tbsp Parmigiano and salt and pepper. Bring the broth to a slow simmer, take a small balloon whisk and bring your broth to move around in one direction inside the pot. Now drop the mixture of eggs and Parmigiano into the broth while whisking vigorously so that the eggs turn into solid drops. Add the remainder of the Parmigiano, mix well and serve immediately.

And that’s all my friends, really quick, but delicious.

Ciao, Carina



Where in the world can you ski in deep snow high up in the mountains between ancient trees famous all over the globe and in the afternoon water ski in the blue waters of the Mediterranean? And at night you were able to listen to top artistes of the music world performing at Baalbek? Yes, that’s right; you guessed it – the LEBANON.  This country once was known as ‘the Switzerland of the East’ and its capital Beirut was referred to as ‘Paris of the Middle East’.

Here I made, and later sadly lost, so many good friends. But I do not wish to dwell on sad memories – I prefer to remember the happy fun time I had with those who are no more; those who taught me in their homes to cook certain Lebanese delicacies, those who tried in vain, mind you, to make me race down the mountains through deep freshly fallen snow (yes, I got scared  or was it that I did not want to make a fool of myself in case I fell and rolled downhill instead like a snowball?); those who taught me (with success this time!) to water-ski from the Yacht club of the famous Saint George Hotel. And I still remember the thrill being pulled behind my friends splendid RIVA-Boat. But I also remember the times I fell flat on my face, over and over again until I succeeded and managed to stay on my feet for the duration of our round-trip. 

Sadly, I do not have any pictures of my own to show you – they are all packed away in boxes back in England, so instead for the picture above, I had to rely on public domain of Wikipedia, with thanks.

So today I like to show you how to make Madam G. famous salad – Thabouleh, of course. There are many more slight ‘variations on the same theme’ than I care to think of; some like to go a bit heavy on the Burgul and some again prefer more parsley – but we belong in the “heavy on the parsley” group.

But with everything else in the kitchen, try this recipe here first and then, if you absolutely have to, adopt to your own taste and liking.

 T H A B O U L E H

For a generous helping for 2 people, take

90 g (3 oz) Burghul
1 bunch of parsley, well washed and very finely chopped by knife
1 green cucumber, peeled, deseeded and very finely chopped
5 Spring onions (or Ulli) skinned and very finely chopped
1 smallish Onion (Savallah) coarsely grated
2 large tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Coriander leaves. finely chopped 
2 Tbsp Mint leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp good Olive Oil
Juice of 3-4 of our small lemon (or to taste)
Sea Salt (I use Maldon Salt)
Pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper


Soak the Burghul in a large bowl in water for at least 30 minutes.

Put prepared cucumber into a colander with just a little bit of salt and let this drain for 30 minutes.

Take a clean dishcloth and scoop the burghul with no water if possible into the middle of this cloth and wring tightly until nearly all the water has come out. Empty the squeezed burghul into a large bowl. Now proceed in the same fashion with the cucumber. On top of that put all your chopped herbs, oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Stir lightly with 2 forks (so as not to disturb the burghul wheat too much). Keep tasting this mixture – you want a quite sharp, lemony balanced Thabouleh.

Traditionally you would like your serving plate laid out with crunchy cos lettuce leaves, but….. don’t fret if you cannot get those. Well washed and nice looking lettuce leaves, kept in the fridge for a little time to make them a little bit crunchier, will normally do the trick. Just make sure you have plenty of extra lettuce leaves available to scoop up the Thabouleh. Slightly warmed Pita bread goes well with this. 

PS: Please do not be tempted to cut your herbs etc. in a mixi – it will not work! A sharp knife is your only perfect tool here.

(Text & pic of Thabouleh © CS/Manningtree Archive)

The Beauties of Stresa/Lago Maggiore

Today my friends, I will not bother you with too much text – just a very small visual feast for your eyes (so I hope).

The Peacock, India’s national bird.  Look how proud and majestic he sits here, seemingly without any care in the world, showing off his magnificent plumage for all to see. He was quite in a receptive mood when I was trying to take his pictures – I was able to get pretty close to him, nearly able to touch him. But, all my sweet talking was in vein, he was not prepared to open his feathers and display for us and my camera the famous ‘peacock fan’; and of course I was not one to complain, having been able to get this shot of him.

He was such a good bird, he allowed us to stay with him for quite some time, taking pictures occasionally.  And somehow we had this feeling, that he knew that we came from far away, the land of his ancestors  – and suddenly, out of the corner of my eyes I saw this most magnificent creature strutting across the lawn only a couple of meters away from us, it’s long tail feathers making a slight swishing sound, which must have caught my attention in the first place, I think – it was THE WHITE PEACOCK. But unlike his blue ‘cousin’ this one here was extremely shy – very happy to parade proudly up and down in front of us, seemingly urging us to take pictures like at a photo shoot, but not confident enough to allow us really close.

Neither Jo nor I had ever seen this kind of bird before. The beauty of this peacock literally took my breath away. Having seen so much beauty on that one day, we soon said good bye to the beautiful Park of the famous Villa Pallavicino, just outside Stresa on Lake Maggiore, which is literally a paradise of flowers and animals.

The Park was originally the idea of the Neapolitan statesman Ruggero Bonghi, who fell in love with Lake Maggiore and decided in1855 to purchase the land and build a small house for himself. In 1862 the family of the Marquises of Pallavicino acquired the property and began to improve it, extending the grounds, building drives suitable for carriages, embellishing the park with statues and transforming the modest house into the opulent 19th century Neoclassical mansion which still graces the hillside.

In 1952 Marchioness Luisa Pallavicino completed the family project with the addition of a zoo with animals from every corner of the globe. I was introduced to the Marchesa in the early 70s by a close Italian friend of mine who was a cousin of the Marchesa. She was such a charming and gracious lady who personally and proudly showed me around, introducing me to nearly every animal she had in her beloved parco, before we sat down in the cooling shade of one of the many magnificent Cypresses where we enjoyed our tea overlooking the picture postcard view of the Lago Maggiore. Sadly I only met her once again before her death in 1992 in Rome. So I was very happy of being able to visit once again after such a long time. Another time I will take you around a bit more.

Ciao, Carina

(Photos: CS/Manningtree Archive)