Archive | October 2012

In Memory of my German Opapa

Or: How to make a child eat spinach

When I was little, we lived in a small house on my Grandfathers land – their house was at the front of the property on street level and ours a little bit set back.

The huge (or so it seemed to me then) kitchen had a very large window from where one could see most of the garden. And as my mother told me, substantiated by bouts of memory flashes on my part, this window was a major attraction to me and at times the source of great frustration to her. Like most children I too welcomed just anything to distract my mind and gave me good enough reasons for not doing my school home-work.

And why? Opa (german for ‘grandfather’) kept a few cages of beautiful rabbits (Kaninchen), white, black and so very soft and cuddly. Their antics amused me far more than boring homework – who cannot understand this. Mutti did not, Opapa did, typical.

In the middle of the lawn stood this enormous walnut tree – its branches weight down with an abundance of nuts, year after year and a welcomed food paradise for those little red furry creatures – our beloved squirrels. (Where today can you see actually red ones – not in our garden in England nor in the beautiful parks of London).

The third major attraction (or should I write ‘distraction’?) for me was the Bee-Hives. Opapa even had a little outfit made for me specially, so that I could ‘help’ him with his bees, gathering honey etc. I was never ever scared then, but, today… I see bees and I run a mile!

The rest of the garden had flowers, shrubs, fruit-trees, potatoes, vegetable patches especially spinach (everybody said ‘the child needs to eat plenty of iron’), the lot.

But needless to say, again like most children, I did not particularly enjoy a plate of spinach, however it was prepared until the day my grandmother decided to mix finely crushed wall-nuts to the spinach. That apparently was the day which made me love, yes love, this vegetable for the rest of my life.

I had more or less forgotten about this until a few days ago, when I received a telephone call from my favourite ‘Ashis-Supermercato’ informing me of the arrival of my wall-nuts which I had especially ordered for some Christmas baking. And because I had just bought a bunch of “Pallak” (like spinach) I wanted to make use of those items.

I just went ahead from memory and made some modifications. I suggest you just go ahead and use your cooking experience and eye-measurements this time. I too sometimes just use “a bit of this and a bit of that”– I hope you will like it. But what do I call this? OK – why not…….

                            Opapa’s nutty sauce

A big handful of Spinach, well washed and hand-shredded

Some Olive Oil (depends how liquid you like your sauce)

3 Garlic cloves, peeled

A big handful of shelled walnut pieces

2 or more Tbsp of Lemon juice

A splash or more of Tabasco Sauce

A pinch of nutmeg

Salt to taste

Some grated Cheddar- or Romano cheese

Put everything into your Mixi and pulse the ingredients a few times. You want your Sauce nice and smooth in the end. If this appears too thick for your taste, just add a few drops of hot water at a time.

Of course in my Grandmother’s kitchen we did not have pasta then. But here in our home I tried various different pasta shapes and in the end I found the simple spaghetti best for our liking.

Guten Appetit, Carina


To all my dear Readers

………………this is just to let you know that I will have to take a short break for 48 hours.

So, please stay ‘tuned’ – I will be back in a couple of days.

See you then,

Ciao, Carina

Congratulations, Your Excellency

The Most Rev. Dr. Francis Kallarackal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Verapoly

 October 4th is not only your Silver jubilee of being made a Bishop, but also the Feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi after whom you,  as well as our Cathedral in Cochin, are named.

I am honoured that you found time to receive me this morning at Bishops House amongst your beautiful orchid collection.


A Taste of Home from Long ago

Mutti’s version of “Chicken Paprikash

My mother and I both shared our love for chicken (and turkey), amongst other food. When a major health problem forced her to give up her beloved red meat, sausages etc. and was told by her ‘Medicine Men’ that she would only be allowed  a daily allowance of 3 oz of lean chicken (or turkey) with some steamed vegetables, she found it at first very hard to cope with this verdict. But, in the end, her better self accepted this and in no time she concocted up yummy chicken dishes for the family and friends, even so she had to prepare 2 different sets of chicken each time she did not eat alone.

One of my favourite was this ‘chicken paprikash’. I only hope, Mutti you will forgive me that I changed your original recipe around just a little bit, mainly to add a ‘zang’ to it all.

This is really a quick Hungarian-style dish and traditionally was served in her house with either spaetzle or her famous potato dumplings. But I think that broad ribbon pasta also goes very well with this.

For 4:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

¾ pound skinned chicken breasts, cut into small strips

1 medium green and 1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut also into strips

1 onion, chopped

1 ½ Tbsp of paprika (or mild chilly powder)

1 tsp caraway seeds, crushed

A few drops of Tabasco

Some chicken stock (depends how much gravy you like)

1 Tbsp of lemon juice (or more, optional)

Sour Cream or thick Curd

1 tsp of concentrate tomato paste (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter with oil in a wok over medium heat. When the butter starts foaming add chicken and your 2 kinds of capsicum with the onion and sauté until chicken changes colour (in about 5 minutes or so).

Now add paprika and caraway seeds and sauté for an extra minute. Add chicken stock and lemon juice and boil very gently for another 5 minutes; keep stirring.

Add sour cream, tomato paste, salt and black pepper. Reduce the heat to the lowest for 3-4 minutes.

In the meantime cook and drain your pasta.

Serve ‘Chicken Paprikash’ immediately over your cooked pasta.

Guten Appetit!


“Best Indian Pizza” by the name of UTTAPAM

Here is another South Indian dish which is favoured by nearly everyone. The name is Uttapam or Oothappam (or even Indian Pizza, by some!)

What is it, you might as well ask. In simple terms it is like a thick pancake with the ingredients cooked in a batter.

Our top supermarkets now offer a small variety of quite excellent ready wet mixes, which our friends in the UK and in the USA were able to buy for some time.

I felt adventures this morning and decided to make the Uttapam for this post together, since in my 10 years of living here I never had the nerve of making them in my own kitchen, believing them to be very difficult to prepare. But how wrong I was!!

So, I happily prepared Uttapam. Since the wet-mix does not come with any instruction whatsoever, I did a trial run first and found out, that I had to make just some slight adjustments to the batter. So here now the measurements I used in the 3 different Uttapam’s you see in the pictures.

  1. 1.   Empty all the wet-mix into a bowl.
  2. 2.   Take a smaller bowl and measure out 5 Tbsp of the batter

 and 2 Tbsp of lukewarm water. Mix well.

  1. 3.   Heat  a smallish (frying) pan and pour this mixture into the pan; and like you do with an Italian Pizza, spread the various toppings immediately over the batter.
  2. 4.   Cook this on medium heat for app. 3-5 minutes and then cover with a large lid and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Do not flip over.
  3. 5.   Your Uttapam should be ready, serve and eat whilst still warm.

 So today I give you 3 different ‘recipes’ for your Uttapam – but, remember, the sky is the limit, experiment with all kind of delicious toppings until you find the ones which will become your household favourites.

The first choice:

In a bowl mix some minced ginger

1 small onion, chopped (you want  the crunch on the Uttapam)

1 Tbsp Curry Leaves (cut small) or coriander leaves

2 green chillies, cut slanted

Salt, to taste


The second one is the all-round favourite:

1 small onion, chopped

½ green capsicum (or yellow or red)

Some button mushrooms, wiped with a dry paper towel and sliced

1 tomato, peeled, deseeded and sliced

1 boiled, peeled and sliced beetroot

2 green chillies, cut slanted

Salt, to taste

The third is one of the signature Uttapam of a company just off MG Road, where they sell these, and other most delicious Dosa’s etc., to cinema goers on their way home at night.

Make Uttapam exactly like the first one but carefully open an egg and set it on top of the batter. Unfortunately most eggs here have a very thin shell – we ‘wasted’ a few eggs in order to get a beautiful yolk, but had to conceit defeat in the end.

Uttapam’s is often eaten with sambar or chutney – but we prefer them just like they come out of the pan.


Ciao, Carina