Tag Archive | dinner

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


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)

Chemmeen Ularthiyathu – Nicely fried Prawns

For any of you who like prawns as much as we do, here is a quick, easy but so delicious Kerala dish. If you do not like your food too hot, start off with less chillies etc. as given in my own recipes – but, again if you are like us and “..like it hot” experience and add 1 or 2 more; the same goes for garlic. Whatever you fancy – as long as you enjoy your final preparation.

And with a good price for prawns in the market right now, we sure will make much use of this wonderful harvest of the Sea in the weeks to come, but, as always, you are most welcome to join our table.

Chemmeen Ularthiyathu    –   Nicely fried Prawns

1/2 kg prawns, shelled and deveined

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilly powder

2 biggish pieces of Kukum (Kudam puli), washed and soaked in water

¼ of the inside of a coconut , sliced smallish

1 large sprig of curry leaves

Glass of water (just enough to cover the prawns)

Salt, to taste

Method, Stage 1: Cook prawns with all the above ingredients here, covered, for 6-8 minutes on medium heat. When prawns are done drain and keep aside.


1 ½ Tbsp of Coconut Oil

1 handful of Small Onions (Ulli), peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp of fresh ginger, julienned

5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and julienned

3 green chillies, split

1 sprig of curry leaves

Method, Stage 2: Heat oil in vessel. Add sliced onions, garlic, green chilly and curry leaves. Sauté until onions turn slightly transparent and golden. Now add the following:

2 tsp of Coriander powder

1 pinch of turmeric powder

¾ tsp of chilly powder

Black pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

Stir continuously for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Add cooked prawns and stir-fry gently for another couple of minutes. Before serving sprinkle just a few more drops of oil over this dish.

Serve with Rice.

(Text and Photos © Carina/Manningtree Archive.)