Another little venture…

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I would just like to share with you all, my other little venture. Please take a look at my website and share with you family and friends. I would really appreciate this.

https://quirkynapkinsandgifts.com/

I have already  had orders with some more pending. All my products are handmade and very affordable.

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A little bit of spring has come to “Whitstabubble” today…

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What a beautiful Palm Sunday – absolutely gorgeous and I hope it is as gorgeous where you are?

All my windows are open and the air is warm. It was so, so lovely to be woken up by people mowing their lawns, birds singing and the sun peaking through the gap in the bedroom curtains.

It would have been a crying shame to have stayed in doors today, so time to fling open the bifold’s, clean the BBQ and celebrate that spring has arrived here, even if it is only for a short period of time (as the forecast is set to drop by 10 degrees tomorrow)

 

My garden is beginning to bloom. The blossom on the fig and apple trees is beginning to come into full bloom.

BBQ alight, couple of salads prepared…One inspired by James Martin, who I have had the pleasure of meeting when appearing on Ready Steady Cook – cauliflower cous cous salad –  A fantastic man and a brilliant cook, recipe can be found on line, if not listed in my recipes.       The other a typical Greek salad, my middle son’s favourite.

When we BBQ we are all guilty, I think, of preparing too many side dishes. Although they are needed, too many flavours can spoil the meat we have cooked.

Lamb chops  and fresh Tuna fillets sourced locally …

 

New potatoes served with butter and mint leaves from the garden, what could be more beautiful on this gorgeous day?

I hope you have all had a great spring day and have enjoyed some fabulous food with you family and friends.

Until the next time – have fun and enjoy the food you cook and share it with us all…

Love life and food…

See you soon xxx

Inspired, again, by the Med….

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….and of course Rick Stein and his fish, although this is not a recipe from Rick, but his love for fish is the inspiration and I was surprised on how the pre packed fish tasted and when I say pre packed, I don’t mean covered in breadcrumbs or frozen.

Being a busy working mother, Thursday nights are not conducive to cooking a family meal. Ian, my hubby has band practice, so we normally grab what we can.          Tonight as many other nights I fancied fish, but being delayed at the “day job” wanted something simple, easy and tasty. Don’t get me wrong in the past we have cooked fish, filleted fish and served fish, but tonight I wanted easy.  I am not normally a pre packed sort of person. All my boys have had home cooked food always, but sometimes 6 days out of 7 its easier after a busy day to pick up something quick and good quality.

I travelled home  and visited our local supermarket and found that they had Seabass fillets with lemongrass and chilli butter and also Sea bream fillets with red pesto butter… Worth a try? Absolutely!!

These pieces of fish just melt in your mouth and are so delicious, I could eat them day after day.  I have cooked loads of fish and Rick has certainly taught me a lot – his books are fab, and the TV programmes, but for ease tonight this touched the spot and would recommend. Served with Mediterranean influences, cous cous, mixed bean salad and quinoa, lemongrass and ginger salad…Yum, yum, yum…

Just thought I would share this and sometimes convenience food ( if that is the right word)  is good and not always bad. This fish is full of omega 3, very low in sugars and low in fat, saturates and salt…

Give them a try and let me know what you think

Till the next time 🙂

Inspired by Rick Stein and….

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…his travels around India.

Its been a while since I blogged or even travelled round the world with our cooking. Truth is, we haven’t had the time. Life has been busy with work for both of us. Ill health took its toll on me, but today we feel refreshed and inspired so we are cooking from Rick Stein’s India

The recipes that we are cooking can all be found in the book. I appreciate not all have the book so I am sure you could find his recipes on line

Over the years of being together with Ian we have cooked lots of different curries and have also cooked a variation of the one we are having today – Chicken and Rosewater Biryani. I have found a link on the web here so no excuses for not trying it!

We absolutely love Indian food and one day we will get to travel there and experience what we see when watching programmes like Rick’s. Our bucket list…

Rick Stein’s books are likeable in so many ways. Not only are the recipes easy to follow but the accompanied tale or yarn from where he picked up the  from and how he loved watching it being cooked.

Rick loves trying food from anyone who is willing to cook for him and this could be at a dinner party (not sure I could cook for him – but would give it a whirl – well hubby would!) a restaurant or just a simple street food pop up. The books, and with no exception Rick Stein’s India book, is like reading a story and when you have finished one dish you need to go on reading the next and the next.

Ian and I love a good curry and watching the series (twice , I believe)and reading this book we see endless possibilities.  So I ask you, my hubby and anyone who can respond – What is a good curry?

For me – personally it is the beautiful flavours, the aromas, the spices cooking in another room, whilst I am writing this…Home cooked Indian food makes me feel like we travelled to the part of the world where the curry is from, and although I haven’t been yet, feel like I have experienced just a little bit of what we can expect.

‘Whenever I hear the word curry, I’m filled with a longing for spicy hot food with the fragrance of cumin, cloves and cinnamon. I see deep red colours from lots of Kashmiri chilli’s, tinged with a suggestion of yellow from turmeric. I think of the tandoor oven and slightly scorched naan shining with ghee and garlic. A bowl of dark dal, a green chutney of coriander and mint and a plate with a few sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced onions. When Indians talk of food, they talk about their life. To understand this country you need to understand curry.’ – Rick Stein

To me there is nothing more lovely than the smell/aroma of the cooking from the kitchen when it just smells this good. I can imagine what Rick must have thought as he watched this being prepared and then creating the recipe for us…Not “us”, but all  of us!

I am working in my sewing room and can smell the aromas seeping from the kitchen. The combination of cardamon, coriander, garam massala and other beautiful spices infused into the oil and then the chicken

Along with this beautiful dish we decided we would also have aloo gobi – potato and cauliflower curry, again seen and read about in Ricks book. We love curries and this is so simple to make, and aloo Gobi is a quick and easy vegetable side-dish, which can also be a main dish. This recipe can be found in the book or on the web. There is even enough for me to take to the day job tomorrow on top of the Biryani that is left and also as a main dish for a gorgeous lunch at the day job maybe the day after tomorrow – Yum yum yum.

Having only once tried to make Naan bread – a total “disaaaaaaarster darling”, never again have we tried.                    So reading in Rick’s book and seeing on the programme how easy chapatis were to make. I had a go…     and    …because my fingers were stiff with the dough, sticky and they shouldn’t have been and I was beginning to think this was going to be a “disaaaaaarster darling” too.      Maybe I used too much ghee, but when added a little more flour the mixture came together – phew.          I was very impressed how they cooked, exactly as Rick had said, but never having them before, had to assume mine were fabulous…

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Yes not round but delicious all the same…

The whole meal was delicious and very tasty. Although Rick thinks it is easy to do and the next time would be easier my hubby thinks it wasn’t the easiest thing to do…I only prepared the aloo gobi and chapati, so cannot comment.

Rick Stein will always inspire me, will always make me want to try different foods and will always make me want to cook – and this is from a girl who  34 years ago left home and couldn’t even boil an egg…

‘Till the next time my friends – have a great evening

Just a little touch of what I fancy…

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Good morning readers. I hope you slept well and you had something delicious for your super last evening. We only had good old fish and chips, not from the chip shop and it was lovely and so easy to do as hubby was in late after training at work.

Although we haven’t been dining around the world for a while as I said in a previous blog we have prepared some delicious food and visited a couple or more countries in the process, some visited before, but this time nothing complicated or time consuming.

When we go to France amongst many other things Moules et frites is one of our favourite lunch time treats or supper if not wanting too much and with the weather we have been having recently we did just that.

Moules-frites or Moules et frites

actually originates from Belgium.Quite possibly the dish was originally produced by putting together mussels, a popular and cheap foodstuff eaten around the Flemish coast, and  potatoes,fried,  which were  eaten  all around the country in the winter months when no fish or other food was available.

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However, it is indeed very popular in France and I believe the French have adopted it as there own, or that is how it seems. The title itself is French and means exactly what it says Moules – mussels and Frites – fries. In Belgium, some have considered it their national dish, but I am happy wherever it comes from, having never been to Belgium I am happy to eat in France.

Mussels (Moules) can be cooked in various ways and there are various recipes out there to tempt you and I have tried various recipes including blue cheese, tomato and chilli, but for our light supper we opted for the more, what I believe to be, the more traditional way to prepare them in white wine, garlic and cream. There are lots of recipes out there on various sites for you to chose from, but Ian has been cooking moules for years he just does it without thinking and we find it a quick easy supper that can be eaten in the garden with a lovey crusty loaf and  a lovely chilled glass of your favourite white wine, or in my case this time a cranberry based chilled drink- delicious.

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Another thing Ian and I enjoy is a selection of cold meats, olives, bread, ‘tapas bits’ and cheese. Another evening in the summer saw us both not being able to decide what to cook. Our youngest son was safe at Grandmas and it didn’t seem as important to cook a full blown meal, especially with the temperatures we were having.

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New Start…and “Happy Summer”

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Its been a while since I added anything to our blog. My reasons? Situations within our family changed and this has been updated on our “About us” page. We have had illness, on going issues and quite importantly our middle son took his globe back to university!! I did ask if we could use it, but to no avail..I(We) also decided we needed to try and engage more of an audience and wondered how we could ramp up or site and make it more interesting. Any ideas from you our readers would be gratefully received.

We have obviously been eating whilst not writing and we have had some interesting meals. My husband is a far better cook than myself, but I try and have produced many a good meal.  The summer has seen us BBQing quite a lot, but that can get boring when you are eating the same food every time you light your BBQ.

Tell me what you have been cooking on your BBQ’s?                                                                                                    

Have any of you ever tried Seared beef with orange & chilli?   We cooked this a few years ago and lost the recipe, but we found it again on The Good Food website and  it certainly is worth a try – go on give it a go, the summer isn’t over yet.

Seared beef with orange & chilli?

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Seared beef with orange and chilli

 

You will probably need to source the skirt from a butcher and not all butchers carry this cut.   It was so well received we added it to our summer menu a few times for different friends and family. Its really easy and does make a change from burgers and sausages.

However if you have a good butchers in your town or village, like we do in Whitstable, they do produce excellent items for the BBQ, including Ribs and marinated chicken, lamb etc.

 

As you know we live by the sea so fish is always good on the BBQ and we are lucky we can access fresh fish of all description from our local fish market.

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Chile

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IMG_0362Back to south America this evening and to Chile.     Rory s first reaction was

I am not having chilli!!

Non of us are having Chile and I am determined to find something a little different that one would expect to have if you were visiting or even staying with someone who resides there.

Found in South America, Chile is a country that lies on the Pacific Ocean. It is a very narrow strip of land with the Andes to the East, Peru to the North, Argentina to the East and the Drake Passage in the far south.  Territories in to be included in Chile are the wonderful pacific Islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile has also obtained approximately 1,250,000 square Km of Antarctica, but at present this is suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

There is a great mineral wealth in Northern Chile in the dry Atacama Desert and is chiefly copper. The central region is where you can find the main inhabitants and agricultural resources, and the centre for culture and politics which Chile developed in the late 19th century and at this time Northern and Southern regions merged. In Southern Chile we can find an abundance of forests and land used for grazing and rumbling volcanoes and lakes. and the coast line is a tangled warren of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.

In the 16th century Spain “conquered and colonised”  Northern and Central Chile, this replaced Inca rule, but they failed to conquer the Mapuche that were populating South central Chile. In the 1830’s, following independence from Spain, Chile developed as a somewhat unwavering established demanding and controlling nation. During the 19th century there was a substantial and weighty economic and regional growth which actually saw an end to the Mapuche resistance in the 1880’s and also gaining its current Northern territory. Today Chile is  one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nation and really not wanting to bore you , more info can be found here

Meat is very important in Chilean cuisine and for many Chileans it is essential ingredient in every dinner or lunch. According to studies, Chilean per capita meat consumption (including poultry, beef and pork) has doubled in the last two decades while seafood consumption has decreased.

The food from Chile primarily branches from a mixture of local/indigenous Chilean Mapuche culture, local sourced ingredients and that of traditional Spanish cooking. Much later on do we see the European influences becoming important. The food culture and recipes from/in Chile are renowned for the mixture of flavours and ingredients which are thanks to the countries varied geography and climate.

Chilean food should not be confused with the spicy dishes common in Mexico. Unlike Mexican meals, the hot chilli is not too frequent in Chile.

I obviously wanted to cook something that we would all eat and enjoy, but also something very traditional and after trawling the net a few sources gave me the same information… Pastel de choclo literally means “corn pie”, but not a pie in our traditional self, more like a cottage pie in looks and from what I can gather has become the national dish of Chile…In 1810 when Chile declared their independence from their original Spanish roots other European influences made their mark and this dish is a mix of native and European influences alike. Commonly known as

Cocina Criolla Chilean or Chilean Creole Cuisine

Pastel de Choclo is a brilliant example of this amalgamating corn, which is an indigenous product with a very much European sway, meat filling and means plainly a layered pie, usually made in a deep dish with chopped beef at the bottom prepared “al pino” (a thick stew of minced or chopped beef, chopped onions and seasoning), chicken, olives and a hard-boiled egg, topped with a mixture of ground fresh corn and basil, and baked in the oven.

It looked like an easy dish to prepare so Ian got on with it….

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Kazakhstan

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Heading back West from Samoa we travel 8337 miles to a country in  Central Asia, with a small part to the west of the Ural River, so therefore in Europe, Kazakhstan is the worlds greatest landlocked countries by land mass and it is the  ninth largest country in the whole world. Measuring approximately 2.7 million square km Kazakhstan is larger than all of Western Europe and has become the foremost nation of central Asia economically through the  gas and oil production and the country has a huge mineral resource

Kazakhstan

China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan border the country and connect with the Caspian sea.   The  topography of the country is varied and includes rock canyons, steppe, deltas, snow-capped mountains, flatlands and deserts. The 61st most populated country in the world it is home to approximately 18 million people. However, given its vast land area, its population density is among the lowest. In 1997 the capital was changed from Almaty to its present day Astana.

Until the 13th century Kazakhstan was occupied by nomadic tribes, but Genghis Khan made his mark, living in the country as part of the Mongolian Empire. However, after internal skirmishes, power was returned to the nomads, but by the 16th century, the Kazakh materialised as a distinct group, which divides into three ancestral legs living in specific territories. In the 18th Century the Russians started their advance on the area and by the middle of the 19th century Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. it was only after 1917 and the Russian revolution and the civil war that Kazakhstan was finally recognised and in 1936 became and was considered part of the Soviet Union called Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union Kazakhstan was the last of the republics to declare independence. It works hard to develop its economy, but human rights is very poor.

 Kazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakhs (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Germans, Tatars, and Uyghurs. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%, Kazakhstan officially allows freedom of religion, but religious leaders who oppose the government are suppressed. The Kazakh language is the state language, and Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes, reflecting the long history of Russian dominance in the region.

The cooking/cuisine in Kazakhstan has historically concentrated on mutton and horse meat and also many milk products. Kazakhs were also historically herders, who farmed sheep (fat tailed) camels and horses and were heavily reliant on them for clothing, transportation and of course food. the original nomadic way of life has influenced their cooking techniques and major ingredients. meat in many forms has been the staple and boiling is the traditional way in which Kazakh people cook.

 Kazakhs cared especially for horses which they intended to slaughter—keeping them separate from other animals and feeding them so much that they often became so fat they had difficulty moving.

Horse meat was not on our radar at all for tonight’s supper. Sheep’s meat is also used as common meat and camel meat is also used as a kind of festive meat, but not the main (as camels in Kazakhstan are not as common as horses). Cow’s meat is also a kind of common meat.

Having searched for something to eat that would be easy as it is a school night and Ian is on his own till I walk through the door. Kuyrdak is the national dish of Kazakistan. It is made of lamb and beef meat and is served with spices, herbs and finely chopped onion. .  Here is another recipe for the same dish. Ian decided to use the spices from this dish to enhance the other one – so we will see.IMG_0341.jpg

Warm up the oil into the pan or a Kazan (the traditional kazak pot) add the cubed beef and lamb. I am told in the recipe that the lamb meat will bring taste and juiciness to the dish. fry off the meat until cooked through.

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Samoa

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IMG_0218.JPG7,489 miles West to the Pacific Ocean we travel from Nepal to Samoa. Somewhere again that we really want to visit, but alas we haven’t and so far no plans to do so. However, it can be added to the bucket list….

Saturday also saw us having an evening with our best friends and they had been warned we would spin the globe.      I honestly didn’t think it would have been as difficult as it was to find suitable dinner party food from Samoa, but it did prove a little hard. Our friend didn’t eat bananas and they eat a lot of bananas with all different courses it transpires, but I believe we have found something tasty…

Formally Western Samoa, Samoa is a Sovereign State in Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. Independence from New Zealand was in 1962. The two main islands are Upolu and Savai’i, which is the biggest Island in Polynesia. The capital is Apia and is on the Island of Upolu. In 1976 Samoa was accepted into the United Nations (UN). Before the 20th century the entire Island Group was called “Navigator Islands” a name given to them by European explorers because of the Samoans’ seafaring skills.  Samoa is a very interesting country to research and more history info can be found here.

The traditional culture of Samoa is based on Fa’a Samoa, and is a communal way of life. In Samoan culture, lots and most activities are done together and Faith, Family and Music are the three main parts of Samoan culture. The Samoan people have lived off the land for hundreds of years, chiefly as hunters, gatherers, farmers, and fishers. This lifestyle remains somewhat true even today as the people are at least moderately reliant on the land and seas. However, more important to the people in the past and today are community and family as many people live in rural areas where most people know each other.

Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific, home to some of the smiliest people in the world. Samoan people love to joke around, sing, dance and are serious about three things in life: God, family and food.

Sundays are conventionally a day of rest, and like here in “my world” in the UK, many families congregate to share an umu together for a Sunday afternoon meal.  A little like us all meeting for a traditional Sunday Roast. It is customary the older members of the family will sit and eat first, and as the meal continues the younger members and then children are invited to eat. The umu contains a profusion and mixture of dishes ranging from a whole pig, fresh seaweed and crayfish to baked taro and rice.  Coconut appears in many Samoan dishes, for example palusami, a parcel of coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves baked in the umu.

When these first settlers did arrive, they found plenty of animals in the surrounding seas that were, and still are, used for the people’s diet, including crabs, octopus, turtles, fish of all kinds such as tuna, and sea birds such as noddies and terns.

The formalities and most important aspects of dining in Samoa are related to behaviour more than actual eating. As an example, bringing food to a dinner, even a small side dish or dessert can cause great offense to the host by indicating they will not prepare enough food for everyone. Also let your host seat you as guests are also often asked to sit in the middle of the table so they may converse with everyone more easily.  Once everyone is seated it would be very noticeable there would be a lack of cutlery as most/many Samoans eat with their hands.  It is important that you follow suite….We used cutlery at our dinner party. Taking a second serving of food is considered rude, therefore it is important that you have planned what you wish to take before starting to eat and it is very important to try every dish that is offered. This is a sign of respect and appreciation to your host.  You mustn’t eat until signalled to do so, even though your host would expect you start first and it is so important to eat at the same pace as everyone else.  Most of the people will leave some food behind then will take their excess food home for a latter meal. You are welcome to do the same, but as a guest your host may insist you finish all of your food.

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Table laid my attention turned to the kitchen and  I wanted to make the evening as authentic as possible.

 

 

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Nepal

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NepalHeading East some 3700 km we land in Nepal. Again a place I haven’t been, but am told is beautiful and I am also blessed to have a friend whose hubby is from Nepal. Its nice when travelling from place to place if you know someone, or someone knows someone else who, can enlighten you with something they cook or can recommend. I have done this previously on a post, I believe we were in Iran.   I spoke to my friend Fiona, who’s husband was happy to share with us a native dish that I am told he does or has cooked many times before. Fiona doesn’t eat meat so although she hadn’t tried it she said it always smells wonderful and is told it is delicious, so we will see won’t we?

Nepal is situated in the Himalayas( incidentally the mountains have at least 8 out of the 10 tallest mountains including Everest) and has a population of around 27 million and is approximately 57,000 square miles. It is a landlocked country in South Asia and the worlds 93rd largest country by area. Within the world itself it is the 41st most populated country. In the North we can find China whilst to the South, East and west we can find India. The country’s largest and capital city is Kathmandu

Hinduism is the main practice of Nepalis and it is practiced by approximately 81%. Buddhism is linked with the history of Nepal but stats show that it is only followed by around 9% of the population, followed by Islam, Kiratism. Christianity is followed/practiced by approximately 1.4%

A large portion of the population, especially in the hill region, may identify themselves as both Hindu and Buddhist, which can be attributed to the syncretic nature of both faiths in Nepal.

For most of its history, Nepal has had a monarchy and was ruled from 1768 until 2008 by the Shah dynasty.  Then the 1st Nepali Constituent Assembly decided on the abolition of the monarchy and the

establishment of a federal multiparty representative democratic republic

Although there were continual political challenges, this framework stayed in place, with the 2nd Nepali Constituent Assembly which was elected in 2013 in an effort to create a new constitution and in September 2015 a new constitution was agreed and Nepal as a federal democratic republic and creating seven unnamed states.

Now, Nepal is a country moving forward although with a low economy ranking of 145th out of a 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2014. There are still very high levels of poverty and hunger. However, they are making constant progress with a promise by the government to elevate their status from least developed country buy 2022…

The cuisine of Nepal has evolved from the geographic and cultural mixture, which has seen a combination of cooking/tastes developing based upon the soil, climate and ethnicity. Considerable amounts of the cooking is an adaptation of Asian cuisine, whereas other foods are a cross of Tibetan, Indian and Thai roots.   Tibetan style dumplings with Nepali spices—are one of the most popular foods in Nepal these are known as Momo, and originally years ago were filled with buffalo meat, but today can be found stuffed with Chicken or goat and also many suitable fillings for vegetarians…More information for typical Nepalese food can be found here…A very interesting ready but far to much information to document. European influences have shown the Nepalese people about ice cream, pizza and loaf bread etc, initially introduced for tourists – why is beyond me as I love to eat local food when away – but now locals eat this food too.

Having asked my friend what her hubby would suggest we cook he came up with the following dish – which he has called “Mutton with beaten rice” which, I believe, by using Google have translated into Khasi ko Bhuteko Masu. Unfortunately as I didn’t get the recipe from the internet, I haven’t got a link to share but there are plenty of similar recipes out there if you wish to give it a go. You can otherwise contact me and I will let you have the recipe from my friend, I am sure they will not mind if I share. I will ask of course.

crushed spices

 

The process begins by toasting cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom and coriander seeds until golden in colour.  WoW – the aroma is amazing and really does infuse the kitchen and sitting room with wonderful flavours.

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