Permanent link to archive for 13/10/08. Monday, October 13, 2008
Back to the Future, Part 1

My warm and fuzzy weekend at the Gopals Memory Lane Cookery Class is over. I dragged my aching limbs to Melbourne airport last night, and after the usual delays with a less-than-punctual Qantas flight, I finally crawled into my Sydney bed and slept like a baby (I woke up crying every hour).

I think everyone enjoyed the day. I certainly did. If you're reading this, boys and girls, let me know how the class was for you. "Honk if you're happy".

Nice slender asparagus was in plentiful supply at the South Melbourne Markets. The staff at my favourite stall there still remember me from the 90's, and asked me how my life was going. Impressive.

chop chop:

The second floor of Gopal's Restaurant was an ideal choice for a class. A decent floor space meant we could fit in all our 28 attendees, though I think a slightly smaller class would have been more comfortable for all. With myself and 6 staff, attendance was 'robust'.

The customary pre-class group photo was aided by the window ledge and chairs, creating that multi-layered effect. Pity the sun was peaking; that back-lit look was not in our photographic favour.

The Usual Suspects:

As is my habit, we stopped at intervals in the cookery to explain various procedures. Here we are discussing casein, albuminous proteins, and the merits of unhomogenised milk for optimum cheese quality.

The Huddle:

We had 2 pots coming to the boil, each containing 8 litres of milk. The total litreage yielded almost 2 kilos of fresh, bouncy, succulent panir. (That's 4.40924524 pounds for those of you still crouched in the pounds and ounces dark ages).

making some panir:

A brief 15 minutes of pressing, aided by a tight wrapper of butter-muslin cloth under a heavy weight gave us a perfectly tender, juicy block of cheese. We handed out samples of the au naturel still-warm cheese, drenched with lemon and oil dressing + sea salt. Heaven!

The chunk theory:

Oops! I slipped as I attempted to transfer half a 10kg bucket of golden Australian ghee into our giant wok. So be it. Gasps of horror ensued, and my attempts to explain that this was de rigeur for serious deep-frying, was met, by the dairy-shy amongst us, with quizzical looks. What was I thinking??? I was only cooking for 35. I guess it's a matter of 'you can take Kurma out of the big kitchen, but you can't take the big kitchen out of Kurma'.


Is this one of the world's longest vegetarian banquet tables? Probably not, but it was impressive, nonetheless. John Cleese dropped by for dinner with his sister.

The world's longest vegetarian dinner table:

This dinner plate was not a staged photo; I would have chosen more photogenic poories, and slid them to the side of the plate. Remember that next time, Craig. And when you set up the plate, less is more. But hey, this was lunch, first and foremost.

I have made better poories for a cookery class. These beauties, cooked in Alice Springs, were my best ever.

light lunch:

My cookbook food photo days have left me with excessively high visual expectations. All was delicious, no doubt, and that's the main thing. Thanks to Bhakta Dasa and Bhakti Dasi, plus all the crew, for a great day. Thanks to Craig for most of these snaps. I'm waiting on a whole swag more photos for part two. Until then, I bid you adieu.

Posted by Kurma on 13/10/08; 7:42:48 PM from the dept.

Discuss (6 responses) Comment [6]
Back to the Future, Part 1



Michele B from USA writes:

"My son is traveling through Northern Lebanon, and has been writing to me about all the different foods he has been trying. He's especially smitten with his breakfast, which consists of Za'atar along with some kind of Lebanese cheese - he's not sure of the name of the cheese, but says it has caraway seeds in it. The Za'atar is served on freshly grilled flatbread that has been spread with some olive oil. Are you familiar with Za'atar and if so, do you have a good recipe for it?"

Kurma replies:

"Za'atar can refer to both a combination of herbs and a herb, Thymbra spicata, which has a slight minty flavour, in the marjoram/oregano family. What is sold commercially is often blended with sumac and lightly toasted sesame seeds, but the base of the za'atar blend is za'atar herbs.

The Marjoram used for Za'atar is a mild variety. In the Lebanon, thyme is called "Za'atar romi" (Roman Za'atar), and oregano is "Za'atar ach'dar" (green Za'atar). Za'atar can also be the name of hyssop or a varied mixture of herbs.

I have two recipes in my files, though I haven't tried either of them."

Here's one:

3 parts toasted sesame seeds
2 parts very finely ground dried thyme
1 part very finely ground dried marjoram
1/2 - 1 part powdered sumac
salt, optional


Here's another:

2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
2 tablespoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon whole thyme
2 teaspoons savory
2 teaspoons ground marjoram
1/2 teaspoons whole dry marjoram
1-2 tablespoons sumac berries, crushed
1/4-1/2 cup unhulled, toasted sesame seeds, ground coarsely
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
zest of two lemons, very finely minced

First grind the sesame seeds and crush the sumac separately. Then crush everything together with a pestle or the back of a spoon, or put it into a zipper plastic baggie, press out the air, seal, and roll over it with a rolling pin until the desired mix and texture is achieved.

In a nutshell, Za'atar always contains thyme, sumac and sesame, and the rest is up to you.

bread, labneh and za'atar:

Serving suggestion:

*For a spreadable mix, stir through some really good olive oil.
*Spread on pita or flatbread, and bake or put under the griller until hot through.
*Work some into the top of fresh bread dough before baking.
*Strew over salads.
*Sprinkled over roast or steamed vegetables.
*Cover bread dipped in very good virgin olive oil.
*Dredge oil-coated chunks of feta in it.
*Add a little to a vinaigrette - 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, crushed chopped parsley, salt and pepper and za'atar.
*Add to yoghurt-based mayonnaise for delicious vegetable dips.
*Sprinkle on hummus.

Posted by Kurma on 13/10/08; 6:42:27 AM from the dept.

Discuss (1 response) Comment [1]

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