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QuestionHello Mr Kurma,

I am the catering manager in a prison in NSW. I have an inmate who claims he is a follower of the Hare Krishna faith, that he is a vegetarian, and that he doesn't eat any products from animals at all. I have no idea how to provide this inmate with his proper nutritional needs with this type of diet. Would you be kind enough to point me in the right direction. Thank you!

Name withheld, NSW, Australia


AnswerHi !
Thanks for your letter.

I think the best thing is to include plenty of legumes and fresh vegetables as well as dairy products (if he eats them) in his diet. Legumes are the best thing for vegetarians. I suggest chickpeas, red lentils, brown lentils, mung beans, split peas etc.

Here's a couple of recipes to get you thinking. Of course you can simplify the spicing, but it should give you some ideas. Feel free to write anytime.

Best wishes,

(Note from Kurma here: The gentleman has subsequently ordered a full set of his cookbooks for the prison library, and for the kitchen).

Hearty One-pot Melange of Mung Beans, Rice & Vegetables (Khichari)

Khichari (pronounced "kitch-eri") is such an important dish for vegetarians that I have included a different recipe for it in each of my cookbooks. The flavoursome, juicy stew of mung beans, rice and vegetables is both nutritious and sustaining. It can be served anytime a one-pot meal is required You can practically live on khichari, and in fact, some people do. I eat it accompanied by a little yogurt, some whole-wheat toast, lemon or lime wedges and topped with a drizzle of melted ghee. Bliss! Serves 4-6

½ cup split mung beans, washed and drained
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
1.5cm (½-inch) chunk ginger, chopped fine
1 small green chili, seeded and chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 cup Thai rice, or other long grain rice of your choice
1 packed cup each broccoli, potato cubes and quartered Brussels sprouts, or vegetables of your choice
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons ghee
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
small handful curry leaves
½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
½ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
wedges of lemon, some chilled yogurt, and extra ghee for serving

Bring to a boil in a saucepan the mung beans, water, bay leaf, ginger, chili, turmeric and coriander, then reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the beans start to break up.

Add the rice, vegetables, tomatoes and salt, increase the heat, and stirring, bring to a boil, then return to a simmer, covered. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is soft.

Season: heat the ghee in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, fry until a few shades darker, and add the curry leaves - careful, they crackle. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, swirl the pan and empty the fried seasonings into the khichari. Stir the seasonings through, then return to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until the rice is fully swollen and soft. If you desire a moist khichari, add a little boiling water now.

Serve: fold in the fresh coriander, and serve the khichari piping hot with a drizzle of warm ghee, and the accompaniments suggested above.


Prabhupada's Chickpeas in Golden Karhi Sauce

This is a quick version of a succulent North Indian dish that my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada taught his young disciple Yamuna Devi in 1966. Yamuna has gone on to become one of the world's foremost authorities on vegetarian cuisine. Serves 4

1 bay leaf
one small piece cinnamon stick
2 whole cardamom pods
5 tablespoons sifted chickpea flour
2½ cups water
2 cups yogurt or buttermilk
¾ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon salt
10 fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
3 cups cooked chickpeas

2 tablespoons ghee
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 small dried red chilies

Dry-roast the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom in a frying pan over moderate heat for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and reduce to a powder.

Whisk the chickpea flour in a bowl with a few tablespoons of the water to form a smooth batter. Gradually whisk in the rest of the water, the yogurt, turmeric, coriander powder, salt, curry leaves, half the fresh coriander, and the dry roasted spice powder.

Heat the mixture, stirring often, in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. When it boils, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Add the chickpeas, and simmer for another 2 minutes.

Season: heat the ghee in a small saucepan over moderate heat. When fairly hot, drop in the cumin seeds and dried chili, and fry until the cumin seeds turn a rich brown colour. Pour the seasonings into the karhi, fold in the remaining fresh coriander.

Serve the chickpeas in karhi piping hot, accompanied with freshly cooked rice.

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