Sometimes, you just need comfort food.  And you eat it in whatever unorthodox way you do, because you simply like it that way. I like kiri hodi and rice.  Just that.  just warm and impossible to eat with your hands neatly, but delicious.  Kiri hodi (coconut milk gravy) is utterly simple, but it requires tender loving care.  My sole warning to you is to NOT LET THIS GET TO A BOIL.

Which of course I have done.  Especially now that I have a demanding 18 month old girl.   So I will tell you, if it does get to a boil – immediately take it off the heat, add some extra coconut milk and pray that it hasn’t separated for good.  But it probably did. And you’ve probably ruined it.  It may taste 90% of the way it should, but the damage is irreparable.

Now that the warning is said: here is are the ingredients and the method.  The biggest, time consuming, pain in the rump part of this is making the coconut milk.  Since this is a coconut milk gravy, with only coconut milk and flavorings, you want your milk to be rich, creamy, and fresh. No cans, no reconstituted powder, or freeze dried stuff.

ingredients

milk from one coconut

2 tbps fenugreek seeds

10-12 curry leaves

2 inch stick of cinnamon

salt to taste

1-2 green chilis, split down the middle.

2 -3 tsp of turmeric.

Method:

Hack your coconut into pieces.  My mother is now using a new Martha Stewart approved method and isn’t just breaking the coconut apart and grating it directly, (as I do, total atthamma style), but she puts the whole thing on the open flame, ’til it gets roasty toasty, and then breaks it in half, and apparently, the inside just falls away from the shell easily.  I’ve not done it myself.  This picture below is what she did for me today (I was on toddler duty during that moment).

Then you blend in your blender it with hot hot hot water, and squeeze out the coconut milk from the gratings.  Be careful if water is too hot – let it cool before squeezing!  Voila you have now made coconut milk.  You may have to puree the gratings twice if you think they’ve still got some goodness in them (taste them – if sawdusty, you’ve gotten all the good stuff out. if it tastes like coconut, give it another whizz in the blender).   The amount of water to add is hard to estimate, but pour in enough to cover the pieces and give you good whizzing action.

If you put the milk in a tall container you’ll see the thick milk separate from the thin.  Use the whole mix of it – I do – or use the creamy part only to make it ridiculously sinful, but do not use the watery bit alone.

Set that aside.

In a pan that is big enough to hold all your coconut milk, add some fenugreek, curry leaves, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, a sliced shallot, and one or two green chilis.  rather than sautee that in oil (which will then rise to the top of the kiri hodi), just sautee it in a 1/4 cup of water – just so the onion softens.  Then you add the coconut milk to it and gently, slowly, WITH TENDER LOVING CARE bring it to a simmer.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  And then taste to see if its salted to your liking.  And then add a squeeze of a quarter or half a lime, to your preference. After adding the lime, make sure to keep stirring constantly.  Or else it will curdle.  And that is ALL.

Typically served with stringhoppers, this is aromatic, subtle, and delicious.  You can add some boiled potatoes to it and it becomes alla hodi.  You can add boiled eggs to it and it becomes bithara hodi.  I love the floating spheres of turmeric tinted eggs in a comforting yellow sea, and ladling it on my stack of stringhoppers.

But today, I’m having it on rice.  With some pol sambol. 🙂

To all the Sri Lankans in the house – remember these?

(PS excuse poor quality of photos… using iphone again instead of digital camera b/c computer is at capacity now after all high res photos taken during vacation to patagonia)

When I was little, any dinner party would have some combination of short eats: cutlets, patties, those rainbow sandwiches, chinese rolls and/or frikkadels.  These of course, are dutch in origin but are now quintessentially Sri Lankan and are savory meatballs that could be dry and chewy when made badly, but juicy, moist and flavorful when made perfectly.   I haven’t had these since those late-70s early 80s dinner parties, but a few years ago, I came across a New York Times recipe for “finnish meatballs.”  I read the recipe and realized that it was frikkadels with a little bit of a twist – namely gouda.  And cheese improves everything.  I made a few tweaks to hearken back to the Sri Lankan recipe as well and have come up with a delicious outcome.    We all have heard of swedish  meatballs, and the Times publicized the finnish meatballs, and here you will have Sri Lankan meatballs (and bit of our Dutch colonial legacy).

Ingredients:

3/4 cup whole milk

3 slices white bread, crusts removed

6 ounces gouda – I used Beemster Vlaskaas, but you can use any mild gouda

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

3/4 cup onion minced

1 garlic clove crushed

2 large eggs

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper (or to taste, I just grind a ton without measuring, but be generous, as you have to flavour a lot of meat)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp finely grated ginger (can substitute with ground ginger)

a few dashes of worcestershire sauce

1 lb. ground lean beef

1 lb. ground pork (I’m sure you can substitute ground turkey or chicken; in fact, I’ve made similar with ground turkey and it was delicious – just add a bit more nutmeg)

some flour (1/4 cup? enough to dredge)

oil for frying (you’ll need about an 1 -2 inches of oil in your pan)

Method:

1. Warm milk until just steaming and then remove from heat and press the bread into the milk and set aside.

2. Grate cheese with the large holes on a box grater and put it in a large bowl.  Add all the ingredients except the meat into the bowl.

3.  Stir together, and then add the meats, and the soaked bread and with a spoon, or your hands, mix to combine.  Stop as soon as it  has combined, you definitely don’t want to overwork this mix or else end up with the dried chewy frikkadel variety.

4.  Form into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls.

Note:  I caution you to put on some nice music, sit in front of the TV or consider this your workout for the day because you will be rolling the frikkadels for a little bit of time – this amount of mix made me approx. 125 frikkadels!  I know!  So many!  But I froze most of them – just put them on sheets and freeze. Once they are frozen put them in a ziploc bag.  When you need them, just defrost slightly and move on to the next step.

5.   When ready, get your oil hot, and then dredge the frikkadels in flour and tap off excess.  If you had frozen your frikkadels, you can thaw them completely or if rushed for time, just thaw them enough so they’ll get the flour to stick on them prior to frying.  Beware of microwaving them b/c the cheese will melt.  This has happened to me, and I still fried them up and they were fine.  But it was a tad messy.

I used my mini cast-iron pan, and fried up a few for  a little snack to replenish my energy reserves after having made so many frikkadels.  Otherwise you can fry up a bunch at a time.

We usually serve them with toothpicks and eat them just like that, but if you’re familiar with swedish meatballs, and based on the NY Times’ finnish meatball article, apparently, after frying them, you can set them in a saucepan that has about a cup of vegetable or chicken broth simmering and let them simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, and then right before serving, add a drizzle of heavy cream. Serve with potatoes or pasta and some greenery.

Or you can put the fried frikkadels on a hamburger or brioche bun and melt some jarlsberg, or gouda, or any cheese of your liking on it and put a little redcurrant or lingonberry preserves and you’ve got yourself a frikkadel sandwich.

My Aunty Peppy even makes a curry with them – I think you slice up some garlic, onion, a cinnamon stick piece, a slice or two of ginger, put a few curry leaves, salt, pepper, a little chili and curry powder, if you want, and sautee ’til onions are soft.  Then add some frikkadels, and tomatoes and there you are!  Serve with rice of course.

Any way you have them, they are delicious.

salad

You know us South Asians.  We can’t resist putting in a little flavor into everything – a little spice, a little heat.  This cool cucumber salad, can be made mild, or pack a wallop.  Its better for it to taste a little sweet, a little sour, a little hint of heat that just tickles the tongue, and a little soothing, creamy and cold. Its meant to be a counterpoint to the highly flavorful and often spicy other dishes in a Sri Lankan meal.

kirbies

lime and onion

Or you can make it like my Uncle Stanley and put in enough green chilies to burn a hole in your mouth.  I remember once my Dad was eating Uncle Stanley’s curries, and they were all so spicy, that he decided to eat a huge bite of the cucumber salad, thinking it would cool his tongue, only to find that it was as hot as the rest of them!

PS – this post is an ode to the few visitors other than my family and close friends who have visited this site and the couple who have left comments.  I thank you, and this post (and other more frequent posts) are for youIMG_4020

Sri Lankan Cucumber Salad

4 kirby cucumbers, or 1 or 2 regular or hothouse cucumbers – enough for approximately 2-3 cups cut.

1 large shallot

1 lime

1 green chili (I used the tiny thin ones I find at my Indian grocery, but any chili that packs heat will do)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 -3 tablespoons dried coconut powder

1/2 tsp of sugar

Thinly slice the cucumber.  Leave the skins on for added color and texture, or peel them beforehand, depending on your preference.  Thinly slice the shallots crosswise, in roughly the same size and thin-ness as the cucumber.   Mix together in bowl.  Add salt and pepper, toss to coat.

And I like to add the following ingredients a little at a time, tasting in between to get the flavor just right.  It is hard to get the measurements right, so you use mine as only a guide.  Its different each time, depending on the heat of the chili, the sweetness of the coconut, and the acidity of the lime.

Add the coconut milk to the bowl.  Its easy to use the dried coconut powder because the cucumber exudes so much water, that it combines and creates the coconut milk.  If you are using fresh coconut milk, allow the cucumber to stand for a while, and drain off some excess – this is a salad, not a soup – so make sure its not too wet.

Thinly slice some of your chili – here is the trick – only add as much as you need to get a hint of heat.  This is a delicate dish, and it should just have the chili as a background note.  So thinly slice and  add a little at a time, mixing it up and having a taste.  When you think you’ve got the heat right, add the juice of half the lime.  Has the heat level gone down too much? Add a little more chili?  Does it need salt?  Lastly the pinch of sugar just balances the whole thing – you won’t taste the sugar, but every flavor will be better rounded.

You should be able to taste all the different flavors and it should intrigue your palate, not overwhelm in any way.  Real Sri Lankans add umbalacuda (dried maldive fish), but we know how I feel about that.

Allow the salad to sit for approx 15 minutes before serving.  Any less and the flavors won’t have melded, but it will still be good.  Any more, and the cucumber gets progressively less crunchy, but it is still delicious.

Sri Lankan recipes not only reflect the indigenous flora and fauna, but the waves of cultures that have crossed our island’s path. We have cokies from the Dutch, we have pittu from the Tamils, the best sweets are Muslim, and we have godamba roti from Singapore.

godamba roti, chicken curry, purripu, cabbage, and cucumber salad

godamba roti, chicken curry, purripu, cabbage, and cucumber salad

Godamba roti or murtaba as it is called in Singapore is part of our street food culture.   In small “hotels” along the streets – aka restaurants, they would serve kotthu rotti – which is sliced up godamba roti, tossed with egg, vegetables and meat  – all on a hot griddle and served right away. My sister and I went traveling all around Sri Lanka by ourselves one summer and our father told us not to eat food from street-side vendors or those hotels.  Of course, we ignored him and ate some of the best vadai, kotthu roti, fruit and ice cream that we ever had.  And our tummies were fine.  The only time we got sick was when we over ate passionfruit.  But what are you going to do?  Its passionfruit!

Anyhoo, godamba roti can also be wrapped around a savory filling – my favorite.  And it can be served plain, with some curries.  I remember getting it in Sri Lanka, with ladlefuls of steaming curry on top.  I like to serve mine on the side because I don’t want my roti to get soggy.

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 cup lukewarm water
½ cup oil

Mix together the flour, salt and the tablespoon of oil and rub together.  Then add all at once, the lukewarm water, and mix.  Knead for approximately 10 minutes.

img_4005

Divide into equal-sized balls, and then cover with the ½ cup of oil (add more if necessary) and let rest for at least one hour.

img_4006img_4009

Put a griddle on the heat – flat side up – or heat up the widest pan you have.

Take a little oil from the bowl and grease your cutting board (plastic or marble works best for this dough) and take one the balls and press it down flat, spreading the dough like you were smoothing a bedsheet out (thanks to Charmaine Solomon for the imagery).  Don’t worry about any holes or its shape.  We are not professional godamba roti men – who can spin it out like pizza dough into nearly translucent thinness.  Although I think I did pretty well towards the end.
img_4032img_4038Then transfer the roti carefully (this is hard, I admit) to your extremely hot pan, and cook for approx. 1 minute on each side – until golden brown spots appear.  You can set them aside as they are done, one on top of each other, and cover the whole thing with a lid.

img_4035

Serve with curries and enjoy.  The godamba rotis also keep really well.  Just put it in a Ziploc and freeze or refrigerate it.  You can put it in the oven or in the microwave to heat up.

So its been a while since I’ve blogged.  What happened was that I made this amazing dinner – with appa (hoppers), three different kinds of curries, a salad, all from Sri Lanka and I forgot TO TAKE PICTURES.  You don’t understand the amount of time, the technique, involved.  So I got dejected, and couldn’t even think about blogging.

Plus, then there’s the fact that I’m a lawyer, and I work full-time, and was in the process of changing jobs, and that life got in the way.

But now, I’m sick with a terrible cold.  Let me tell you  – I fought it, I thought I’d escape, as I’ve done a couple of time this winter, from actually getting sick.  But alas, alas, I succumbed to a nasty head cold with wracking coughs.  I’m quite toxic.

But this is a food blog, you say.  You are not interested in the fact that I go through about a box of tissues a day.  But I say unto you, this is the time to unveil a old Sri Lankan cold remedy.  Well, I don’t know how many other Sri Lankan mothers have made this for their children, but my mother made it for me, and now I make it for me and my husband whenever we have a cough and/or cold.  I studied some Ayurveda, and I actually think that the properties in this remedy is also good when you have stomach problems.

It is just three ingredients.  Coriander seeds, fresh ginger, and honey.  Coriander is typically cooling, but when combined with ginger, and the heat that it brings, it provides a balanced heat that soothes your tight chest, sore throat and head cold.  Honey also balances out the heat and cooling properties, as well as is antibacterial and provides sweetness.  I don’t claim to be a vaidya (an Ayurvedic healer) by any means, but I know I find this drink to be delicious, comforting, and helpful in soothing you when you feel like crap because you have a cold.

ginger and coriander

ginger and coriander

Ingredients

3 inches of ginger, sliced
½ cup of coriander seeds
honey to taste

Place ginger and coriander in a pot, and add about 6 cups of water.  Boil it down until it becomes approximately 3 cups.

Strain into a cup, sweeten to taste with honey and drink.

coriander ginger tea

coriander ginger tea

To your health!

Because to be honest, I was thinking about the omnivore’s 100 that has been circulating around, is just one person’s perspective, and therefore is biased according to where he/she’s been, what he/she thinks is exotic, delicious, unique, challenging.  And some Brit cannot possibly have been exposed to the variety and the uniqueness that is present in NYC.

To be fair, I am currently bitter about London getting the 2012 Olympics and not NYC.  Of course this is old news, but I’ve got PMS, and I want to be angry about something so why not this?  What will they show for their opening ceremony, I ask you?  Tea-drinkers, Beefeaters, brawling drunken fools in football jerseys and the Queen? really I ask you? REALLY.

But if New York had the Olympics? We could just randomly pull anyone off our streets – preferably from a borough other than Manhattan and say – bring something that your mother cooked you, and dress in your ethnic garb, and we’d have a show.  It’d be like the UN on parade.  Plus, we could just play Ken Burns’ documentary on big screens all around.  Does London have a Ken Burns documentary about it?  No.

I have now worked myself up to the point that I’ve nearly forgotten the purpose of this post.  MY 100.  Mine.  Totally biased, haphazardly thought out and I’ve tried to leave out the stuff that the other guy had on his list.  But PB&J is a definite experience that everyone should have.  So a few will be the same.  Its also got some Sri-Lankan dishes, that I’ll post recipes for on this site someday (soon).

Here goes:

My 100

1.    pizza from a pizzeria (NOT brick oven fancy pizza)
2.    coconut sambol
3.    peking duck
4.    dim sum
5.    kiri buth (coconut milk-rice)
6.    indian food from a hole in the wall that only cab drivers frequent
7.    barbecue ribs (kansas city style or dry rub, either is fine)
8.    bagel with cream cheeze, lox, capers, red onion and tomato
9.    blueberry muffins
10.    salmon sashimi
11.    tzaziki
12.    swedish meatballs
13.    wasabi mashed potatoes
14.    tarte tatin
15.    lobster roll
16.    congee
17.    cheese fondue
18.    steak tartare
19.    caesar salad
20.    boquerones
21.    peanut butter and jelly sandwich
22.    bibimbop
23.    cochchii chilies (sri lanka hot pepper in the house!)
24.    bhel puri
25.    arepas
26.    chicharones
27.    candystripe figs (my latest food glutton experience)
28.    pina colada
29.    french onion soup
30.    tacos from some guy in a cart
31.    sopapillas
32.    sweetbreads
33.    southern biscuits
34.    fried chicken (NOT from KFC)
35.    grilled cheese sandwich
36.    philly cheesesteak (WITH velveeta)
37.    muffaletta
38.    chicken wings
39.    cheese fries
40.    rambutan
41.    mangosteen
42.    alphonso mangoes
43.    tamarind
44.    honeysuckle flower nectar
45.    iberico ham
46.    rocquefort (the queen of all blues, imho)
47.    nutella
48.    masticha
49.    mochi
50.    cardamom
51.    McDonald’s french fries
52.    The “oysters” from a roast chicken
53.    Guanciale
54.    Pork belly
55.   Fried Zucchini flowers (stuffed or not stuffed)
56.    Twinkie
57.    Fried Dough (holla at me, street fair food)
58.    Corn dog
59.    macarons
60.    Kimchi
61.    devilled pork
62.    Roasted peanuts
63.    Goldfish (the crackers)
64.    Toro
65.    Hoppers (appa)
66.    cassoulet
67.    Cranberries
68.    Shirred eggs
69.    cheesecake
70.    periwinkles
71.    Caramel apple
72.    Gummi bears
73.    Vadai
74.    Whole roast pig
75.    Spaghetti carbonara
76.    Coconut layer cake
77.    rasam
78.    sorrel
79.    Marrons glaces
80.    red velvet cake
81.    watalapam
82.    bacalao
83.    Bananas foster
84.    pineapple with salt and pepper and maybe also a pinch of chili powder
85.    Pickled okra
86.    Toll house chocolate chip cookies
87.    Jamaican beef patty
88.    kulfi
89.    Pumpkin ice cream
90.    conch fritters
91.    horchata
92.    Crackerjack
93.    Buffalo milk yogurt
94.    Scotch eggs
95.    Thick sliced bacon
96.    scrambled eggs with tabasco sauce
97.    Kentucky bourbon
98.    lemongrass
99.    pisco sour
100.    japanese curry

I read a LOT of food blogs. And one of my favorites – Very Good Taste – which is a great blog out of the UK put forth a list of 100 foods that an omnivore should try and made it into a very cool game.

Here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.
There were four things on this list that I had to look up, and only three things that I crossed out – horse, because I love them, and I ride them, and so cannot eat them and whole insects, and roadkill, for what I hope are obvious reasons. 🙂 I am just not that cool. But this was totally fun! of this list, I’ve only got 21 things left to eat before I whack them all (barring the 3 I refuse).

PS — what I found particularly hilarious was the inclusion of hostess’ fruit pie. I mean really? I loved their cherry pies when I was little, and lord have mercy did I eat a ton of those totally sweet delicious and utterly fake things. Now I know why – just to tick it off the omnivore’s 100. 🙂

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake