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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.

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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.

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!

We’ve had a couple of crisp autumnal days already this August in NYC. Luckily, it is back to being hot and steamy, but for those few days, I started looking forward to all that autumn promises – especially applepicking. We have a tradition of heading to an orchard in upstate New York every fall. My mother packs a picnic that a mix of Sri Lankan shorteats such as cutlets, patties, kadala as well as artisanal cheeses, fruit, proscuitto, blueberry muffins, cake, and sandwiches. The heady aroma of the orchard, the crisp wine, the beautiful foliage, the delicious food, combined with family time makes for an amazing getaway.

One of the dishes my mother makes for whenever we’ve gone upstate for apple-picking or camping or to a lodge, is kadala. She uses dark chickpeas and tempers it with a mixture of mustard seeds, onions, chilies and then adds coconut. It is easy, it is delicious and it is healthy.

recipe after jump

I fought it. for 30 years I would not eat pollos, or jackfruit. The jackfruit is an amazing tree and fruit/vegetable. It grows super tall and strong, and the fruit just sprouts from the side of the tree. They grow to be huge, i mean watermelon huge, and they’re covered with prickly rind — almost like when you get goosebumps.

So the fruit is eaten as a vegetable for its first two stages of life – as a young fruit, it is pollos and it is tender, and meaty, with a light flavor. Then as it ages, it becomes cos, and when you cook it, it is much starchy and sticky – more like an extra glutinous potato. And when it is ripe, varaka, it is stinky, fruity, overripe in aroma, and only the hard core Sri Lankans eat it. This includes my mother. I used to always eat cos curry – so good, so unavailable in the US, so reminiscent of my grandmother’s house. But never pollos curry and never varaka. And then I turned 30, and decided to have a small piece…

I was an idiot, for so long! What was my problem?! I could have been eating pollos for decades, but I’m only now just getting into it and making up for lost time.

Who knows? Maybe one day I will eat varaka as well. (shudder).

Where to find pollos? Go to the Asian section of any grocery store. Look for the thai products. It is canned. You can get it fresh – if you try hard – and why suffer? I use canned. It is delicious. This is a one pot, throw it all in at once, easy cooking curry.

Pollos Curry

Pollos Curry

Recipe after the jump

My sister and I, as we cook Sri Lankan food on our own, realize that we have this typical combination — purripu, bean curry and chicken curry. Those three, so delicious, so comforting, are what we first starting making on our own. Perhaps because they are so easy to make. TRUST me. To be honest, though, the chicken curry was never the same color as my mom’s and I couldn’t figure it out, and then she said, oh, did you add tomato paste? and I said, NO, because you never told me to!! So now, that’s resolved.

But this is a post about bean curry. Like purripu, this is one pot cooking with hardly any prep. You know, as I write these posts, I realize how easy and available, Sri Lankan cooking really is. We don’t prep too much and typically, everything is thrown into a pot, and simmered and served. I admit, some ingredients may be exotic, but those ones aren’t crucial – they can be substituted or even omitted. The ingredients in this dish, for instance – you can use those yard long, dark green and wiry string beans that’s sometimes known as the chinese long bean, or you can use regular green beans, or even haricots verts. The picture below is using the long bean because I went to Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights and they had some lovely bunches.

recipe after the jump

I am not sure how to spell this– I’m doing it phonetically, but the words look funny, don’t they?

Anyway, Purripu, or dal, and rice is a comfort food for me. It is quick, healthy, and a complete meal. It is also served with other curries – I like purripu b/c it binds all the curries and rice together. And it is the first Sri Lankan dish that I ever cooked because it is so easy to make.

purripu

purripu

Recipe to follow

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