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

Oy. I finally started a blog, I finally get my act together and then my digital camera broke. It was all my fault. I dropped it when on vacation in Greece! On our second day! Luckily disposable cameras came to the rescue. I still don’t have a camera; I’m waiting to get an iphone. These shots are courtesy of my father’s camera (thank you appachchi!)

I thought I should inaugurate this site with the recipe for which it is named. Pol Sambol (coconut sambol) is a classic Sri Lankan dish, a big big favorite, combining the heat of chilies, the sweet delicateness of fresh ground coconut and the tartness of lime. Yum.

Ingredients

approx. 2 cups fresh ground coconut (see note below)

chili powder

lime juice

salt

pepper

curry leaves (carapincha)

1 minced shallot

optional: maldive fish (umbalacuda)

Method:

In a bowl, combine your fresh grated coconut, and add enough chili powder and mix it with your hands or a spoon until it gets a nice bright orange color. This is meant to be a spicy dish, eaten to complement rice and curry or rotis, so it can take a lot of heat. But whatever; add as much as you are comfortable with. We even make white pol sambol or green pol sambol (with green chilies!) so there is no steadfast rule. If you want color, but not heat, use some paprika as well.

Mix in salt, pepper, curry leaves and minced shallot. Taste and make sure it has enough salt/heat. If you are using maldive fish, add it as well. Then add lime juice. its supposed to have a nice kick, like when you make guacamole — that acidity? same thing here. Use plenty.

Done! Finito! You can eat it as part of a meal – of rice, curry, or roti or hoppers (appa) [recipes for these things will follow] or, as my father does, you can eat it with nice bread, slathered with butter. the butter makes the pol sambol stick to the bread, and voila, a Sri Lankan snack. I do it too. And then I have a cup of tea.

NOTE: you can use dessicated coconut flakes – just reconstitute them with hot water. If they have frozen grated coconut, that’s cool, too. But fresh is best – since this is a fresh dish. do not be afraid of the coconut! I buy one that is heavy for its size, has liquid in it when I shake it, I poke its eyes and see if there is nice white coconut within. then I whack it with a hammer along its circumference until it splits in half and then pry out the white coconut flesh with a knife. Then I put it in the food processor until it becomes that nice grated consistency. I also have a coconut grater, but unless you find it in an south asian grocery store, the food processor method is a hit. its labor intensive, yes, but do it at once, keep extra in the freezer and you’re ready to go later on. I should post a video on this – its hilarious the way I open the coconuts. (its like cracking someone’s head open, so I often go “eee!” as I open them).

I am in the kitchen making some pol sambol and roti.  I’ll be back with my first recipes and blogs shortly.