Category Archives: Sri Lankan Food

Salmon Curry with Coconut Milk

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A few weeks ago, Seattle got a shipment of Copper River Salmon, it made the news. The Pacific North-West makes a huge fuss over this firm red fleshed fish. So much so that when I saw a piece of salmon, frozen in the deep freeze I contemplated getting rid of it. What was I doing not eating the freshest tastiest salmon from the markets? Especially the markets that were teasing me with loud, in your face signs telling me that they had “Copper River Salmon”. Instead I decided to make a curry with this salmon, something a little different!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 small white onion finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • curry leaves
  • 2 tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. unroasted curry powder
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 200g salmon cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1/2 lime juiced

Preparation

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In a small saucepan, add the oil and wait until heated. To the oil  add the onion, green chillies, garlic and curry leaves. Saute until the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant.

To this fragrant mixture add the turmeric, curry powder and tomatoes. Keep cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down.

At this point add the coconut milk, stir  and  bring the whole mixture to  boil.

When the curry is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the cubed salmon. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the salmon is just cooked (firm to the touch) and finish with the lime juice.

Serve immediately over lots of soft, fluffy white rice.

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Filed under Fish, Meat/Fish Dishes, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized

Parippu – Sri Lankan style dhal with coconut milk

I’m not going to mince words here. If you want to call yourself a serious Sri Lankan cook, this recipe has to be in your repertoire. No buts. Dhal really is the centre of Sri Lankan cuisine, some would probably argue the centre of many South Asian cuisines. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s delicious.

While many  babies born in the Western world will delve into the world of solid food with pumpkin pureed to within an inch of it’s life or smashed banana, most Sri Lankan babies I know would count this dish below as one of their first.

Of course, a dish so ubiquitous will naturally be very controversial. There are versions without coconut milk (NOOOOO), there are some that finish of with a crispy fried mixture of mustard seeds, onions and chillies (YES PLEASE) and everyone will have a different preference for how long and soft they cook their lentils. Really, you decide. The spices are easy to follow, if you like the curry hotter at more green chillies and some chilli flakes as you cook. If you like a thicker more creamy dhal cook till the lentil begin to disintegrate and add more coconut milk.  The number 1 rule as far as I was taught is simple, don’t add salt till the end. It will harden the outer shell of the lentil and would wont get that soft, melt in your mouth texture.

As you can see in the pic, I like my lentils separate and with some definition. I don’t want a mush. However, I’ve tasted mushy dhal and it’s just as delicious. It’s just not the way I make it.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils washed
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1/2 a tomato chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic sliced
  • 2 green chillies sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • curry leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • salt to taste

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Preparation

In a small to medium saucepan, place all the ingredients and add enough water to cover the lentils. Stir and place on a medium heat.

As the lentils cook, they will change colour, become less orange and less opaque.Test the done-ness of the lentils by squeezing a lentil between you fingers, it should crush easily. You can cook it past this point, until the lentils start to fall apart if you’re after a softer, less textural curry. At this point, add the coconut milk and bring the curry to the boil.

Turn off the heat, add the salt to taste and serve hot.

 

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Filed under Curries, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized, Vegetable Dishes, Vegetarian Curries

Beetroot Curry

 

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I still remember walking into my grandmother’s kitchen and finding my Aunty chopping beetroot. I was fascinated by the red stains it left on her hands. She tried to convince me it was blood, I wasn’t so easily fooled. Besides, I remember I was wearing my twirly dress and being able to twirl out of the kitchen and back outside.

Beetroot has always been a favourite of mine. Not least because of the lovely red colour it stains your rice. Beetroot curry feels uniquely Sri Lankan to me, I’ve never seen it in any other cuisines. Feel free to adjust the level of gravy in this curry, you can simmer it a little longer to make a drier curry or add more than the recommended coconut milk to make more gravy for spooning over your rice.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 3 small beetroot cut into thin batons
  • 1/2 a small onions chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 a stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 a green chilli chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • Sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons unroasted (vegetable) curry powder
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup of coconut milk (or water)

Preparation

In small to medium pot heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. Once they begin spitting add the cinamon and curry leaves . This should render the oil lovely and fragrant. At this point add the onions and garlic and cook until they are soft.

To the softened onions add the the curry and chilli powder and cook until the rawness of the curry powder is gone. The curry powder will smell lovely and fargrant when it is ready.

Now add the beetroot and coconut milk and stir well until all the ingredients are combined.

Simmer on a medium heat until the beetroot is tender, it should still have a little bite.

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Season with salt and adjust as necessary. Serve hot with lots of steamed white rice.

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Filed under Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Curries

Watakolu (Ridged Gourd) and Potato Curry

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During high school I took home economics (culinary arts) like most students. During our year seven classes, the teacher would parade a rare and unusual spice and ask us to name it, dangling the grand prize of a merit award in our face. I’ll be the first to admit I was a total goody-two-shoes, desperate to please any teacher. Often times I would know the name of the spice in my native Sinhalese but not in English. I would then go home, ask my dad for the English name and come back to school and wow the teachers with my knowledge of fenugreek, cumin and nutmeg.

I still have that problem nowadays. I picked up this particular vegetable at our local Asian grocer. While I knew it was called wattakolu in Sinhalese, the English name was elusive. It took a good fifteen minutes of internet searching to discover that the name I was searching for was ridged gourd. I did give my fourteen year old self a high five at that point.

This is a really comforting dish. Creamy, mild and filling with the addition of potatoes. Pair it with a spicy meat curry, this curry will cool the big punch of meaty flavour.

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Ingredients

  •  1 ridged gourd
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. raw curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 2-3 green chillis sliced
  • 1/2 an onion sliced
  • 1/2 a tomato chopped
  • curry leaves
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Preparation

Prepare the gourd by peeling the ridges till they are the flush with the skin. This will leave some of the skin on.

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Slice the gourd in half and slice into 1.5cm slices at an angle (I don’t know why but this is what my mum does, so I encourage you to follow suit). Add the gourd to a medium sized saucepan, and add the peeled and chopped potatoes to the pan. Now add all the spices and chopped onions and tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the contents and place on a medium heat.

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When the potatoes are just cooked through, add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes before taking off the heat. Taste for seasoning and enjoy.

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Serve with warm, steamed rice.

 

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Filed under Curries, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized, Vegetable Dishes, Vegetarian Curries

Bandakka (Okra) Curry

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Okra is a very divisive vegetable. I feel you either love the slimy texture or you don’t. I’m a fan. Always have been. So when I saw some fresh, green okra at our local Saturday farmer’s market I grabbed a handful straight away.

It was only when I got home that I thought about Mr Firehouse. You see, he is a hater of all things slimy. So the okra sat unloved, in my fridge, for nearly a week before I decided to tackle it.

During last years trip to Sri Lanka we had stayed at a new beach side resort. One of my favourite things about Asian hotels are the buffets! Love! This one was no different. They served all kinds of impressive Western fare; cold cuts and salads in tiny shot glasses. However, my  eyes and plate never strayed far from the big traditional earthenware pots that had real, homestyle, Sri Lankan food. Breadfruit curry glistening with black curry powder, Kalu Pork curry with tender, spicy pork and the okra curry teeming with dried chillis. I served myself all of the above and was surprised to find that the okra wasn’t its usual slimy self. It tasted the same and had the soft almost gelatinous texture, but the sliminess that offends most people was strangely absent. On closer inspection and a quick chat to the chefs the secret was revealed, the okra was deep fried prior to cooking!

This is exactly what I did to tackle my stash of okra. The extra step made this dish much more Mr Firehouse friendly and I must say, I enjoyed the change too! If you’re not fussed about the okra’s slimy tendencies, just skip the deep frying part.

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Ingredients

  •  200-250 g okra (about 1/2 a pound) sliced on an angle
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1/2 red onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3-4 dried red chillis
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • 1/2tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. vegetable curry powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream

Preparation

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In a small frypan heat the oil for deep frying and deep fry the okra in batches until they have a little colour. Drain well

In a medium saucepan or pot place a little oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onions and garlic and soft and aromatic.

To the same pot add all of the dried spices and fry for 2-3 minutes until the spices are lightly toasted.

Finally add the fried okra and mix thoroughly coating all the okra in the lovely toasted spices.

Once the okra is well coated add the coconut cream and a little water to cover the okra.

Let the curry simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens. Add salt to taste and serve warm with plenty of fluffy white rice.

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Filed under Sri Lankan Food, Vegetarian Curries

Spicy Beef Patties

 

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I was cleaning out my freezer and made the awesome discovery of a box of these frozen from a couple of months ago. Yay. Suffice it to say, these spicy, delicious morsels freeze really well. They’re a labour of love but amazingly worth it.

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Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 500g flour
  • ½ cup butter cold chopped
  • ½ lime juiced
  • ice cold water
  • egg yolk
  • extra flour for dusting

For the filling

  • 250g (1/2 lb) beef/pork mince
  • 1/2 small onion chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder (roasted)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium potatoes parboiled and chopped into small cubes
  • oil for deep frying

Instructions

In a medium fry pan (skillet) place the mince and fry until golden. Add the spices. When the mince is brown add the onions, garlic and curry leaves. Fry until the onion is soft and add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through and have a bit of colour.  Leave the mixture to cool.

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In the meantime.  Place the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer (or food processor)and add the butter. Mix slowly until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the lime juice and egg yolk and mix well. Now add the ice cold water a little at a time until the dough comes together. Knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. Leave the dough to rest for about 15 minutes.

Roll the dough till it’s about 1/4cm or 1/8inch of an inch thick. Use plenty of flour to keep it from sticking or use baking paper on your bench top. Using a pastry cutter or cup, cut circles from the dough. My circles were about 4 inches/10cm

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Using a single circle at a time, place a tsp. of filling onto one half of the circle, keeping close to the middle. Brush egg white (or water if you prefer) along the edge and fold the pastry over, making a little crescent.

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Now use a fork to press along the edges.

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Deep fry the patties in hot oil until golden brown and crisp on the outside.

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Drain well and serve with plenty of tomato or chilli sauce.

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Filed under Beef, Short-Eats, Snacks and Sides, Sri Lankan Food

Healthier Oat & Raisin Cookies

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Raisins are one of Mister C’s current favourite foods. They are the bane of my existence, I find the little black shrivelled masses everywhere. They’re especially hard to clean out off the black leather seats in my car. Having said that they usually keep him calm for extended car trips, relieve the sudden onset of tantrums and generally make my life more pleasant, so I’ll deal.

A week or so after we returned from Sri Lanka Mister C and I headed to Green Lake Park in Seattle for a walk with some friends. It wasn’t raining, which is all that can be said for the weather. Now Green Lake was one of those places that sounded amazing, the kind of “hip” place that the radio station I listen to (admittedly it’s NPR) refers to all the time. It’s full of joggers and mums with strollers. I was excited to get out and get some exercise in after being struck down with jet lag.

Now something I forgot in all my excitement was that Green Lake is 2.8 miles around. That’s a long way. That’s 4.5 km long way. Callum started complaining a mile in. Whinging turned to crying and crying turned to full blown hysteria. I threw everything I had at him, spoons, forks, phones….and even raisins. Nada. When the raisins didn’t work, I knew the jig was up. I scooped him up and proceeded to walk while pushing the stroller. He may be a featherweight but even lifting feathers will get to you after 4.5km. I felt terrible that my friends had to stop and start with us. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the other two babies raised their objections to the long,cold walk. Unfortunately there was only one thing to do, keep walking around! That’s the beauty of walking around a body of water.

Lessons learned, walking 4.5 kms around a lake with a baby, even with raisins, is probably a bridge too far… to start with.

I made these for Callum for a special treat. They’ve got a bit of sugar but also have goodness like oats, raisins and wheat germ. Callum will happily munch on a small, Callum hand-sized one of these on our walk home from the park. Maybe Green Lake would have been less disastrous if there had been some cookie surrounding the raisins. These are not “healthy” but I’ve made them healthier by adding whole meal flour, some wheat germ (leave this out if you don’t have it) and cutting down the sugar. But oats and raisins, which this recipe has oodles of, do have their own goodness so don’t despair if you can’t stop at one!

These are based on a recipe I found here at the Beantown Baker.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, or 115 grams) butter, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup (125 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (95 grams) wholemeal flour
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins

Preparation

Cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in the bowl of your mixer. In a second bowl combine, the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir. Finally add the raisins and rolled oats. Pop in the fridge for an hour to chill.

When ready to bake, preheat the over to 350F/180C and line 2 tray with baking paper. I use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough. I give the dough a slight roll and flatten with my fingers.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until the edges are just golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then gobble these babies up!

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Filed under Baby Friendly Food, Desserts, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

Breadfruit Curry (Del Curry)

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In Sri Lanka there is an expression that goes something like “Ala del vela”. It literally translates to the potatoes have turned into breadfruit. It’s akin to the English; ‘it’s all gone pear shaped’.  What it refers to is that a bad, overcooked potato curry will look like the thicker, more mushy breadfruit curry.  I heard this expression an awful lot growing up, it was one of my dad’s pet phrases. Unfortunately I had no idea what it meant because growing up in Australia I never had del. Not that I remember. As you can imagine this phrase didn’t hold much meaning for me until I finally tried del, then I spent a lot of time regretting my misspent youth and all the missed opportunities to eat del!

This curry, if made with good breadfruit, and believe you me not all breadfruit is created equal, is lovely, thick and slightly ‘slimy’. It’s perfect with rice and is meaty enough to stand on it’s own, unlike the humble potato. If the breadfruit is not ripe enough the curry will not get floury, no matter how much you cook it. In Sri Lanka, this is a lost cause and the dish will often be thrown out. I leave this up to your discretion. Thankfully this has never happened to me with the processed variety.

I’ve made this with frozen breadfruit and you can follow this for fresh as well. If you’re working with the tinned variety, the quantity might be a bit smaller and you’re best off making the curry with the coconut milk and then adding the drained breadfruit to the simmering coconut broth. The tinned fruit is using partially cooked or brined so doesn’t require the softening. You can then temper, as per the recipe below.

One of my favourite ways to eat this curry is with simple store bought paratha and a “salsa” of cubed tomatoes, cucumber and red onions seasoned with a little salt and chilli


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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 500 g frozen  (~ 1lb ) breadfruit, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • curry leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • For tempering
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 small red  onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chillis cut into pieces
  • pinch of roasted dark curry powder (for serving)

Preparation

In a medium saucepan add the breadfruit, turmeric, curry powder, maldive fish, curry leaf, pandan leaf and pepper. Cover the breadfruit with water and turn the heat on to medium.

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Cook until the breadfruit it soft and going “floury” around the edges.

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When the breadfruit reaches the floury stage add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes until the curry is thick.

In a small frying pan add the oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop add the onions and dried chilli to the pan. Cook on medium heat until the onions have just a little bit of colour.

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Add the tempered onions to the del curry and stir through. Serve with a sprinkle roasted curry powder.

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Sri Lankan Beef Curry

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I was an incredibly fussy eater as a child. The list of foods I didn’t eat was a lot longer than those that I did. I was very anti tomato. I despised mushrooms and if there was anything in my rice; turmeric, vegetables or sultanas (ahhh) my poor parents would have to ask for plain.white.rice. I think they especially enjoyed this when we were at friends places for dinner. I was fussy with fruit, I only liked crunchy, sour types like granny smith apples. I did not eat bananas and okra and eggplant were a bit contentious.

I’m well and truly getting my come-uppance now, Mister C’s tastes change almost daily. Yesterday and today he ate a kiwifruit in a sitting, and now that I’ve gone and bought a bag of the really nice expensive, organic variety, I bet you he’s not going to try any of it.

As I got older I thankfully got over most of these ‘issues’, nowadays there are only a few things I don’t eat, bananas being one of them. I did however stop eating red meat as I finished Uni.  We didn’t eat it much at home, except for mince, and therefore I couldn’t cook it well. By the time I got married I didn’t eat it at all and it was only moving to the US that got me eating it again. Beef is huge here, where you’re likely to get pork or lamb in Australia, Washington especially prides itself on beef (with the animal’s name and favourite variety of grass printed on the menu) and fish. So if you’re not eating much fish, it’s mushrooms for you! When I was pregnant there was a limit to the amount of fish I could eat, I couldn’t eat a lot of cheese (common in the vegetarian meals) and so beef it was.  Now that I started, I’ve been enjoying learning to cook it better and identifying different cuts and of course learning to cook the perfect steak.

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Ingredients

  • 1kg (a little over 2 pounds) of beef stewing meat cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp. ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bird’s-eye chilli, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp roasted curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. of chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 4 large vine-ripened tomatoes pureed in the food processor or 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

Preparation

Marinate the  beef with the salt, pepper and vinegar. Set aside for at least 1/2 an hour.

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In a food processor chop the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic. If you don’t have a good processor just chop all of these up finely.

In  a large heavy bottomed saucepan add the ghee, curry leaves, cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Wait till the spices start getting lovely and fragrant and add the chopped onion mixture.

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Cook this mixture off until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the spices (chilli, curry powders, turmeric) to the oil and onions and fry until the spices are no longer “raw” .

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Now add the marinated beef and coat evenly with the spice mixture. Finally add the tomatoes and the sugar to the curry. Simmer the curry on medium heat with the lid on for at least an hour or until the sauce is thick and the meat is lovely and tender.

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Filed under Beef, Meat/ Fish Curries, Meat/Fish Dishes, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized

Sticky-Date Puddings

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A few years ago, while I was still actively caking I decided that the world needed a sticky date cupcake. It was easy, I basically baked the mix instead of steaming it and turned the butterscotch sauce into a buttercream.  Then I tasted it and I couldn’t stop. I think I had it for dinner one night. Really, the only thing better than butterscotch sauce is butterscotch butter cream.  I decided to stop making it, for the sake of my own health.

I think it was only a few years ago that I realized that what us Aussies call “Sticky date pudding” is what the English refer to as “Sticky toffee pudding”. Thanks Rick Stein for setting me straight on that one. Whatever name it goes by, this is truly one of the best desserts in the world! The kind of dish that I can’t pass up on a menu, that makes me want to lick the plate in fancy restaurants…you know that sort of thing?

A lot of pudding these days are baked, giving them a more “cakelike” texture. Adding water to the baking dish here gives it a nice sponginess that makes it more like the traditional pudding.

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Ingredients
  • 180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 60g butter, softened chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour

Butterscotch sauce

  • 50g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced) and grease either an 8 inch cake tin or a set of moulds. I used a set of greased silicon baking cups for mine.

Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat.

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Take the dates off the heat and add the bicarb (baking) soda. Set aside to cool and stir occasionally. The dates will break down as you do this. If you like a really smooth pudding, place the dates in a food processor. I like little chunks of date throughout my pudding so I skip the processor.

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Broken down dates

Beat the butter and sugar using a mixer. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. The mixture will become light and fluffy. Add the cooled dates to the egg mixture and stir. Add the flour and give it one last mix.

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Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the baking cups you are using.  You want the cups about 2/3rds full. Place the puddings in a large baking dish and pour enough water to come half way up the cups.

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Bake for 40 minutes until the puddings are golden on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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The butterscotch sauce is simple. Simply place all the ingredients to boil in the saucepan over medium heat. Watch for the sugar to dissolve and then reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens slightly.

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Filed under Desserts, Sri Lankan Food, Sweet Treats