Category Archives: Vegetable Dishes

Sweet Potato Pancakes

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For a long time my son Callum didn’t like toast for breakfast. He preferred cooked breakfasts, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs. I had neither the time nor the energy to indulge him so I created some cheats. This was one of them. A sweet potato pancake that I made in bulk and froze. Easy to whip out of the freezer and defrost even on a morning before work.

In fact, the day of little Miss M’s arrival I was making a large batch of these, in a valiant attempt to prepare for the madness that would follow. I dropped Callum at daycare and made a triple batch of this recipe. I cooked them, lay them on baking trays and left them to cool while I visited the Ob/Gyn. Sadly, I never made it back home, I just continued onto hospital. It was only a few days later when my sister-in-law was at our house, waiting for a tradie of some sort, that she texted me and said “What should I do with all the pancakes?” I sadly had to tell her they’d been sitting on the counter for days and would need to be binned.

The idea for the pancakes came from Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious. While I like the ideas for her recipes, hers have more of an “increase veg, decrease calorie” philosophy. I love the increased veg idea, but both my little mini humans need all the calories they can get. So nothing but full fat here.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 1/2 cups full cream milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup steamed sweet potato, mashed (about 1 medium sweet potato)

Preparation

In a large bowl whisk together the the flours. Add the milk and butter and mix well. Whisk the two eggs lightly and add to the mix, mixing till there are no lumps. Finally add the the sweet potato and mix well until it’s even distributed.

Butter a large skillet or pan and place over a low to medium heat. When the pan is hot, place 1/4 cup of the mixture into the pan, leaving a few cm between each pancake to allow for spread.

Flip the pancake gently when bubbles cover the surface. I find these pancakes get more brown, as compared to the plain ones, the sugar content in the sweet potato will do that.

Cook for the few minutes on the flip side before cooling and serving to your demanding clientale.

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If you want to freeze, just lay them flat on a tray with some baking paper and freezer for an hour or two before placing in zip lock bags.

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Baby Friendly Food, Non-Sri Lankan Food, Snacks and Sides, Uncategorized, Vegetable Dishes

Pumpkin Curry with Coconut Milk

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As you probably already know, I’m a big lover of pumpkin. Especially pumpkin soup. It’s warming, sweet, creamy and comforting. However, when I have made it for Sri Lankan relatives, especially male ones, they don’t seem to get it. I suspect this curry has a lot to do with it. Pumpkin, cooked Sri Lankan style, is heady with spices and fragrant to the max. It’s the same type of warm, comforting and creamy without the sweetness of roasted butternut. This dish is decidedly savoury, while I think pumpkin soup, especially the kind made with butternut can be a bit of a fence sitter.  I for one will always be pumpkin fan, in whatever style you serve it to me!

By the by this dish also has the added bonus of being vegan.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • 2 green chillis sliced
  • 1 handful of curry leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 kg kent or jap pumkin cut into large, even chunks
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk powder
  • 2 tsp, dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. toasted coconut to garnish *

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Preparation

In a shallow dish or wok fry the onion,garlic, curry leaves, cinnamon, pandan, cloves, cardomom, and green chilli with the oil. Fry over a low heat until the onion is soft and the spices are fragrant.

Add the turmeric and fry for a 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated and slightly toasted.

Add the chopped pumpkin and cover with enough water to submerge the pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat until the pumpkin is just soft.

Add a little water to the coconut milk powder and make a paste. Add the dijon mustard and stir well before adding to the pumpkin curry. Bring the whole mix to a gentle simmer and add salt to taste. Take off the heat and add the toasted coconut just before serving.

* to toast the coconut, add 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut to a dry pan. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until the coconut has changed is colour and is brown and fragrant.

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Borscht

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My family has rather a strong connection with Russia. In the late seventies my father travelled to the former USSR to study mining engineering. He spoke no Russian, knew no-one and had never travelled outside Sri Lanka. He spent the first year learning Russian and over the next five became well and truly immersed in Russian culture. He can still shot vodka, can still speak Russian, especially after said vodka’s and enjoys Russian food slathered in copious amounts of mustard. A lot of my father’s friends are friends he made while in Russia. When growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see a Russian potato salad at family dinner a long with yellow friend rice and chicken curry.

My Uncle Shelton likes to do a fully fledged Russian meal. He cooked it for me while I was pregnant and a few months ago he came over, groceries in hand and cooked me and Mr Firehouse the full deal. A beautiful red beetroot borscht, a rice pilaf and a potato salad. Served with rye bread and plenty of mustard it was a delectable treat! It was a chance for me to sit and watch in my own kitchen and take notes as he masterfully prepared the meal.

Since then, borscht appears on our weekly meal plan often, especially with two children who love beetroot.  It’s a warming, comforting meal and freezes well when I make a big pot over the weekend. And, best of all, apart from a little peeling and chopping the prep is pretty simple.

When I have time, I make my own beef stock and then use the meat off the bones in the soup itself. But, it tastes just as good with good store bought stock and a piece of beef that benefits from slow cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 500g of stewing beef
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 potatoes chopped
  • 2 large beetroots chopped
  • 1/4 cabbage chopped
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to season
  • rye bread and hot english mustard to serve

Preparation

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In a medium pot cover the beef with water and set over a low heat to boil. Boil until the meat is fall apart tender. At this point take off the heat, remove the meat and pour the stock into a jug. Chop and reserve the meat.

Place the jug of stock in the fridge and skim the layer of fat once it has solidified.

In a large pot add the stock, meat, chopped veg and seasoning. Add enough water to covet the vegetables. Bring to the boil and cook until the vegetables are tender but retain a bite.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

Serve with a side of rye bread spread with hot English mustard.

 

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Carrot Leaf Sambol

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Sri Lankans don’t really do salad, not in the traditional Western sense anyway. A green leaf sambol or mallung is about as close as we get. Mind you, it’s a pretty good substitute. Seasoned with chilli, and lime juice and mixed with crunchy fresh coconut it’s both tasty and nourishing in the truest sense.

These days, carrots, especially the heirloom varieties come  with their tops still attached. I’ve always chopped the tops off and saved them to add a fresh kick to a rice and curry meal. The carrot leaf has a lovely fresh, slightly peppery flavour that is both delicious and interesting.

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Carrot Leaf Sambol

  • 1 bunch of carrot leaf (the green tops of the carrot, cut off)
  • ½ cup of shredded fresh coconut or rehydrated dessicated coconut
  • ½ small red onion chopped
  • ½ a medium tomato deseeded and chopped
  • 1 green chilli sliced (optional)
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • ½ lime
  • salt and pepper to task

Preparation

Finely chop the carrot leaves and add to the coconut, onion, chilli, tomato and maldive fish.

Mix well, ensuring all ingredients are well distributed.

Just  before serving add lime, salt and pepper to taste.

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Green Mallum

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Mallum is Sri Lanka’s answer to a salad. A bevy of greens wilted, spiced and combined with shredded coconut amongst other wonderful spices. It’s often served as a condiment, an addendum to a meal. Something to add flavour, colour and vivid green health.

It’s a healthy alternative to lettuce and greens doused in dressing and I know for me it helps balance the colours in a meal. I struggle to eat without some green on my plate,

When I made this, I used silver beet and some outer leaves of cabbage from my parent’s garden. Green spinach, kale, collard greens are all easily used.

The trick to this is to slice the greens as finely as possible. It’s a skill I lack so, like me, do the best you can.

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Ingredients

  • 200g greens, washed and dried (5-6 leaves)
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 2 dried chillies finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • salt to taste

Preparation

Finely slice the greens. I find rolling them tightly into a cigar shape and using a sharp knife is the easiest way to get a fine slice.

In a small frypan add the oil. When hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and onion. Fry until the onion is soft.

Add the chopped greens and cook until just wilted. Now add the coconut, mustard seeds, turmeric and salt, Mix well until just warmed through.

Serve warm with fluffy white rice.

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Quick Tomato Soup

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When I served this soup to my brother-in-law, Firehouse Junior, a couple of weeks ago he confessed something to me. I cooked the family a meal at some point, soon after his brother and I had first started dating. Walking into the kitchen he had discovered me chopping pumpkin and concluded that pumpkin soup was on the menu. He promptly walked away, secretly dismayed at the thought of eating pumpkin soup for dinner. It was not his favourite thing to eat. Being the polite young man he was, he dutifully waited for me to finish cooking, and ate the soup given to him…and enjoyed it. He tells me he has been a pumpkin soup fan ever since. Furthermore, he will now try the food I put in front of him with an open mind.

I don’t think he had any strong feelings towards tomato soup prior to my serving this, but suffice it to say, the man is now a fan. On describing the recipe, he was also convinced it was easy enough for him to make…and healthy enough for lunches. As Firehouse Junior faces the prospect of living solo later this year, I think these recipes will come in mighty handy.

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tin chopped tomato
  • 1 bottle passata
  • 5-6 piquillo/roasted peppers chopped
  • honey/salt/pepper to taste
  • fresh basil and cream to serve

Method

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic. When softened, add the chopped carrots and celery and cook till softened. To the softened vegetables add the balsamic vinegar and oregano. Give the vegetables and herbs a good stir and add the tinned tomatoes, passata and peppers. Fill the passata bottle with water and add that to the pan as well.

Bring the pot to a low boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender (for a very smooth texture) or using a stick blender (a slightly thicker texture) and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary. Finally, place the soup back on the heat and add the honey to slightly sweeten the soup and balance the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.

Serve with some cream and garnish with basil to serve.

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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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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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Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Coconut Soup

 

 

 
Cauliflower Soup-9Mr Firehouse and I are pretty good at meal planning. We have to be to avoid shopping every couple of days with a toddler who loves to run up and down the aisles. Especially one who is currently obsessed with doors. Guess where he runs to first?Go on, guess.  Anyway, there are times in the week where we plan a bit loosely and might buy something nice at the farmers market. So it was that I once ended up on a Friday afternoon with no meat in the fridge, a few sweet potatoes, cauliflower and some admittedly sad looking thai basil leaves that had been bought for something else. I scoured the internet for something that wasn’t a vegetarian green curry. The idea of red curry soup intrigued me but as I looked through the multitude of jars in my fridge, all I could find was green curry paste. Let’s just say I pretty much substituted everything in that recipe except for the onions and garlic….this happens pretty often. When the recipe said pumpkin, I heard sweet potato. When the recipe asked for red pepper, I was certain they had meant cauliflower. Kale, no worries, thai basil will do just fine.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small head of cauliflower roasted
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp. of green curry paste
  • 1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup thai basic leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 tbsp. oil divided

Preparation

In a medium saucepan fry the garlic and onions in a tbsp. of oil until just softened.

Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and stir until  well mixed. Add just enough water to cover the veg and place on a medium heat. When the pot comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are softened.

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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree with the thai basil leaves.

In the same sauce fry the curry paste in the second tablespoon of oil until fragrant, add the coconut milk stir well and add the pureed soup. Bring the mixture to the boil and take off the heat.

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Serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.

 

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Potato and Leek Baddum (Stir-fried potato and leek)

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Leeks are like eggs I find. Oftentimes required in recipes only in part. “Use white part only” is a phrase that I hear a lot more than “Use green part only”. What happens to all those spare green parts then? I usually chop them off, pop them in a bag and watch them sit in my fridge for a few days before I think to myself….MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE LEEKS!

The green bits are fabulous in a lankan style friend rice, or even as a simple garnish, here I’ve updated the friend potato recipe to include leeks and make like a little fancier. I personally love the green parts, a subtle oniony flavour that becomes sweet when cooked.

Ingredients

  • I leek green part only
  • 2 medium potatoes halved and sliced (1/2 cm pieces)
  • 1/2 medium onion slices
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish (optional)
  • curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • oil

In a medium sized fry pan add your sliced potatoes and cover with water. Simmer for a few minutes until the potatoes are parboiled or just soft. Drain and leave to dry for a few minutes.

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In the same frypan add the oil (or ghee if you have it), maldive fish, onions, garlic and curry leaves. Stir fry on medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the turmeric and chilli and give a quick stir.

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Add the drained potatoes and coat with the spice mixture. Leave on the heat, stirring often until the potato is cooked through. I usually turn the heat up, right at the end to make sure that the onions and potato get a bit of colour.

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Enjoy!

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