I’ve been exploring different recipe books recently, both here on my blog and at home. I think after years of Jamie and Nigella I’m craving something a bit more exotic, and a little more challenging to prepare, than the “bish bosh bash whack it in the oven” approach. Last night we had friends round for a casual supper and in between downpours we managed to do a bit of a bbq with a few salads and a cake from Ottolenghi. Of course these involved his usual list of 400 ingredients and a trip to a specialist shop to find Orange Blossom Water, but it was devoured so I’m taking that as a good sign. Anyway, today we’re off to Sri Lanka, a country which is right at the top of my bucket list to visit despite the recent terrible bombings.
So I greedily grabbed an advance copy of A Feast of Serendib when I spotted it. And I love it. Most of the ingredients are easy to find (unlike Orange Blossom Water, thanks Ottolenghi), and it’s straightforward home cooking. This has definitely earned a place on my cookbook shelf.
My only slight gripe is that it’s aimed at the American market so you’re converting measures again – can someone tell me how many grams are in a stick of butter please?! I confess I have finally relented and bought a set of measuring cups but I do wish recipe books gave alternatives for international readers.
It’s not the book (or cuisine) for you if you don’t like onions though. Apart from the puddings, virtually every recipe has a big pile of onion in it, and I’m sure given a chance they’d sneak onions into the Mango Fluff too. Personally, I’m toning down the onion a bit, but I hope the author forgives me!
In case you’re exploring veganism, like so many of my friends are currently, I noticed on her website that she has also published a small vegan cookbook.
Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.
Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.
Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites: love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.
In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.
About the Author
Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion(HarperCollins), The Stars Change(Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motionwas a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. The Stars Changewas a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and alsofounded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org). She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, withher husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s WildCardsseries, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies. 2017-2018 titles include Survivor(a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3(co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib. http://www.maryannemohanraj.com
Social Media Links –
Serendib Kitchen website: http://serendibkitchen.com