Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dad’s Spinach and Potato Dip

This is another one of my dad’s creations, made on a whim, that vanished in a flash at a recent work lunch with requests of ‘get the recipe from your dad’. Even my sister (whose least favourite vegetable is spinach) had generous and repeat helpings.

 What he used:
* 250g frozen spinach (defrosted)
* 2 medium potatoes/1 large (boiled and mashed)
* 1 onion, sliced
* 1 teaspoon garlic paste
* 1-2 teaspoons crushed chilli pieces
* 1 stock cube or salt to taste
* 1-2 tablespoon oil

What he did:

Fried the onions in oil, with garlic paste and crushed chillies. When onions have softened, add mashed potatoes and sauté until fragrant. Add stock cube/salt. Then add frozen/defrosted spinach. Stir until water has been absorbed. And it’s done.

Green Peas with Coconut and Continental Parsley

That’s my version. The original from Madhur Jaffrey’s 'World of Vegetarian' cookbook is called 'Green Peas with Coconut and Cilantro' aka Chinese Parsley aka Coriander leaves. Madhur’s recipe also includes 1 teaspoon of sugar which I omitted and found preferable.

What you’ll need:
* 3 tablespoons oil
* Generous pinch of asafetida (used 1 minced garlic)
* 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
* ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
* 15 fresh curry leaves
* 2 ½ fresh or frozen green peas
* 1-2 hot green chillies, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon salt
* ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
* ½ teaspoon ground cumin
* ½ teaspoon ground coriander
* ¾ cup freshly grated coconut- used desiccated coconut, fluffed with a little water.
* 3 tablespoons very finely chopped continental parsley (or coriander leaves)

What to do:
Heat oil in a pan, add asafetida or if adding garlic wait until the next few steps– add mustard and cumin seeds. As soon as mustard seeds begin to pop, add curry leaves, then garlic. Stir. Add peas, chillies, salt, turmeric, ground cumin and coriander powders. Stir until peas turn bright green. (The book also suggests adding 4 tablespoons of water and bringing to a boil, then cooking, covered, until peas are tender. Since frozen peas take minutes to cook – I don’t bother adding water or bringing to a boil). After a few minutes, add the desiccated coconut and parsley, stir for a few minutes then it’s ready to serve.

Spiced Pancakes

The original recipe of this is called ‘Prawn Fritters with Avacado Salsa’ and is from the Women’s Weekly ‘Short-Order Cook’ book. I left out the 450g cooked unshelled prawns/200g shelled prawns in the recipe and found the pancakes still tasted good. So here’s the vegetarian version. The Salsa is not in the photo as I got two over-ripe avocados which turned into mush.

What you’ll need - Pancakes:
* 2 tablespoons oil
* 1 medium brown onion, chopped coarsely
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 2 teaspoons hot paprika (used chilli powder)
* ½ teaspoon ground cumin
* ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (or black)
* ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (left out as I was chilli powder)
* 2 eggs
* 1 ½ cups milk
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (optional, meaning didn’t use it)

What you’ll need - Avacado Salsa :* 2 medium avocados, 500g, cubed
* 2 medium tomatoes, 380g, cubed (or halved, if using cherry tomatoes)
* 1 spring onion, sliced thinly
* 2 tablespoons lime juice or less and to taste

What to do - Pancakes:
Heat half the oil, stir-fry onion, garlic and spices until onion softened.
Combine eggs and milk. Stir into flour until smooth. Stir in chives if using.
Heat the remaining oil (I used a non-stick pan), and cook a quarter-cup (roughly a soup ladle) of the batter until browned on both sides until all the batter has been used.

What to do - Salsa:
Combine all ingredients and serve with pancakes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I should say this is a recipe for Sri Lankan roti with coconut, not the same as Indian roti. Sri Lankan roti is traditionally eaten for breakfast, but now that we have cereal out of a box at work, roti in our household at least has become a dinner treat. The quantity below is enough for about 4 large; 8 medium sized or about 20+ party-sized rotis.

What you’ll need:
* 1 cup flour
* 1 ½ cups dessicated coconut
* ½-1 tablespoon butter or margerine
* Enough water for a pliable dough
* Salt to taste (optional)

What to do:
Mix flour, dessicated coconut and butter with enough water to make a pliable dough that does not stick to the bowl or your fingers. Once the dry ingredients come together in a dough ball, break off into smaller quantities and roll out into circular rotis. Pan-fry in a non-stick pan until brown dots appear on both sides. I don’t bother oiling the pan, but you can do that if you like. My mother also adds an egg. So you can try that option as well.

Amali's Kokis

Mid-April was Sri Lankan New Year. Yes, we do celebrate it twice a year – once in January (when it seems to be about partying, New Year Resolutions and fireworks) and the second time in April when it’s more about family, tradition and community.
In Sri Lanka, Sinhala New Year events are mapped out for the week, including the time to stop work on the last day of the old year; the time to light the fire to cook the first meal – usually coconut milk rice; when to wear our new clothes in the lucky colour for that year; the time for relatives to visit, with grandparents taking pride of place; when to go back to school/work and the time to visit your favourite neighbourhood shop where you are required to spend big to signal a prosperous year for the shop-keeper if you are his/her first customer.
In Australia (specifically Melbourne), the Sri Lankan community does hold annual New Year Celebrations in Dandenong with traditional New Year games and New Year food. 
Mostly, though, we celebrate the occasion by gathering family around the kitchen table to enjoy many of the traditional sweets and savouries which are now sold ready-made at Sri Lankan spice shops. This year, we bought kavun, but not Kokis, which is a speciality my sister, Amali, has perfected. This is her recipe.

What she used:
* 500g rice flour
* 2x 400ml coconut cream
* Salt and chilli powder to taste
* 2 teaspoons yellow mustard powder
* Handful of grated cheese - she used tasty cheese - approximately 50g according to my father
* Oil for deep frying
* Kokis moulds

What she did:
Kokis moulds
Made a thick batter of the rice flour, salt, chilli powder, mustard powder, cheese and coconut cream. The batter should have a “pancake-like consistency”. If the batter is too thick add more coconut milk. 
*Note: Do not add water.
Heat the Kokis mould in hot oil, then dip the mould in batter, making show that only the sides of the mould is covered, not all the way to the top. 
Then lower the battered mould back into the hot oil. 
The Kokis should loosen away from the mould part-way through, if the batter is right consistency. Fry until crisp, then drain on oil-absorbent paper.


I first tasted this luscious dessert at the wedding of one of our Muslim neighbours in Sri Lanka when I was about ten or eleven years old. To this day, several decades later, I remember the absolutely delicious taste of my first spoonful.
Wattalappan, ethnic to Muslim/Malay cuisine, is one of the most popular Sri Lankan desserts. 
To eat. 
But it's not an easy one to make, specially if you want an authentic tasting dessert.
Then my sister, Amali, had the bright idea of using the recipe in Chandra Dissanayake’s ‘Ceylon Cookery’ book and adding her own variation of using the microwave, instead of steaming the dish.

What you’ll need:
* 1 cup coconut cream
* 250g jaggery (hardened coconut treacle)
* 3 eggs
* Good pinch of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg)
* Toasted cashew nuts for decoration

What to do:
Dissolve jaggery in cold coconut milk (you will have to grate the jaggery to make it easy to dissolve). Strain. Add to lightly beaten eggs. Strain again.
Add spices (Amali also added a lot of chopped nuts). Then add into microwave-proof dish. Cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Decorate with cashew nuts.

Dad’s Easy Chickpeas

This is the easiest chickpea recipe I know, which my Dad makes for breakfast and we usually end up having for lunch and dinner (if there are any leftovers from breakfast). It’s simple, filling and we love it.

What you’ll need:
* 250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
* 1 tablespoon oil
* 1 sprig curry leaves
* ½ to 1medium red onion, sliced
* 3-4 dried red chillies, broken into little pieces
* 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
* Salt to taste

What to do:
Drain water from chickpeas soaked overnight. Place drained chickpeas in a pan or microwave container, cover with water (about 1 inch above the top). Boil until cooked or soft enough to be edible. Then drain chickpeas of any remaining cooking liquid. (This liquid can be used as stock. My father drinks it like a plain ‘tea’).
Next, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, when they start crackling add sliced onion, chillies and curry leaves. When onions are soft, add chickpeas and stir-fry for a few minutes. Then add salt to taste. And that’s it. Enjoy.