Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Sinful Secrets of the Simplest Seeni Sambal

Look. If it's not blatantly clear by now, I have a thing for alliteration and puns. This has now been worsened by the fact that Boyd is extremely pun-froward and thus, the influence is not lost on me. In any case, the title is of relevance to the recipe.

For those of you who don't know what Seeni Sambal is, it is one of Sri Lanka's favourite accompaniments. Sri Lankans eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it is a perfect little side dish for rice, bread, flat bread and even cheese and crackers. A more contemporary way to use Seeni Sambal is on a cheeseboard, as what it is, is essentially savory, spiced caramelized onions.

There are a few recipes on how to make this. The guidelines are essentially the same. My grandmother's recipe calls for deep frying the onions before cooking this. And there was good reason for this -- seeni sambal was made to last in store, but back in the day when refrigeration was not up to par, deep frying onions ensured that they had a longer shelf life. However, as you can imagine, this deep frying process meant the seeni sambal was extremely rich and sometimes left a greasy mouthful if not done properly. As such, I have now devised a less oily, less complicated version of the well loved dish that is just as delicious. The recipe below is for 600g of onion, however, when I was cooking this, I did 3kg of onion as I was giving some of it for my friends. So the pictures might depict a lot more onion that mentioned, but don't worry about it!

600g onion, sliced or chopped finely *it's very important that you ONLY use red onion!
100g lb maldive fish pieces (optional)
3-4 tbsp chilli powder
4 tbsp chili flakes
1 sprig of curry leaves
4 inch piece of Pandan leaf
1 quill of cinnamon, broken up
5 cloves, crushed
5 cardamom pods, crushed
5 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp tamarind pulp
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
Salt to taste


.1. Chop or slice the onions finely. As I hard a large amount of onions to chop and as I have access to the wonderful appliance known as the Food Processor, I used that. If you fancy standing about crying your eyes out as you chop red onions, then you go Glen Coco!

2. Next, prepare the other ingredients.

3. Next, get a pan or pot on high heat with the oil, and add in the aromatics
4. Once they have fried off, proceed with the onions and the other ingredients. At this stage, do not worry too much if the onions start giving out a lot of water. This will be cooked slowly until the onions caramelize and you can turn up the flame to get rid of the water towards the end of the cooking process.

5. Next up is probably the trickiest part of the whole process. At this point, you need to adjust the seasoning, keep the sambal on a low fire and check on it constantly. You might need to add more salt, sugar or chili, depending on your tastes. You do have to keep an eye on the onions to make sure you aren't burning the bottom, while slowly allowing for the moisture to evaporate and onions to caramelize completely.  I was using a deep pot initially, however I transferred the onions into a wide pan so that the onions would cook a lot more evenly and the water would evaporate better. When it starts to look like the photo below, this is nearly done (note the bubbles of moisture on the outside, these need to disappear). At this stage, you need to check the salt and sweet level once more.

6. At this stage, this is pretty much done. You do have to let this cool completely before you pack it into jars. Make sure the jars you use are washed with warm, soapy water and completely clean and dry before you store the sambal. This will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months, and longer if you pressure seal/heat seal your jars (but who has the patience for that right?)

And then there's nothing left to do but enjoy the goodness! As always, your comments and feedback is very welcome.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Beans That Should Be Your Bro

Here's the thing about beans right. They can be pretty boring and bland. The flipside to this is that they are also a great vehicle for flavour and can be improved just a few simple seasonings and spices. And if that's not convincing you, here's an article about all the good things that green beans contain!

With that being said, this recipe is one that my mum has been cooking for ages and the only real work involved is actually slicing the beans. Other than, this takes few minutes to prepare and there's no excuse good enough to not make this!


300g-400g green beans
1 medium red onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green chillies, sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp unroasted curry powder
1 tbs oil
1/2 tsp cumin powder (optional)
300ml coconut milk (thick)
Salt to taste


1. Wash and clean the green beans. Trim the ends and remove stalks

2. Slice the beans on an angle. It’s not a *must* to do this, but cutting them on an angle means that the beans will cook faster, and look better presentation wise

3. Put everything except the coconut milk into a saucepan on a high heat.

4. Just as the beans are starting to change colour, add in the coconut milk.

5. Keep on a high flame until the beans have softened and the coconut milk has thickened and reduced. Make sure that you don't let the beans wilt and lose their lovely green colour!

6. Take off heat, serve with rice! HOW EASY IS THAT! No excuse to not make it!

Sav xx

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Parippu to Fulfill your Dhal Dreams

Parippu (Sinhala: පරිප්පු) more commonly known as dhal, is a popular dish of the Indian subcontinent. Within Sri Lanka itself every household prepares this in many different ways and that's the beauty of parippu; No two households will prepare it exactly the same. For me, Sri Lankan parippu has two distinct types: The Mysore dhal (red lentil) type (මයිසූර් පරිප්පු) , which is quicker to cook as it is a smaller size, and the Yellow split pea type (කඩල පරිප්පු), which is more time consuming, but tastes far more creamier. The Mysore version I cook when I get nostalgic for my mum's cooking -- she cooks up a version that is water based as opposed to coconut milk based and has lots of chili powder and it always reminds me of home. This recipe is for the yellow split pea version. It takes a bit of love and care, but it's so worth it and you will forget all the effort you went to when a warm bowl of this is in your hands with a side of rice or bread, enveloping you in it's sunshine yellow goodness. I cook dhal all the time and as such I do it without exact measurements. I have tried to get these measurements as close as possible to accuracy. Do keep in mind though, this recipe serves 4-6 people. The good thing about cooking it in bulk is that you can freeze dhal for ages. With that being said... Away we go!

Serves 4-6

3-4 cups yellow split pea dhal
500 ml coconut milk
2-3 tsp turmeric
1 large red onion
5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Birds Eye chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
5cm Pandan leaf
3 tsp black mustard seeds
4-5 dried red chillies
3 cm piece cinnamon bark
2 tsp chilie flakes
Salt to taste


1. Wash the lentils very well in running water until all the cloudiness has disappeared.2. Soak the lentils in water. Leave aside to soak for at least one hour. This is important as you need to soften the lentils before they can be cooked. Use enough water to cover the lentils.

3.Next prep the other ingredients. Slice the onion and red chili, slice the garlic and have everything redy to go (also I needed to show off the pretty pictures and colours in case that wasn't clear)
4. Next, empty the lentils and the soaking water into a large pot. Add in the turmeric, 2-3 tsp of salt, the cinnamon, sliced red chillies, half of the onion, curry leaves, pandan leaf and garlic.
5. Add in 1/4 of the can of coconut milk and give the lentils a good stir. Leave on a high flame. 
6. Next is the bubbly and frothy stage. The water has to bubble up and froth. You can lower the flame if it looks like the water my overflow. Once the bubbling and frothing is done, the water content will be reduced. This is what you want. 
7. Keep the flame on high until the lentils have cooked through and they are soft to touch. At this stage, add in the rest of the coconut milk and lower the flame to medium. 
8. Next, grab a small pan bring about 1 tbs of oil to temperature. Once the oil is hot, add in the mustard seeds and lower the flame immediately.
9. The proceed to add the dry red chillies, remaining pandan leaf, curry leaves, onion, garlic and chilli flakes. This is the flavour profile of the dhal and it's imperative that you don't let it burn in any way. 
10. This mixture needs to be added to the lentils that have been bubbling away and thickening up. 

Essentially, your parippu is now done.You do need to check for salt and adjust for taste. Then, proceed to serving this up. I garnish mine with extra curry leaves, red onion and a touch of dark roasted Sri Lankan curry powder because that's what my mum did and I don't question her methods. 
You can serve this with bread, rotis, chapattis, rice, whatever you wish! I served mine as a part of curry night dinner event I held for my closest friends.

Got any suggestions, feedback or comments? Shoot me a message on the comment section below!

Sav xx

Monday, 29 February 2016

Moju Made Easy

I've had this post saved in my drafts for the longest time (by that I mean about two weeks now). Due to a lot of different things that needed attending to in my life, I wasn't actually able to get around to write this. So after promises on Facebook posts and plenty of teasing, here it finally is.

All my life, moju was something I took for granted. It was something that was almost always in stock and I never appreciated it until I moved out. My mum or our nanny would make up a big batch of it along with Sri Lankan pickle and store them away in jars. This meant we almost always had moju on tap at home. Once I moved here to Adelaide, all those little luxuries were gone and I had to rely of teaching myself how to make this (and also helping my sister whenever she made it).

This recipe, is a stray from tradition, but hold up! It's within good reason. The traditional recipe involves deep frying eggplant, onions and green chilies. Eggplants are essentially sponges, and deep frying them means they absorb a LOT of oil. The traditional recipe also employs the use of deep fried sprat fish (rather like anchovies) for an element of crunch. In this version, I have opted out of deep frying the vegetables and substituted toasted cashew nuts in place. So really, this is a healthier, nuttier version of the moju we know and love, and you know what.... It tastes damn delicious!

With that being said... On with it!

For the moju
8-10 Japanese eggplants or 4-5 normal eggplants (the Japanese ones have more flavour and less water)
2 large red onions, sliced
4 long green chilies, sliced
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
1 1/2 cups or 300g cashews, lightly toasted
150g raisins or sultanas, soaked in warm water for 1 hour and then drained
2-3 cardamom pods (crushed)
3-4 cloves

For the dressing
200g wholegrain mustard
3 tsp chili powder
3 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric


1. Slice the eggplants on a diagonal. Sprinkle with salt and toss through with oil until all the eggplant is coated in oil. Place into a baking dish lined with baking paper and baked in a 170 C oven for 30 minutes or until the eggplant has softened.

2. Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Leave aside.

3. Soak the sultanas in water. Toast the cashew nuts until lightly golden in a frying pan over the stove. Slice the onions and chilies (seeds in) and leave aside.

4. In a large saucepan, heat up 1 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot, add in cardamom pods and cloves. When these start to give off their aroma, add in the curry leaves. Th flame should be at a medium.

5. Next, add in about half of the sliced red onion, and half of the green chillies

6. Give this a good mix through and add in the eggplant.

7.  After that has been given a good mix through, add in the dressing and the drained sultanas. Mix that through really well.

8. Let this cook for about 4 minutes and then add in the cashew nuts. Give that a mix through as well. Be gentle with the mixture and use a wooden spoon.

9. Once the cashews have been mixed through, take the moju off the heat and add in the remaining sliced chilies and onion. Combine everything together.

10. Garnish with some extra curry leaves and serve! This can be frozen for up to 6 months and jarred/bottled for up to 3 months. Serve with your favourite Sri Lankan dishes. I made this as a part of a Sri Lankan Independence Day meal I made for Boyd!

Sav xx

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Cold Roll Madness

We all know that cold rolls are amazing. They are delicious, light and always leave you feeling full without any of the sickening, lethargic grossness. While making them at home might be somewhat daunting for a first timer, I promise you it really isn't difficult and the end result is a very rewarding. If you are a person who takes nutrition into serious consideration, these cold rolls pack a lot of protein, very low on the carbs and almost no gluten (depending on the noodles you use, I used rice stick noodles). The beauty about this recipe is that you don't have to use the exact filler ingredients, you can use shredded chicken, cooked prawns, bean sprouts, carrot, tofu.... The possibilities are endless. This recipe is one that I've grown accustomed and uses fresh ingredients from the local grocer. This entire recipe fed Boyd and me twice, so I would safely assume this would feed 4-5 people (Boyd does have a big appetite)
The recipe has two types of meat fillings. a barbecue pork and sliced marinated steak. The good news is that you can do one or both, and both the recipes have same base flavours. Stir frying the pork and searing the steak are the only cooking processes involved here, everything else is assembly. With that being said, away we go!

For the Barbecue Pork
700g pork eye fillet, sliced thin
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
4cm piece ginger
2 long red chilies
3 tsp chopped coriander
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce

For the Sliced Marinated Steak
700g beef eye fillet/round steak
4cm piece ginger
2 long red chilies
3 tsp chopped coriander
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
3 tsp chopped mint
200ml Vietnamese dressing
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp honey
1 lime, juiced

For the Cold Rolls
1 packet rice papers
400g rice stick noodles
1 cucumber, de-seeded and cut into batons
1 small head lettuce, shredded
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Vietnamese mint/laksa mint

Barbecue Pork

1. Prepare the chillies, ginger, coriander and garlic by chopping roughly. Next, add these chopped ingredients to a mortar and pestle or a food processor and pound/process into a paste.

2. Once you have a reasonably well formed paste, add this into the sliced pork along with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Once the pork has marinated for a minimum of 20 minutes, bring a pan up to temperature on a high heat. Add in 2 tsp of oil and stir fry the pork until the meat starts to change colour and cook through. Lower the heat to medium at this stage, add in 1/2 cup of water and seal the pan with a lid. Allow cooking for a further 10 minutes or so, or until all the bits of pork have cooked through, but haven't gone tough. Take off the heat and leave it to the side. Filling number 1: DONE-ZO.

For the Marinated Steak

4. Cook your steak medium rare. Whether you use a grill, frying pan or an oven, do whatever works for you. And yes, you do need this to be medium rare because the acid in the marinade will continue to cook the meat, and in all honesty, I really don't have any respect for people who eat steak well done. Yeah I said it. I seared mine in a pan and then finished cooking them off in the oven.

5. Rest your steak for half the time it's cooked, as a rule of thumb. Resting it for longer won't do any damage. Next. prepare the marinade. That's right, this is a marinade that's used AFTER the meat is cooked.

6. Chop up the ginger and garlic and pound them into a fine paste/process it.

7. Next, finely chop the red chillies, mint and coriander. After that is done, empty the entire bottle of Vietnamese dressing into a bowl and add in the chillies, mint, coriander and ginger/garlic paste. Mix well.

8. Sliced the rested steaks as thin as you possibly can and put them into the marinade. Allow the meat to sit in the marinade as long as possible.
9. Next it is a matter of preparing the other ingredients for the cold rolls. Cook your noodles according to the packet instructions. Cut the cucumber into batons, shred the lettuce and arrange the herbs. Also prepare the dish of water to dip your roll wrappers into. Here is a really useful video about how to roll one of these bad boys for yourself!

10. Get rolling! Get eating!

As before, you can substitute these fillings for other things.The meat can be substituted for tofu and if you are cooking this for a big crowd, you can add more filling such as prawns, bean sprouts, carrots, and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Sav xx