Rice & Curry: The King of Sri Lankan Feasts

By Emma.

Rice and curry is the ubiquitous and yet ever changing lunchtime feast on this small spice island.  Colours, flavours and constantly piqued curiosity made us order this time and time again. Once I’m home again, I’m looking forward to trying to conjure this up again with my spice-loving friends!

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Rice

Rice is seen as the central element to this meal and that is why, for the life of me,  I couldn’t understand why a stinky Muthu Samba rice (or “ass-rice” as we maturely came to know it) was sometimes served. It was a toss of the die whether we’d have “bland but grand” plain white rice or rice that smelt like it had been cooked water fresh from the sewer (seriously that was the smell – baffling!).  For this recipe, I think I’d use brown rice or a wild rice mix.  I came across this recipe for wild rice by Jacqueline Pham which sounds really interesting. I come from the school of just boiling rice in water so I’m looking forward to trying this out. 

The Curries

In Sri Lankan rice and curry, the central rice dish is accompanied by several small dishes of different curries. This website is great for various Sri Lankan curry dishes. Also here.  I’ve detailed our favourites below. None of the curries take very long to make but it is a feast which will have many pots bubbling simultaneously. Octopus cooking!

So post-Sri Lanka trip, our perfect rice and curry would be the following perhaps not-so-traditional combination:

Sri Lankan Dahl Curry (my favourite)

Ingredients:

200 g Dhal (thin orange lentils)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 green chili, chopped

1 tsp curry powder

1 onion chopped

240 ml water, hot

3-4 curry leaves

240 ml coconut milk

1/2 tsp mustard seed

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt to taste

Method:

1.  In a large saucepan, heat oil on a low heat. When hot, add the curry leaves, onion,  garlic and mustard seeds. Sauté until the onions become soft.

2.  Add the dhal and the remaining powder spices.  Stir well.

3.  Add water and bring to the boil.

4.  Allow to cook for 7-8 minutes. Add coconut milk.

5.  Bring the mixture to the boil again. Reduce to a simmer, leaving uncovered and stirring from time to time, until the dahl is cooked and of a medium, not-too-loose consistency.

6. Add salt to taste.

*****

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry (Damien’s favourite)

Ingredients:

500 g Beetroot, the unpickled version (!), pre-peeled and washed
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 sprig curry leaves (if available)
½ onion, chopped finely
2 green chillies, not choppped but slit down the middle
¼ teaspoon chili powder (though I’m tempted to add more)
60 ml milk
60 ml water
1 ¼ teaspoon salt

Method

1.  Cut the beetroot into small cubes and set aside.

2. Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, onion and chillies. Stir.

3. Lower the temperature and add the chilli powder and stir quickly (to prevent the powered spice from burning).

4.  Add the beetroot and salt and stir well.

5. Add the water, cover the saucepan  and cook  for about 10 minutes.

6. Once the beetroot is tender, add the milk and leave on a low heat for a further 10 minutes.

*****

Sri Lankan Deviled Chicken

(Ok so this usually comes as a stand alone dish but in my perfect rice & curry world, this would be my chicken curry of choice)

Ingredients:

250 g chicken, dark meat or breast, cubed

1 red pepper, julienned

2 red chili peppers, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 thumb-joint sized nub  ginger, minced

2 spring onions, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon chili flakes

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

1. In a wide-bottomed saucepan, brown chicken. When chicken starts to get golden brown add garlic, chili flakes and ginger.

2. Add onion, peppers,  red pepper and salt. Sauté until onions and pepper becomes soft.

3. Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from heat.

5. Add spring onions and lemon juice just before serving. Mix.

*****

Spicy Pineapple Salad

Ingredients:

300 g pineapple, chopped

1 cucumber, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped finely

1 tomato, diced

Coriander leaves, torn

Juice of 2 limes

25g chopped cashews

1 red chili, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Mix and serve. Simple.

*****

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