Author: Culinary Connoisseur

Culinary Connoisseur | Artisanal Cooking & Food Around The World - Authentic Recipes, Natural Ingredients, Eco-Friendly Kitchenware, Nutrition

Granola

Granola is a delicious, wholesome combination of rolled oats, dried fruit, shredded coconut, nuts, and seeds, sweetened with natural sweeteners such as honey, and baked until crisp and golden brown.

This granola recipe uses only natural ingredients. No refined sugar is used.

The following recipe only serves as a guide, feel free to adjust the ingredients and their ratios as desired, for instance, by adding more fruit or nuts. The baking time can also be adjusted for instance by baking for longer time for a  more golden, toasted granola.

Serving suggestions:

Homemade granola can be eaten as is, making it a healthy, energy-boosting snack.

Ideal for breakfast; pour cold or warm milk into a bowl of granola and eat straightaway.

Great for healthy desserts such as yogurt parfait.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours (including cooling time)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup any desired combination of seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, white sesame seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
  • 3/4 cup any desired combination of raw (not toasted), unsalted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans
  • 3/4 cup any desired combination of dried, unsweetened fruit such as raisins, prunes, cranberries, dates, apricots, apples, pineapples, cherries etc
  • 1/8 cup any desired combination of sweeteners such as honey (except bee’s honey – see note), maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut chips (optional)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • About 1/8 cup (or as required to evenly coat mixture) melted unsalted butter

Note: According to ayurvedic teachings, subjecting bee’s honey to heat is not recommended.

Method 1 (this method yields granola with toasted dried fruit):

Combine all dry ingredients in a big, roomy bowl. Optionally, you could add the dried fruit later on for a granola with dried fruit that is partially toasted.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat melted butter and sweeteners over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Stop heat.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well to ensure dry ingredients are evenly coated. The result will be a thick, stiff mass.

Transfer to baking tray. Spread using a spatula.

Heat oven to 300 F.

Bake the mixture until aromatic and slightly browned about 10 minutes. If dried fruit had not been added earlier then it can be added when granola is halfway toasted. Open oven, check granola, if satisfied, stop heat. For a more toasted, deeper hued granola, bake a few minutes more.

Stop heat, take out tray, let contents cool completely. Once cooled, granola is ready to eat.

Store granola in airtight container.

 

Method 2 (this method yields granola with un-toasted dried fruit):

Combine all dry ingredients except dried fruit in a big, roomy bowl.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat melted butter and sweeteners over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Stop heat.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well to ensure dry ingredients are evenly coated. The result will be a thick, stiff mass.

Transfer to baking tray. Spread using a spatula.

Heat oven to 300 F.

Bake the mixture until aromatic and slightly browned. About 10 minutes. Open oven, check granola, if satisfied, stop heat. For a more toasted, deeper hued granola, bake a few minutes more.

Stop heat, take out tray and immediately add dried fruit. Stir thoroughly.

Set aside to allow granola to cool completely. Once cooled, granola is ready to eat.

Store granola in airtight container.

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Jelatah (Malaysian Pineapple Cucumber Salad)

Jelatah is a popular Malaysian salad featuring tangy of pineapple wedge slices, refreshing slices of crunchy cucumber, sweet rock sugar, sour lime and vinegar, freshly ground pepper, coarse sea salt, and fresh red and green chilies for a fiery kick. Requiring just a few ingredients, it makes an appetizing, eye catching and refreshing side dish to steaming rice.

Fresh ingredients are key to a successful Jelatah.

Although refined white sugar is commonly used, this recipe uses coconut sugar instead for a healthier Jelatah.

Taste and adjust the flavorings as desired. Some like their Jelatah hot so they would increase the quantity of chili. Some fancy a sweeter Jelatah so they would bump up the quantity of sugar.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 3-4 people

Ingredients:

  • One fresh pineapple (weighing about 500 grams)
  • 500 grams fresh cucumber
  • 1/2 medium sized onion
  • 1 tablespoon juice from a freshly squeezed key lime
  • 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
  • 1 fresh red chili
  • 1 fresh green chili
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or as desired

 

Method:

Skin the pineapple, wash, cut to wedges, then thinly slice the wedges into bite-sized slices.

Wash and julienne cucumber.

Peel onion, wash and slice thinly.

Slice chilies thinly.

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Taste and make final adjustments as needed.

This could be served immediately, but is best served chilled (let sit in the fridge for up to an hour to allow the flavors to develop).

Watalappan වටලප්පන් (Steamed, Spiced Coconut Custard)

Boasting a pleasant aroma owing to the use of exotic spices, a rich flavor due to jaggery (an unrefined palm sugar) and fresh thick coconut milk, a creamy melt-in-the-mouth texture thanks to fresh eggs and occasional nutty bites thanks to cashew nuts, watalappan වටලප්පන් is a popular steamed pudding in Sri Lanka.

This delicacy is believed to have been introduced to local folks in this paradise island by the Malays, whose ancestry can be traced to the Malayan peninsular and the Indonesian archipelago. Watalappan  or “siri kaya” as it is known in the Sri Lankan Malay community, is quite likely to be a derivative of a popular coconut milk and egg custard with origins in Indonesia, known as “sarikayo”. Watalappan may also have been influenced by a popular coconut milk and egg jam with origins in Indonesia (where it is known as “srikaya”) and Malaysia (where it is known as “seri kaya” but more commonly known as “kaya”). In Singapore too, this jam is very popular, and is also known as “kaya”.

Unsurprisingly, the key ingredients for all three foods i.e., watalappan/siri kaya and Indonesia’s sarikayo and the Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean srikaya/kaya are the same i.e., thick coconut milk, eggs and unrefined palm sugar (known as “gula melaka” in Malaysia and “gula merah” in Indonesia) with the only noticeable difference being that the latter is a structure-less jam usually enjoyed with toast or bread whereas the two former versions have a structure akin to a pudding and are consumed as desserts.

Indonesia’s sarikayo and the Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean srikaya/kaya feature pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) which is also used in Sri Lanka’s watalappan sometimes. More often however, watalappan is infused with the flavor and aroma of spices such as cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves.

This difference in ingredients may have been a Sri Lankan influence; exotic spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are extensively used throughout Sri Lankan cuisine, whereas in Indonesian/Malaysian cuisine fresh herbs such as pandan leaves, lemongrass and galangal are more prominent.

Apart from sarikayo and srikaya/kaya there are other culinary examples that reflect this regional difference in flavor preference. For instance, a sago dessert known as “sago gula melaka” in Malaysia is quite similar to Sri Lanka’s “sau kenda” සව් කැඳ (which literally means “sago porridge” in Singhalese). Both versions see sago pearls served with a deliciously rich sauce made of thick coconut milk and unrefined palm sugar. However, while the Malaysian version is fragranced and flavored with pandan leaves, the Sri Lankan version instead sees green cardamoms bumping up the flavor and aroma profile of the dessert.

A popular mung bean porridge known as “bubur kacang ijo” in Indonesia or “bubur kacang hijau” in Malaysia (both translate into “green bean porridge”) shares essentially the same ingredients as the Sri Lankan version called “mung ata kenda” මුං ඇට කැඳ in Singhalese (which translates into “mung bean porridge”) – mung beans, thick coconut milk and unrefined palm sugar. Here again, the Indonesian and Malaysian versions are fragranced and flavored with pandan leaves whereas the Sri Lankan version is dressed up with a colorful medley of spices, fruits and nuts such as green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cashew nuts and raisins.

The ingredients that make up watalappan are natural and healthy. Unrefined palm sugar, also known as jaggery, or “hakuru” හකුරු in Singhalese is generally considered to be a natural and relatively healthier sweetener than refined sugar; unrefined palm sugar is rich in minerals and micronutrients whereas with refined sugar these nutrients have been stripped off during the refining process. Thus, watalappan can be considered to be a relatively healthy dessert.

For best results, use only the highest quality jaggery and the freshest ingredients, i.e., fresh eggs, fresh spices and freshly squeezed thick coconut milk.

While there are many spice options available for this pudding, cardamom is arguably the most popular spice for this pudding in Sri Lanka.

Ceylon cinnamon, known as “kurundu” කුරුඳු in Singhalese, is considerably different from the more commonly available “cassia”, which is cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon and is often mistakenly called “cinnamon”.

Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka. It is a very delicate quill with a thin bark, flakes easily, has a sweet taste and sweet-smelling fragrance. Cassia on the other hand is native to China. Indonesia and China are notable exporters. Cassia sticks are extremely hard with a very thick bark, does not flake at all, has a strong, spicy taste and scent. For a more authentic watalappan, use Ceylon cinnamon.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (about 230 milliliters) fresh thick coconut milk
  • 2 fresh medium-sized eggs
  • 4-5 tablespoons grated jaggery
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Cashew nuts as desired – roughly chopped
  • Raisins as desired (optional)

 

Spices (use any or a combination as desired. Adjust quantities as desired. Fresh spices are stronger and more potent than old spices.):

  • 4-6 green cardamom pods – lightly crushed, husks discarded
  • 1/2 inch piece Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 clove
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Beans from half a vanilla pod

 

Method:

Into a bowl, beat eggs one by one until frothy.

Add grated jaggery, thick coconut milk and salt.

Beat thoroughly until jaggery is dissolved and the mixture is smooth and free of lumps.

Strain the mixture.

Add the spices into the strained mixture and mix thoroughly.

Pour mixture into a pudding basin or into ramekins.

Sprinkle with cashew nuts and raisins (if using). Reserve some cashew nuts.

Cover with a foil.

Into a pressure cooker or other vessel used for steaming, pour about 2 cups of water (room temperature).

Place a steaming wire stand.

Onto the wire stand, place the foil-wrapped pudding basin or ramekins containing the mixture.

Cover and turn on heat to medium high.

Steam the watalappan until it sets (roughly 30-40 minutes) and is aromatic.

Sprinkle cashew nuts reserved earlier.

Serve warm or chilled.

 

One-Pot Bean Soup

This wholesome, hearty one-pot bean soup is ideal comfort food on a cold wintry day. This recipe is vegetarian, however it could be adapted for non-vegetarians; for instance vegetable stock could be replaced with chicken stock.

Any mixture of the following beans could be used as desired:

  • Flageolet beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Red beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans (also known as haricot beans)

Serving Suggestions:

Serve alongside whole grain sesame seed rolls.

Version 1

Preparation time: 20 minutes:

Total time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-5 people

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (about 750 milliliters) vegetable stock
  • 1 large yellow onion – finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic – minced
  • 1 small carrot – finely diced
  • ½ stalk celery – finely diced
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes – diced
  • 2 tablespoons pearl barley
  • 1 medium potato – diced
  • 1 cup (about 250 grams) mixed beans – cooked until soft
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Garnish:

Grated parmesan cheese

 

Method:

In a non-reactive pot, bring stock, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, tomatoes, barley and olive oil to boil, covered, until vegetables have partially softened.

Add potatoes, cooked mixed beans, dried thyme and dried oregano. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Continue to boil until potatoes are cooked, vegetables have softened and flavors have melded.

Stop heat, serve hot garnished with grated parmesan cheese.

 

Version 2

Preparation time: 20 minutes:

Total time: 1 ½ hour

Serves: 4-5 people 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow onion – finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic – minced
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes – diced
  • 3 cups (about 750 milliliters) vegetable stock
  • 1 small carrot – finely diced
  • ½ stalk celery – finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons pearl barley
  • 1 medium potato – diced
  • 1 cup (about 250 grams) mixed beans – cooked until soft
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil or unsalted butter for sautéing

Garnish:

Grated parmesan cheese

 

Method:

In a non-reactive pot, heat the olive oil or unsalted butter over medium heat.

Sauté onions until translucent.

Stir in minced garlic and sauté until aromatic.

Add tomatoes and sauté until it soft.

Add stock, carrot, celery and barley bring to a boil, covered, until vegetables are partially softened.

Add potatoes, cooked mixed beans, dried thyme and dried oregano. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Continue to boil until potatoes are cooked, vegetables have softened and flavors have melded.

Stop heat, serve hot garnished with grated parmesan cheese.

 

Son-In-Law Eggs (“Khai Luuk Keuy” ไข่ลูกเขย”)

This is a popular dish in Thai cuisine, requiring just a few simple ingredients to make. Hard boiled eggs are fried until it forms an appetizing golden skin, cut into half, drizzled with a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce, garnished with fried shallots, crisp fried red chilies and fresh cilantro. It is could be served as an accompaniment to rice or as an appetizer.

Several stories surround the origin of the dish and its name. One story says that the egg’s light golden brown hue is symbolic of a bride-to-be’s parents’ hope that their son-in-law will be blessed with fortune and wealth. Another story holds that the dish was made by Thai mothers for prospective son-in-law as a warning on the possible fate of their “parts” if they fail to take care of their daughters (the eggs in this dish is symbolic of the son-in-law’s “precious parts”). Another twist to that story was that the dish was made by a man’s mother-in-law to indicate her daughter was not well fed; this time, mother will prepare eggs fried, sliced and served with sauce, but next time if there’s nothing to eat it would be the son-in-law’s “parts” that would be fried, sliced and served with sauce!

Eggs, known as “khai” ไข่ in Thai are commonly consumed throughout the country, valued as a source of protein. Chicken eggs and duck eggs are perhaps the most popular type in Thailand while quail eggs are consumed to a lesser extent. For this dish, duck eggs or chicken eggs are most commonly used however quail eggs could be used as well.

Tamarind is usually sold as a paste. To make tamarind juice, dissolve some of the paste in some water until it forms a juice. If the paste contains seeds, discard the seeds.

This dish uses Thai palm sugar which is considered to be considerably more nutritious and flavorful that refined sugar.

 Preparation time: 5 minutes

Total time: 25 – 30 minutes

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 4 duck eggs or 5 chicken eggs – boiled
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely sliced shallots (sliced lengthwise)
  • Oil for frying
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnishing (optional)
  • Dried red chilies cut to 1-inch pieces (optional)

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons tamarind juice
  • 2 ½ -3 tablespoons Thai palm sugar – crumbled, grated or shaved
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

Method:

Peel eggs and discard shells. Set aside on a paper towel.

In a wok or frying pan, fry sliced shallots until crisp and brown. Set aside on a paper towel.

Lower heat to very low. Stirring constantly fry the dried red chilies until crisp and aromatic. These burn easily so it is imperative to stir constantly and ensure the flame is low. Set aside the fried chilies on a paper towel.

In a non-reactive cooking vessel, combine all ingredients for sauce.

Over low heat, simmer the sauce until it has the consistency of a syrup. If it is too thin, cook a bit longer, if too thick, add a few tablespoons of spring water.

Taste the sauce. Sweet and sour should be the dominant flavors while the salty flavor should be relatively mild. Adjust the flavor of the sauce to your preference by adding more ingredients as required (add tamarind to increase sourness, palm sugar for sweetness and fish sauce for the salty flavor).

Set the sauce aside.

Heat a wok over medium-high flame.

Fry the eggs set aside earlier until it forms a light golden brown ‘crust’. Ensure the eggs do not have even a drop of water to minimize splattering.

Take eggs out and drain on a paper towel.

Cut eggs into half lengthwise with a sharp knife.

Arrange sliced eggs on a plate.

Pour sauce over eggs.

Garnish with fried shallot slices, crisp fried red chilies, fresh cilantro and serve straightaway.

Sau Kenda සව් කැඳ (Sago Porridge)

Sri Lankan sago porridge, known as “sau kenda” in Singhalese is a delicious porridge of sago pearls boiled in a rich concoction of thick coconut milk known as “pol kiri” පොල් කිරි (“pol” පොල් = coconut, “kiri” කිරි = milk), sweetened with jaggery known as “hakuru” හකුරු, which is an unrefined form of sugar and fragranced with exotic spices such as aromatic green cardamoms known as “enasaal” එනසාල් and cinnamon, known as “kurundu” කුරුඳු.

Sau kenda සව් කැඳ  literally means “sago porridge” in Singhalese (“sau” සව් means “sago and “kenda” කැඳ means “porridge”).

Sago is believed to have cooling properties and is often consumed in Sri Lanka during sweltering hot months, either warm or chilled.

Sri Lanka’s sago porridge bears some resemblance to the Malaysian dessert “sago gula melaka”, which is a sago pudding served with thick coconut milk, an unrefined palm sugar known as “gula melaka” and fragranced with pandan leaves.

The sago pearls are boiled until translucent – this may require some practice as overboiling the sago pearls could dissolve them whereas underboiling the sago pearls will result in pearls that are not translucent.

Freshly squuezed thick coconut milk, fresh cardamoms and/or cinnamon and good quality jaggery are imperative for a quality outcome.

 

Preparation time: 15-20 minutes

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup or about 200 grams sago pearls
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups or about 625 – 750 ml spring water
  • 1 cup or about 250 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup jaggery – dissolved in about 1/4 cup of spring water
  • Pinch of salt

Spices (use one or both):

  • 5-8 green cardamom pods – lightly crushed to open the pods
  • Cinnamon stick

Method:

Bring water to a rolling boil in a heavy bottom saucepan, over medium heat.

Once water is boiling, add sago pearls and green cardamom pods.

Cook sago pearls until they turn translucent. Stir every now and then but don’t stir too often as the sago pearls could dissolve which is undersirable; the key is to cook the sago pearls till they turn translucent but yet they maintain their spherical shape. This takes practice.

Once sago pearls turn translucent, add the coconut milk and dissolved jaggery. Alternatively, take sago off the heat and when serving the sago, serve the coconut milk and dissolved jaggery separately, allowing each individual to adjust the quantity of coconut milk and jaggery according to personal preference.

The sago porridge can be served warm or chilled. If serving chilled, set aside to cool and then place the sago porridge (as well as the coconut milk and jaggery if they are being served separately) in a refrigerator.

 

Italian Grilled Eggplant With Garlic And Fresh Herbs (Melanzane Arrostite)

Grilled eggplant (also known as aubergine) with garlic and fresh herbs is a typical Sicilian dish, usually making an appearance as a starter or a side.

The dish, known as “melanzane arrostite” in Italian, which liteally means “roasted eggplant”, (eggplants are known as “melanzane” in Italian and “arrostite” means “roasted) is traditionally made with Sicilian eggplants.

Aubdantly available in Sicily (or Sicilia in Italian), eggplants were first introduced to this charming Southern Italian island by Arabs from the Middle East, and today the largest Italian cultivation of eggplants is in Sicily.

The Arabs ruled Sicily in 827 to 1091 and they had a profound influence on Sicily’s agriculture and cuisine, introducing new crops such as rice and sugarcane and enhancing Sicilian cuisine through the introduction of ingredients such as eggplants, apricots, pistachios, sesame seeds and saffron, foods such as sherbet, and introducing new cookery methods such as candy making.

With a thriving cultivation of fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices, less than a century after the Arab occupation, Sicily came to be known as the ‘Garden Island of Southern Europe’.

Native to the Mediterranean, oregano, known as “origano” in Italian, is the dominant herb in Southern Italian cuisine but is not so throughout the rest of Italy where parsely and basil are more commonly used. Oregano is more flavorful dried than fresh.

Slicing the eggplants to the correct thickness is an important step for a successful outcome. The eggplant slices must be well cooked through, yet it should not be dried out. Too thin and the slices are likely to burn or dry out. Too thick and the slices may cook faster outside than inside. 1 cm or 1/2 an inch is about the ideal thickness.

This Sicilian dish is not only healthy but delicious too.

Preparation time: 30 – 40 minutes

Total time: 5 hours

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 Sicilian eggplants
  • 4-5 tablespoons or as desired extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons Italian red wine vinegar
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic – finely minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Dried Sicilian oregano as desired
  • Fresh herbs (mint or parsely or basil) – roughly chopped

Method:

Slice the eggplant into circles, about 1 cm thick. Too thin and the eggplant will dry out. Too thick and the eggplant wouldn’t be cooked inside.

Sprinkle a generous quantity of coarse sea salt on the eggplant slices and toss well with hands to ensure the slices are evenly coated.

Let eggplant sit until it releases some of its juices (about 30-40 minutes).

Prepare marinade: in a baking tray, combine olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, chopped herbs, salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Take out the eggplants and rinse the salt off them.

Squeeze excess water, pat dry and set aside.

Heat a charcoal grill over medium heat.

Generously brush eggplant slices both sides with olive oil.

Place the eggplant slices on the hot grill.

Grill the eggplants both sides, till they are cooked but are are not dried out. When the bottom sides are cooked flip them over and cook the other side.

Transfer the cooked eggplant slices into the baking tray with the marinade prepared earlier.

Ensure the slices are well coated with the marinade.

Transfer the eggplant slices to a serving plate.

Drizzle any leftover marinade over the slices.

Set aside at room temperature for 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to meld before serving.

Serve with crusty bread.

 

Chapati चपाती

Chapati is perhaps one of India’s most popular flatbreads, made with just three ingredients: whole wheat flour, warm water and salt. Chapati is particularly popular in the North of India, where wheat is the staple (unlike in the South of India where rice is the main food).

Chapati’s primary ingredient is Indian whole wheat flour known as “gehoon ke atta” गेहूँ का आटा or just shortened to “atta” आटा (“gehoon” गेहूँ means “wheat” and “atta” आटा means “flour” in Hindi) and commonly known in the English-speaking world as “atta flour” or “chapati flour”.

Whole wheat kernels are comprised of three main parts: the germ, the endosperm and the bran.

Chapati flour is produced by finely grinding the entire wheat berry (germ, endosperm, bran and all). Traditionally this was done using a stone mill called an “atta chakki” आटा चक्की in Hindi or simply “chakki” चक्की which literally means “flour mill” (“atta” आटा means “flour” and “chakki” चक्की means “mill”). In the olden days, Indian households would feature a chakki which would be used daily to grind whole wheat kernels into freshly ground chapati flour.

Indians roll out the chapatis using a circular wooden board known as a “chakla” चकला in Hindi, which is paired with a wooden rolling pin known as a “belan” बेलन.

Traditionally, chapatis are cooked in a slightly concave cooking vessel known as a “tavaa” तवा which means “pan” in Hindi. The “tavaa” is often made of clay or cast iron. The clay tavaa is known as a “mitti tavaa” मिट्टी तवा  or “mitti ka tavaa” मिट्टी का तवा  which literally means “clay pan” (“mitti” means मिट्टी “clay” and “tavaa” तवा  means “pan”).

Cooking over this clay “tavaa”, especially over a traditional firewood fire, lends a distinct smoky flavor, aroma and texture to the chapatis which modern day cooking vessels and heating fuels cannot replicate.

It is generally accepted among Indians that apart from producing superior-tasting traditional Indian fare, these unglazed, organic earthen cooking vessels are healthier options for cooking food.

Like its clay counterpart, the cast iron tavaa also produces a superior chapati owing to its uniform heating and heat retention characteristics. Additionally, it is believed to increase the iron content in food and is hence favored over modern day cooking utensils such as aluminum and non-stick pans.

Yield: 7-8 chapatis

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups stone ground atta flour
  • Warm spring water as required
  • Salt as desired

Method:

 In a roomy bowl, combine atta flour and salt.

Add warm water bit by bit until a dough begins to form.

Using hands, push forward and press down the dough with your knuckles, until it is smooth, pliable and longer sticky. Don’t overwork it as it would lead to tough, leathery chapatis.

Form a cylinder with about a 2 inch diameter.

Lightly flour a a chakla or a wooden surface if a chakla is unavailable.

Heat up a clay or cast iron tavaa over medium high heat over firewood if available for a more authentic chapati.

While the tavaa heats up, pull out a lemon-sized piece of dough and using hands, roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a neat disc about 1/2 an inch thick and 3-4 inches in diameter.

Use the belan or a wooden rolling pin to roll out this disc into a chapati approximately 6-8 inches in diameter and about 1/8 – 1/9 of an inch thick.

Place the chapati onto the heated tavaa. Cook until dark brown spots appear on the bottom surface of the chapati.

Flip and cook the other side, until brown spots appear. The chapati may puff up in which case just press it down.

Serve hot with ghee and curries.

Thai Steamed Pumpkin With Coconut (“Luk Fag Tong Cim Makhrao” ลูกฟักทองจิ้มมะพร้าว)

This Thai dish is a popular snack or dessert, requiring little time and just a few simple ingredients to prepare – pumpkin (known as “fag tong” ฟักทอง in Thai), freshly shredded coconut (known as “makhrao” มะพร้าว ), crushed Thai palm sugar, and salt. Requiring no artificial or processed ingredients, it is nourishing and satisfying.

It starts with a fresh, firm variety of pumpkin which would require a considerable effort to cut and the pumpkin should have a distinct sweet taste when cooked. Kabocha squash would be an example that fits these criteria. The pumpkin must be steamed until just cooked and firm, not soft and mushy.

Freshly shredded coconut is preferred not only for maximum taste but for nutrition as well.

Although some modern preparations use refined sugar, this recipe uses traditional Thai unrefined palm sugar, not only for its unique taste but also because unrefined palm sugar is generally accepted to be a more nutritious and healthier sweetener than refined sugar.

Preparation time: 20 – 30 minutes

Serves: 6-7 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 firm pumpkin such as kabocha squash
  • Freshly shredded coconut as desired
  • 2-3 tablespoons or as desired Thai palm sugar
  • Pinch sea salt

Method:

Rinse the pumpkin thoroughly ensuring any dirt and grit is removed from the skin.

Using a sharp knife cut the pumpkin into wedges about 1-2 inches width at the base. If desired, peel off the skin.

Remove the seeds.

Steam the pumpkin wedges until the pumpkin is just sufficiently cooked but not overdone. The time to cook depends on the width and size of the pumpkin wedges. Insert a fork or knife and the flesh should feel firmly cooked but not soft.

Stop heat and keep covered until ready to serve. The pumpkin can be served warm or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, place the shredded coconut over the pumpkin wedges and sprinkle crushed palm sugar and salt over the pumpkin wedges. Alternatively, prepare a coconut topping. In a bowl, combine shredded coconut, crushed palm sugar and pinch of salt into the shredded coconut and mix well. Place the topping over the pumpkin wedges.

Kurakkan Roti කුරක්කන් රොටි

Kurakkan roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread, made with nutritious finger millet flour, brown rice flour and freshly shredded coconut. “Kurakkan” කුරක්කන් or “kurahan” කුරහන් is the Singhalese name for “finger millet” while “roti” රොටි is a term used to refer to flatbreads.

Native to Africa and introduced to the Indian subcontinent over 3,000 years ago, finger millet or “kurakkan” is a drought-resistant and hardy crop, with less susceptibility to pests and diseases compared to other crops. It has been grown and consumed in Sri Lanka for over a thousand years, mostly in the dry zone areas and this nutritious grain has been the principal source of food for the Sri Lankan people for centuries.

Kurakkan has been replaced by rice as a staple food however kurakkan is still consumed; this kurakkan flatbread is usually eaten for breakfast and sometimes dinner, but very rarely (if at all) eaten for lunch.

Kurakkan is gluten-free and diabetic-friendly; a year 2000 study found that a finger millet-based diet resulted in lower plasma glucose levels which could be attributed to finger millet’s higher fibre content compared to rice and wheat.

Kurakkan roti is traditionally made with kurakkan flour (known as “kurakkan piti” කුරක්කන් පිටි), brown rice flour (known as “rathu haal piti” රතු හාල් පිටි)and shredded coconut. Modern day recipes however replace brown rice flour with all-purpose flour. Usage of all-purpose flour diminishes the nutritional value of the resulting flatbread as all-purpose flour is generally accepted among Sri Lankans to be considerably unhealthy and is inferior nutrition-wise than brown rice flour.

For a healthier alternative, the all-purpose flour can be replaced with whole wheat flour or chapati flour (also known as “atta flour) instead.

Traditionally. kurakkan roti is accompanied with hot Sri Lankan condiments such as lunu miris, pol sambol or katta sambol. Nowadays, butter is also increasingly gaining favor as an accompaniment.

A cast-iron griddle produces the best results.

Variation 1 (Basic kurakkan roti)

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kurakkan flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • Salt as desired
  • 1-3 tablespoons freshly shredded coconut
  • Warm water as required
  • Coconut oil as required

 

Method:

Combine kurakkan flour, rice flour and salt in a roomy bowl.

Add shredded coconut.

Add warm water and coconut oil as required to form a pliable dough that does not stick to your hands.

Using hands, knead the dough for a short while.

Divide into even-sized balls.

Roll out the balls, or simply flatten them on your palm, into discs about 3-4 inches in diameter and about 1/5 inch – 1/3 inch thick.

Heat up a cast iron griddle over medium high flame.

Cook the flatbreads until cooked through and dark, roasted spots appear on the surface of the bread. This usually takes a few minutes. The flip the bread and cook the other side.

Once cooked, take out and cover the flatbreads with a damp towel to keep them moist.

Serve hot with hot condiments such as lunu miris, pol sambol and/or katta sambol.

 

Variation 2 (Kurakkan roti with onions, chilies and curry leaves)

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kurakkan flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • Salt as desired
  • 1-3 tablespoons freshly shredded coconut
  • 4-6 shallots – peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 green chilies – sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves – torn
  • Warm water as required
  • Coconut oil as required

 

Method:

Combine kurakkan flour, rice flour and salt in a roomy bowl.

Add shredded coconut, shallots, green chilies and curry leaves.

Add warm water and coconut oil as required to form a pliable dough that does not stick to your hands.

Using hands, knead the dough for a short while.

Divide into even-sized balls.

Roll out the balls, or simply flatten them on your palm, into discs about 3-4 inches in diameter and about 1/5 inch – 1/3 inch thick.

Heat up a cast iron griddle over medium high flame.

Cook the flatbreads until cooked through and dark, roasted spots appear on the surface of the bread. This usually takes a few minutes. The flip the bread and cook the other side.

Once cooked, take out and cover the flatbreads with a damp towel to keep them moist.

Serve hot with hot condiments such as lunu miris, pol sambol and/or katta sambol.