Sri Lanka: The Cookbook
The say love conquers all and in Sri Lanka: The Cookbook, husband and wife duo, Prakash Sivanathan and Niranjala Ellawalla’s love for the food of their homeland shines. This is their first book and it brings together feather-light hoppers, fiery sambols, subtly spiced curries, pickles, chutneys and unique ‘vada’ (fried snacks).
For 8 years the couple ran the award winning Sri Lankan restaurant, Elephant Walk in Hampstead, North London and have gone on to set up a new food company – Coconut Kitchens. The popular cookery teachers now offer corporate cooking events, home cookery lessons and other events, including hosting regular workshops and supper clubs
The book contains beautiful images from their own travels and the vibrant recipes celebrate not only the islands ingredients but also it’s history, it’s culture and it’s people. Uniquely, the recipes in the book combine the authors Tamil and Sinhalese cultures to give an insight into Sri Lanka’s culinary heritage. Each recipe has its own characteristic; there’s influences from the southern and eastern states of India, but there’s also traces of idiosyncratic traces of the foods and countries that have colonised the island.
Sinhalese tend to use more spices such as cardamom, clove and black pepper and many follow the principle that ‘food is medicine; medicine is food’.
In contrast, the Tamils tend to use more chilli and say there are 6 tastes; sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, salty and astringent, and every meal should be a harmonious balance of all.
A useful glossary outlines some of the unusual ingredients used in the recipes and all are readily available in Asian stores or specialist Sri Lankan suppliers. Each recipe has a colour key, denoting whether it’s Sinhalese or Tamil.
With 100 recipes, the book has an excellent mix of breakfasts, vegetarian, fish and shellfish. The cow is a sacred animal in Hinduism so beef doesn’t widely feature but there are excellent recipes for chicken, lamb, mutton, wide boar and pork.
“My wife and I have lived in London for many years, but I was born a Tamilin the Jaffna peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka, and Niranjala is a Sinhalese from the south. Between us we have a deep understanding and love of the unique styles of cooking that together makes up our island’s cuisine. We hope this provides a record of Sri Lankan history and diversity for generations to come.”
-Prakash K Sivanathan
The book is a welcome addition to the range of South East Asian cook books that have been published recently and will appeal to cooks and chefs looking for something different when cooking with spices.
Sri Lanka : The Cookbook is published by Frances Lincoln. Price £20. Images by Kim Lightbody.
Disclaimer Francis Lincoln provided the copy of the book for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.