Pumpkins are not just for Halloween, they are an extremely healthy vegetable and eaten regularly in Sri Lanka (where they are called Wattakka). Pumpkins are very low in calories (around 20 calories per 100 g). This makes it the perfect food for those watching their weight. They are extremely rich in potassium and have a lot of magnesium and iron as well.
The bright orange fleshy part of a pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene, which is an important antioxidant that helps us fight toxins and free radicals in our bodies.
Whilst buying pumpkins for cooking a curry, choose the ones with a complete stem attached to the top. This usually means that the vegetable is fresh and will store for longer without going off.
Ingredients for Sri Lankan style Pumpkin (Wattakka) Curry:
One large pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tablespoons of rice
2 tablespoons of grated coconut (fresh is best but frozen is ok too – ensure you defrost before using)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Sprig of Curry leaves (optional; 3 or 4 bay leaves are an alternative)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp curry powder (the normal variety, not the darker roasted one which is more for meat dishes)
1 piece of cinnamon (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
1 cup (half pint) of coconut milk
1 tbsp of ground mustard seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
First roast the rice and grated coconut in a pan till golden brown but not burnt. Let it cool.
Stir fry the onions, green chillies, garlic, curry leaves, fenugreek, cinnamon, chili powder, curry powder and turmeric for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin pieces. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Season with salt. Add a cup of water. Cover and cook for a few minutes.
Now grind the rice, coconut mixture into a powder. Dissolve in coconut milk and add to the pumpkin. Add the ground mustard and cook a couple more minutes. Adjust salt to taste.
I love most Sri Lankan foods, especially curries. I have yet to dislike a vegetable curry here, even beetroot which I hated as a child.
Below, I’ve listed five of the simple foods that I could happily eat all day, every day!
1. Pol roti (coconut roti…like crispy flatbreads) – it’s delicious when fresh and I can eat unlimited amounts of the small ones with lunu miris (a very spicy onion and chilli chutney), pol sambol (see below) or just butter
2. Pol sambol – a grated coconut side dish which is a staple here in Sri Lanka. It is made with coconut, red chilli flakes, sliced green chilli, finely chopped onions, lime juice and salt. I even have this on sandwiches which makes my Sri Lankan friends laugh because it considered a poor mans dish to consume it this way. I think this tops my list – I can eat it straight out of the bowl, with pol roti, bread, rice, curry and even on pizza.
3. Dhal – quintessentially Sri Lankan, just as pol sambol is. It can be eaten with fresh bread for breakfast, with rice and curry for lunch and poured over your take-away paratha roti at night.
4. Egg hoppers – simply delicious when cooked fresh with a sprinkle of black pepper. A crispy pancake with a fried egg in the middle. In my opinion best eaten half-boiled as they call it here (soft boiled)…then crack the crispy edges and dip into the egg yolk. Hmm. Simple but so special. I will blog more on the virtues of hoppers soon.
5. Pumpkin curry(aka Wattakka curry) – one of my favourites, it’s so tasty, not too spicy and super healthy. I love all veggie curries but this one is at the top of my list.
These are the one’s that I find horrid:
Animal Body Parts — I don’t mind eating meat, but I draw the line at body parts. Sucking the marrow out of a bone, chomping on a fish head, rolling fish eyes around in your mouth before that disgusting bite which releases all the goo, chewing on offal etc. Yuk! I find it even more troubling that I’m usually offered these delicacies as a treat. Fortunately, my partner has come to know how I feel and he happily grabs the offending items off my plate, before I even get a chance to poke at it in disgust or our hosts notice!
Curd — For one who loves cheese and normal yoghurt this troubles me sometimes. The smell of curd makes me want to vomit. I’m quite repulsed by the way Sri Lankans love gulping it down after a spicy meal. I think it’s the sourness…like milk gone off which induces a gag reflex in me.
Dried fish (aka Maldive fish) – Sri Lankans love using dried fish to add flavour to curries (usually small sardine like fish) and sometimes even as a main ingredient in the curries (chunks of dried tuna). Ewww. It is an overpowering taste. Can’t stand the smell or taste.
Sri Lankan wedding cake – I honestly do not care how well or tastefully it is offered (you always get a little parcel to take home in a cute packaging design). Mine are always deposited into my handbag and given to the children I know at the soonest opportunity. Sugary gooey mess usually with marzipan icing. Absolutely disgusting.
Malu paan (malu = fish, paan = bread) – a short eat (snack) staple and favourite of school children. Fish left-overs cooked with spices and potato and put into triangular sweetish usually very chewy bread. Why? Has an island nation has no better ways to use its abundance of fish? Give me a fish cutlet any day.
So Greece is out of the Euro – what’s new? Tonight’s game looks to be good; Spain vs. France. I’m going all out for France for a few reasons:
Spain beat Holland in the last World Cup final (bastards)
I speak better French than Spanish
I love the country – I spent a lot of glorious summers at our farmhouse in the Lanqedoc region in the South of France when I was a kid/young teenager and I remember the place and people fondly, not to mention the food.
My first crush (who wasn’t a member of Duran Duran) was on a French boy – Olivier. He was quite a bit older than me (I was about 13 or 14!) and he never really noticed me, except for saying “bonjour” cheerily when he arrived to work on our property in the morning but I remember him very well 😉
Don’t get me wrong I have been to Spain and love the country and its people too (even dated a lovely Spaniard for quite a long time) but today “je suis Francaise”.
French food is great. Really what more does one need than a baguette, a chunk of creamy brie and the odd frogs leg or snail thrown in for good measure. I really don’t know why people make such a big deal about eating frogs legs and snails…they are very tasty and in my view no worse than eating beef, chicken or mussels. But for the food purists out there I will give you one of my favourite vegetarian recipes from France today…also perfect for a snack during the football match.
Deep Fried Brie
Warm melted brie oozes out of a crispy breadcrumb coating when you bite into these pieces of heaven. Serve with cranberry sauce and a small side salad and you have the perfect starter or snack.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (8 ounce) wedge Brie cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (shop bought is fine)
3 cups good olive oil for deep frying
1 cup of cranberry sauce (shop bought… you can get it at Nebula Supermarket in Sri Lanka and in good supermarkets in Colombo)
In a small bowl, whisk the egg with some salt and pepper using a fork. Place the bread crumbs in a separate bowl. Dip the cubes of Brie into the egg, then roll in breadcrumbs until evenly coated and well covered. Place the cheese cubes on a tray, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, to firm up.
Heat oil in deep-fryer or frying pan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Fry the cheese cubes for 3 to 5 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Serve warm with cranberry sauce for dipping.
When you come across treasures like these it’s a disgrace not to share. Thanks to my dear friend Asanthika for sharing them with me.
Stunning photos. I am chuffed that I was allowed to share these. More to follow soon.
“To me the beauty of Ceylon lies not so much in its blue seas and golden beaches, its jungles and its mountain peaks, as in its ancient atmosphere. There is no nation, from Egypt of the Pharaohs to modern Britian, in whose literature this island has not at some time been mentioned by one or other of its many names — Lanka, Serendib, Taprobane, Cellao, Zellan, to recall a few. History lies buried in its sands, and ghosts of romance lurk among its bastioned rocks, for Lanka is very, very old.”
– D. J. G. Hennessy, GREEN AISLES, 1949
I’ve always been a bit of a rebel; going against the grain of what was expected of me. It started in my pre-teen years; alcohol, boys, bleaching my hair (I must add here that the first two were quite formidable because I grew up in one of the strictest Muslim countries in the world – Kuwait). My parents had amazing ways of sourcing booze, crates of Johnie Walker delivered by the pick-up load through the rear entrance of our villa, interesting forays into trying to brew beer and make wine which most often than not resulted in exploding glass bottles in the spare bathroom due to miscalculations of storage temperature and dodgy stomachs due to early tasting sessions – bless them.
I had amazing ways of consuming this highly prized alcohol and bar a few grounding occasions, one particularly painful kick up the arse by my adorable Dad and numerous vomiting episodes (one particularly violent one whilst on anti-biotics when 15 after drinking 60% ethanol) I live to tell the tale. I now credit these early experiences to my decent ability to hold my drink.
This ability continued into boarding school in the UK, where I would have been expelled on numerous occasions if it were not for the fact that I consistently got high marks. Good friends were not so lucky. There’s English boarding schools for you down to a T. Listings matter, students do not. I hope this is changing now in our more touchy-feely society. More often than not kids drink and cause havoc for a reason – address that and you’re half-way there. One point of note – the intelligent kids tend to rebel more. Give these kids space to vent their feelings and perhaps some of this wastefulness could be controlled. Youngsters with talent need to be nurtured…whether they are in private schools, government schools or living on the street. I once had a conversation with a teenage run-away in Kings Cross in London (admittedly I had had too much too drink and was feeling maternal) who was addicted to crack and this girl (who I hope is alive and well) was more articulate than some people I met at University.
Some of my favourite authors are (or were) rebels, why is Gordon Ramsey so rich, why does Madonna still have sell-out concerts, why has Keith Richards become more popular than Mick Jagger? They are interesting and smart and have a damn good story to tell.
I’ve digressed a bit but the gist of this post is that people who do bad things aren’t always bad or even to blame. Listen to people, try to understand where they are coming from even if class differences (as in Sri Lanka) are huge and you have nothing in common. Listen a little bit, just for 10 minutes and you may find out that they also adore classical music, the feel of the sand between their toes on the beach, the cuddle of a dog. We are all human. It’s about time we started to act that way.
No pictures needed – just a rant. Thanks for reading and I promise that more recipes and sarcasm will follow soon. I must be having a good day.
A blog about freelance translation as a digital nomad, travel, food & drink and all things Sri Lankan and Dutch.