Category Archives: Healthy food

Sri Lankan Vegetable Soup

My blogging has become a bit sporadic of late, there are two reasons for this:

  1. I have started a new job which is taking up a lot of my time in training and well…”actual” work ūüėČ
  2. I haven’t been in the greatest of mind sets over the last few weeks, it’s personal so I’m not going to broadcast it all over the web but ¬†I’ve taken a few knocks – still onwards and upwards…

Because of these two quite large life events I haven’t been eating as I should (and like t0). Specifically point number 2) has made my appetite disappear to the point where I would be sitting in a restaurant, looking over the menu for 30 minutes, only to order a beer whilst my friend ate copious amounts of food. Not good, especially when I need energy for my new job.

So what on earth can you eat when you are not hungry but you know you have to eat? The answer as most of you will know is soup. It is healthy (if made fresh without additives & MSG). I’ve got a few recipes up my sleeve for soup but I thought I would start with the famous Sri Lankan vegetable soup. It beats the Western varieties for taste and not only does it help bring back an ailing appetite (something to do with the added ginger and pepper I believe) it is also fantastic for colds and flu.

Sri Lankan Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 50g leeks, sliced
  • 50g carrots, sliced
  • 50g green beans, chopped
  • 50g cabbage, shredded roughly
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1 or 2 sticks of celery sliced
  • 50g red dhal (mysore)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 piece of rampe or lemongrass
  • 1 tsp raw curry powder
  • 1 piece cinnamon
  • 1 tbs crushed black pepper (I also like to add a few peppercorns more but it depends on how hot you like it)
  • 1 tbs tamarind paste
  • 8 to 10 cups water
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the tamarind paste. (NOTE: you can fry the garlic and ginger first if you like)
  2. Bring to boil over to a medium heat about 1 hour (if you have time…it can be eaten after 30 minutes but I prefer it cooked well)
  3. Add tamarind and adjust salt.
  4. Simmer another 10 min. on low heat.
Sri Lankan Vegetable Soup
Sri Lankan Vegetable Soup

Egg Hoppers – Sri Lankan Food Porn

I love eggs. My previous post was dedicated to eggs because they are just so good. No recipes or knowledge or¬†nutritional¬†facts, nope, just photo’s, drool-worthy images. We all know eggs are good for you bar a bit of cholesterol but all in all they’re good and cheap and just well….tasty.

Unfortunately in Sri Lanka I often come across over-cooked eggs. This is a shame – it makes them rubbery, strips them off their goodness and ends up in unappealing looking eggs with blueish yolks.

Unless you find a good Egg Hopper kade (my local shop knows exactly how I like them and gives me extra lunu miris; a hot onion and chilli sambol (recipe repeated below)), or have them at a good hotel in Colombo where you can specify how you like them. Often I have had them hard-boiled and folded, nowhere near as tasty but still ok.

Alternatively you can make them at home. They are quite time consuming to make because you need the special aluminium hopper pans and certain types of rice flour & yeast but life would not be living without some trial & error, no? ūüôā

Perfect Egg Hopper; soft-boiled in the middle but with crispy edges
Perfect Egg Hopper; soft-boiled in the middle but with crispy edges

So here goes the recipe for Egg Hoppers.

Best made in special hopper pans:

Sri Lankan Hopper Pans
Sri Lankan Hopper Pans

MAKES 16

Ingredients:

For the Egg Hoppers:

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • Vegetable oil, for the pan
  • Eggs

For the Lunu Miris

  • 2 tbsp of chilli flakes
  • 2 or 3 fresh red chillies (optional)
  • Half a tsp of salt
  • 1 or 2 red onions (very finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp ground maldive fish (optional) ‚Äď again I leave this out but others swear by it.
  • Juice of a half a lime or lemon (or more)

Method:

For the Lunu Miris:

  1. Grind the all the ingredients above except lime (or lemon) in a mortar and pestle (wangediya). Again you may find the food processor does wonders, but be sure you turn the mixture into a pulp. Crunchy is good ūüôā
  2. Squeeze in the lime juice, mix and serve when fresh.

To make the hoppers:

  1. Combine yeast and 1 3/4 cups warm water (approx. 50¬†Celsius, 110 Fahrenheit) in a bowl; let sit until foamy, 8‚Äď10 minutes. Combine 1 tsp. salt, flour, and sugar in a bowl; add yeast mixture and stir into a batter. Cover, and let rest for about 2 hours. Add coconut milk and baking soda; stir until smooth. Chill batter for 1 hour.
  2. Heat a hopper pan or an 8″ nonstick skillet over high heat and grease lightly with oil; add 1/3 cup batter, and immediately swirl batter around to cover inside surface. Cook until batter begins to set, about 1 minute.
  3. Crack the egg into the centre of the pan. Cover, and cook until set and edges are crispy, about 2 minutes. Remove egg hopper from the pan and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hoppers with lunu miris.

And there you have it – Egg Hoppers, food porn on a plate and it’s tastes tremendous too.

Perfect Egg Hopper, crispy edges ideal for dipping into the yolk.
Perfect Egg Hopper, crispy edges ideal for dipping into the yolk.

With lunu miris if you dare!

Lunu miris; hot onion and chilli chutney with lemon
Lunu miris; hot onion and chilli chutney with lemon or lime.

Lush for breakfast, snacks or a late dinner. ENJOY!

Healthy Oven Fried Chicken with a Sri Lankan Twist

Ok, ok I have a weakness for KFC. Zinger burgers are pretty tasty (although I hate the KFC chips – greasy, sloppy & anaemic – gah). Yes I know it’s crap fast food and unhealthy so I’ve been trying out some new healthier and spicier variations at home and one of these turned out very nicely so I’m letting you in on the recipe.

The Sri Lankan bit arose from me¬†trying to give traditional fried chicken a little bit more of an ethnic zing. The healthier bit is simply by baking the chicken pieces in the oven instead of deep-frying them. You can still get lovely crispy edges by using¬†the flour, egg, and bread crumb method…

Healthy Oven Fried Chicken with a Sri Lankan Twist:

Ingredients (serves 2 to 4 people):

  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (wings, drumsticks, thighs, breasts)

For the marinade:

  • 2 cups milk or plain yogurt or curd (I am using “cups” here not because I like the American way of listing ingredients, just because the measurements need not be exact!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsps roasted¬†curry powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or 3 to 4 tbsps of soya sauce)
  • 1 tbsp¬†black pepper (freshly crushed pepper corns taste best)
  • 1 tsp¬†garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder

For the breading:

  • 1 cup wheat flour (see note above about “cups”)
  • 1 tsp unroasted curry powder
  • 1 tsp¬†ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 cups bread crumbs

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the chicken parts in the bowl. If the liquid does not cover the chicken, add more water. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours (or longer).
  2. After chicken has marinated for 2 hours, set up 3 large soup plates side-by-side.
  3. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  4. In the first plate, mix together the flour, curry powder, and ground cumin.
  5. In the second plate, beat together the two eggs, salt, garlic powder, and olive oil.
  6. In the third plate, put in the bread crumbs.
  7. Take one chicken piece out of the marinade, submerge it in the flour mixture to coat. Next, dunk it in the egg mixture, and finally dredge it in the bread crumbs until completely covered. Place in a oven proof pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  8. Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned AND CRISPY!
Healthy Oven Fried Sri Lankan Chicken
Healthy Oven Fried Sri Lankan Chicken

You can serve this as a main meal with rice and salad or simply as a snack with some chilli sauce. Enjoy.

Stir-fried Garlic Kankun

This dish is simplicity itself.

Kankun (sometimes written as Kangkung) is a Sri Lankan leafy vegetable (Ipomoea aquatica). It is also known as water morning glory, marsh glory, swamp cabbage (!) and water spinach. It’s good and is a rich source of vitamins (particularly¬†A, B and C), iron, protein, ¬†calcium, amino acids and anti-oxidants.

Ipomoea aquatica (AKA Kankun)
Ipomoea aquatica (AKA Kankun)

In Sri Lanka it is often prepared as an aside to rice and curry, a kind of devilled kankun with red chilli flakes and dried fish or prawns. Whilst tasty enough (bar the dried fish which I extract from everything!) I think it is much better prepared with garlic in a stir-fry to eat with grilled fish or meat or even as a substantial dish in itself (triple the ingredients below for that!).

Stir-fried Garlic Kankun Ingredients:

  • One large bunch of kankun
  • 6 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • Pinch of red chilli flakes (just for a hint…remember it’s about the garlic & kankun here)
  • Slug (about 1 tbsp. soya sauce)
  • Oil to fry
  • Pepper to taste

Method:

Wash the kankun leaves well and chop roughly. Heat some oil in a wok but do not let it get too hot (burnt garlic is not good). Add garlic and chilli flakes and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the kankun, mix well for 30 seconds. Add soya sauce and pepper, mix and  cover wok for 30 seconds. Take off the fire and serve with grilled fish or meat with rice or noodles.

Stir-fried Garlic Kankun
Stir-fried Garlic Kankun

Salade Niçoise, Controversial but Oh so Good!

We are in the midst of a mini heatwave in Sri Lanka. Now don’t laugh because you reckon Sri Lanka is around 30 degrees all year around. You are very wrong. Hot days during the monsoon season are hotter than during the dry season…why? I haven’t got clue but anyway it’s hot and I’m craving salad food.

Salade Niçoise has to be one of my favourite salads ever. It is yummy and easy to make in Sri Lanka because the ingredients are all available.

However, when we ¬†talk of ingredients for a ‘true’ Salade Ni√ßoise¬†(born in the city of Nice in the South of France) we are entering hot water. What should and shouldn’t be included – I am easy on this. It’s a French dish so stick to French ingredients and those which are fresh and readily available where you are. Are boiled vegetables acceptable – perhaps they weren’t in the original recipe but I like french beans and baby potatoes in the salad; preferably cooked! One thing I feel strongly about is the tuna issue – canned or fresh? I have eaten both and must admit to much¬†preferring¬†the canned tuna here. If I wanted to eat seared tuna steak I would have. It should be (in my opinion) good quality tuna steak (yep the expensive stuff) in OIL, not brine or that cardinal sin – tuna chunks in brine. Oil is important because it flavours the tuna you could even use use it to dress the salad. The rest of the ingredients are cheap so splash out on decent tuna and olives (and anchovies if you use them – I don’t if I have tuna…I do replace the tuna with them sometimes depending on my mood).

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of good quality tuna steak, preferably in olive oil but any oil will do.
  • 250 g small or baby potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into bite-sized chunks or unpeeled, boiled & halved if baby variety.
  • 250 g french beans, boiled
  • Some lettuce – the crispier the better in my view, to use as a base, roughly chopped
  • 2 large juicy tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 3 nearly hard-boiled eggs, I like the yolk not quite set, quartered
  • Olives (as many as you want) –¬†Ni√ßoise or kalamata work well. Please no purple, stuffed or marinated crappy ones.
  • Capers (as many as you want) – optional but choose the little ones if using
  • Anchovies (optional – use good quality ones if using)

For the dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or use a bit from the ¬†canned tuna if good quality oil if you like it fishy)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • salt and pepper

Method:

For the dressing: mix the minced garlic with salt and pound in a pestle and mortar. Add olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and mustard and mix well. Some use fresh herbs such as tarragon , basil or oregano but you can’t get them easily in Sri Lanka so I don’t.

Arrange the lettuce, potatoes and french beans on a plate. Top this with the tomatoes, onion, tuna (broken into chunks), olives, eggs, anchovies (if using) and capers. Drizzle over the dressing.

Salade Nicoise
Salade Nicoise

Bon appetit!!