Tag Archives: sri lanka

Ten things I love AND hate about Sri Lanka

No football here today. My apologies if you ventured on here to find a football recipe today. It’s not going to happen – I’m too sore. Rest assured that I will try to put aside my prejudices in time for the quarter finals. Don’t be expecting any German or Portuguese food yet though. These things take time. Instead I’ll give you ten things that I love AND hate about Sri Lanka (in no particular order and don’t be too alarmed by the fact that the list is identical)

My beautiful tuk tuk

My beautiful tuk tuk

LOVELY

  • Rice and curry (because it is damn tasty)
  • Having the largest amount of public holidays of any other country in the world (go figure)
  • The Indian Ocean (I can stare at it for hours, relax and rejuvenate)
  • Complete strangers smiling at you (cheer you up on a bad day)
  • Wonderful abundance of wildlife (fascinating)
  • Buses available to go pretty much anywhere 24×7 (useful)
  • Coconuts and coconut trees (raw material for almost everything; coir, food (the delicious pol sambol and cocunut milk for curries), oil, toddy and arrack)
  • All day power cuts (perfect excuse to do nothing all day)
  • Many different climates in one country (incredibly interesting and beautiful)
  • Tuk tuks (versatile, quick; not to mention the cool factor)

NASTY

  • Rice and curry (because sometimes you just fancy a pizza for lunch/dinner)
  • Having the largest amount of public holidays of any other country in the world (very annoying when you have foreign deadlines and you’re working when the rest of the country isn’t)
  • The Indian Ocean (tsunami 2004 – not a good moment and still freaks me out occasionally when the ocean is rough)
  • Complete strangers smiling at you (hugely irritating when trying to go about your business quietly and anonymously)
  • Wonderful abundance of wildlife (one word – BUGS)
  • Buses available to go pretty much anywhere 24×7 (noisy and smelly, some with exhausts capable of knocking you out for a few hours)
  • Coconuts and coconut trees (dangerous to pedestrians, kills quite a number of people annually)
  • All day power cuts (see foreign deadlines above plus the fact that your freezer defrosts and you have to throw out your food, not to mention being bloody hot)
  • Many different climates in one country (always having to travel with an umbrella and jacket in the Hill Country)
  • Tuk tuks (can be dangerous and smelly in Colombo too…I’ve travelled in some where I was actually surprised my foot didn’t go through the rusty floor). This is getting better now in the capital with some metered cabs but still dodgy.

Saying all that I do love the place and the people, otherwise I wouldn’t be here 🙂

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Euro 2012 Football Drinks – Ceylon Sailor

Forget the food tonight for Holland vs. Germany – I am way too nervous.

Try this unusual cocktail recipe using Ceylon arrack (a Sri Lankan spirit) and warming spices.

Ceylon Sailor - courtesy of BBC Goodfood

Ceylon Sailor – courtesy of BBC Goodfood

Ingredients:

  • 3 sprigs fresh coriander
  • 4 chunks of fresh ripe mango
  • 35ml/1¼fl oz Ceylon arrack
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp mango liqueur
  • 1 tsp mango chutney
  • slice fresh mango, for garnish

Preparation method:

  1. Place the coriander and mango into a cocktail shaker and crush with the end of a rolling pin.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and a handful of ice and shake hard. Strain the cocktail into a small wine glass.

I’ll be having a few of these I think!!

Sri Lankan Arrack

Sri Lankan Arrack

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Looking for German and European products in Sri Lanka?

I’m pretty much an expat. When I tell people that I live in Sri Lanka the unanimous reply I usually get is “Oh wow you’re so lucky!”, followed by exclamations about how wonderful it must be to live in the sunshine all year round. I’m even convinced my friends and family who know me think that I spend all my time swimming up to pool-side bars (well err… they do know me ;-)) and sipping cocktails in the sun under coconut trees. Not quite (I avoid going underneath coconut trees because falling coconuts actually injure and kill a lot of people per annum in this country!). No – I actually spend most of my time inside under the fan working alone making my living just as others do.

Don’t get me wrong  living in Sri Lanka is great but there are drawbacks too. The main one is missing family and friends  back home and for me a close second second is food-sickness…not of the poisoning kind no, but missing food from back home, cheese in particular.

“That’s not so bad” I hear you shout. Yes I know I can order things from the internet or take a weekly trip to Colombo to shop but frankly because of the import prices and a 50% chance of your parcel ending up with your neighbours, the postman, at the other  end of country or in your dog before you get home we just don’t do it.

Anyway this means us expats are always on the look out for foreign goods to buy (or make) to make our lives even better than it already is. In my home town of Aluthgama we are extremely luckly to have the wonderful Mr. Nishan Fernando in our lives. He owns and runs the Nebula Supermarket (which also has it’s own Facebook page) and goes abroad once a year to source any products that the expat community desire. In return his many friends and expats bring things back for him too.

Nebula German & European Supermarket in Aluthgama, Sri Lanka

Nebula German & European Supermarket in Aluthgama, Sri Lanka

Inside Nebula German & European Supermarket

Inside Nebula German & European Supermarket

The spacious and friendly supermarket stocks everything but is famous all over Sri Lanka for stocking German and other European products that are difficult to find elsewhere on the island, such as German pate, Dutch mayonnaise, Collmans mustard from the UK and countless other things you may miss whilst you are in Sri Lanka.

Specific German & UK products currently stocked are:

Leberwurst (liver pate) – this is one of the absolute best-sellers and great on crackers

Leberwurst (liver pate)

Leberwurst (liver pate)

Gravy powders and seasoning mixes

Gravy powders and seasoning mixes

Lyoner

Schinkenwurst (pork sausage)
Fruhstuck fleisch
Bierwurst (beer sausage)
Jagdwurst (sausage)
Dr.Oetker pudding mix
Collmans English mustard
Dijon mustard
Herrmans mayonnaise
Rotkohl (pickled red cabbage)
Pickled onions, gherkins, capers etc.
Weinsauerkraut (Wine sauerkraut)
Weisswurst (white sausage, white pudding)
Frankfurters
Marmite
Vegemite
Campbells condensed soups
Fleisch suppe. (canned meat soups & soup powders)

German sausages

German sausages

Delikatess sauce zum braten (gravy powders & spice mixes)
BISTO gravy granules
OXO cubes
Maggi and Knorr Fix products
Bitter aus krautern (Salad mixes)
Tandil washing powder (German washing powder)
Sil (German detergent)
Teppichreiniger (German cleaner)
Haribo sweets
Salt sticks, crisps, chips & chocolates

Various cheeses

Fresh brown bread, baguettes and buns
And MUCH more…..

OK I suppose life as an expat in Sri Lanka has it’s advantages too 🙂 – I’ll leave you with some more product pictures. Please feel free to contact Nishan through the Facebook page or his website.

Plenty of pasta to choose from

Plenty of pasta to choose from

AND loads of pasta sauces and dried mixes

AND loads of pasta sauces and dried mixes

German detergents

German detergents

All sorts of condiments

All sorts of condiments

German biscuits sit alongside Sri Lankan favourites

German biscuits sit alongside Sri Lankan favourites

Many types of Nescafe coffee

Many types of Nescafe coffee

And your pets have not been left out!!

And your pets have not been left out!!

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The Enchanting Tea Country – Ceylon Tea Trails 3 Hospitality

This is the third and final instalment of my trip memoirs to the Sri Lankan Tea Country and staying at Ceylon Tea Trails . The other two blog articles can be read here and here, where I talked about winning the Sri Lanka in Style prize, the wonderful Castlereagh Lake area (near Hatton) where we stayed and the breathtaking scenery and flora. Now I’ll be waxing lyrical about the beautiful Castlereagh Bungalow property, the exceptional hospitality and how well we were looked after from the minute we arrived to the second we (sadly) departed.

We were just time for that great tradition “high tea” on our arrival and that certainly did not disappoint…with delicately scented Orange Pekoe tea (adding milk is a crime! We were however only to find this out on our second day!), chocolate cake slices, mini lemon meringue pies, mini carrot cake pieces, delectable home-made scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam to mini cucumber, egg & cress and cheese salad sandwiches…we didn’t even have time to explore our home for the next 2 days before tucking in!

High tea at Ceylon Tea Trails

High tea at Ceylon Tea Trails

After being rejuvenated it was time to explore the bungalow.  Dating back around 90 years, the lodge, or bungalow, nestles in a leafy forest glen, with the appearance of a charming single-storey colonial house. It wasn’t grand, as that would look out-of-place; it was more quaint and cabin-chic; wooden panel floors, with cream walls, a green corrugated iron roof and many picture-frame windows, all wide-open, with a ‘country-chintz’ style of décor (as Luxury Explorer so brilliantly puts it).

From the main (road side) you enter a welcoming reception room which doubles as reading room with an open hearth.

Castereagh Bungalow Reception & Reading Room

Castereagh Bungalow Reception & Reading Room

Lovely antiques and decor in the Castlereagh Bungalow Reception room

Lovely antiques and decor in the Castlereagh Bungalow Reception room

The individual guestrooms are to the right and the sitting room and  dining rooms are to the left which both lead to the veranda which overlooks the pool which in turn looks out over Castlereagh Lake.

The sitting room is extremely homely and it is easy to spend a lot of time here reading your favourite book and drinking your preferred pre-dinner (or post-dinner 😉 ) drink…

Castlereagh Bungalow Sitting Room

Castlereagh Bungalow Sitting Room

Serve yourself to drinks; a pre-dinner aperitif or a brandy to heat you up over a rainy night playing boardgames in front of the fire

Serve yourself to drinks; a pre-dinner aperitif or a brandy to heat you up over a rainy night playing boardgames in front of the fire

The Castlereagh Bungalow has 5 guestrooms and although we were in the smallest (The Tate Room) it was still enormous. The bedroom boasts a four poster bed  which would accommodate two of the tallest North Europeans with ease. The bed had so many pillows and cushions I lost count before falling asleep. There is also a huge wardrobe and a large writing desk overlooking the lake, should you feel inclined to do any work at all and a comfortable chaise longue to generally do very little in.

The best bit, however, was the bathroom…

Tate Room bathroom - Castlereagh Bungalow

Tate Room bathroom – Castlereagh Bungalow

It’s the little touches that makes this place so special…

Complimentary Tea Toiletries

Complimentary Tea Toiletries

Once cleaned up after the dusty train journey it was time for drinks and dinner. Both were served on the veranda because of the warm weather! It was still cooler than down in the Low South West and much more bearable. We did not need jackets nor the fires lighting (which I privately thought was a shame!) .

Private table set at dusk

Private table set at dusk

Just what the doctor ordered

Just what the doctor ordered

Although fairly informal (thankfully with no dress code), the first dinner was a grand five course affair:

Cream of Asparagus soup with truffle oil (with a selection of home-made brown and white crusty rolls)

Apricot and rocket salad with mandarin pieces and a blue cheese and walnut dressing (this was beautiful!!)

Second course

Second course

Then we had deep-fried cheese (I think Brie or Camembert) with a berry coulis/compot type-thing…excuse me for not remembering exactly – I was enjoying myself too much!!

For mains – a fillet steak (mine medium rare) in a red wine & taragon jus with roasted vegetables and potatoes dauphinoise…BY FAR the best steak  I have ever  had in Sri Lanka!

Main course

Main course

All I remember  is that the desert was more-ish (something with chocolate, fruits & tea!) – I was so full by this point I couldn’t eat another thing. Talk about being spoilt. There’s me looking like the cat who got the cream:

Happy and stuffed

Happy and stuffed

With such an enormous amount of food in me and exhausted from travelling there was nothing more to do than retire to the most comfortable bed complete with Egyptian cotton sheets for the night (ah bliss).

Breakfast the next day was equally scrumptious. Gallons of tea followed by a fruit plate so well-presented  you almost felt ashamed to eat it.

Tropical Fruit Plate

Tropical Fruit Plate

This was followed by a full English, which I could not finish (I would like to see somebody try!!):

  • 2 eggs cooked how you like
  • 3 rashers of bacon (cooked crispy…they ask)
  • 1 huge herby sausage (I gave half mine away…it was massive!)
  • 1 crispy potato cake with herbs

AND all this came with croissants, rolls (white, brown, crusty & soft and some sweet pastries)

Obviously if you can only stomach cornflakes in the morning they will cater for you too 😉

You need some exercise after that  so we went for a long walk only to find that on our return they had laid out the tables for lunch (!!)

Lunch table

Lunch table

With a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio on offer and three courses:

  • Cauliflower and cheese cream soup
  • Grilled garlic jumbo prawns with a salad of iceberg, rocket and tri-coloured peppers
  • Apple crumble with home-made vanilla ice cream

Who was I to refuse??

I am quite embarrassed to admit that our high tea on that day was served at 5.30pm instead of 4pm and our Sri Lankan Rice & Curry at 9.30pm instead of 8.30pm 😀

More food??

More food??

All this was accommodated with a smile – hospitality at it’s best! I WILL return.

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The Enchanting Tea Country – Ceylon Tea Trails 1

I’ve been on a trip…a trip of a lifetime.

A few months ago I entered a photography competition through Sri Lanka in Style and amazingly enough I won!! Needless to say I was surprised, very excited and completely bowled over. The photo below was my entry:

Business after the tsunami

Business after the tsunami

Entitled “Business after the tsunami”, this photo encapsulates the Sri Lankan spirit; to keep going when things are tough. It was taken on Beruwela beach about one month after the tsunami. The thambili (coconut water) seller does not really look happy but he knows that thirst must be still be quenched and that his and his family’s livelihood must continue.

Anyway, the first prize was a two-night all-inclusive stay at Ceylon tea Trails.

From the Ceylon Tea Trails website: “Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort connected by hiking trails, situated in the heart of Sri Lanka’s stunning tea country. The award-winning boutique resort comprises of four colonial tea planters’ bungalows, offering gracious living thanks to butler service, gourmet cuisine & authentic period furnishings. Guests are absorbed into life on a working tea estate, whilst reveling in five-star luxury.

I had only been to the  Hill (and Tea) Country in Sri Lanka once before so needless to say I was extremely excited. What greeted us on our arrival was beyond our expectations.

The view from the Castlereagh Bungalow overlooking Castlereagh lake was stunning:

Spectacular views over Castlereagh Lake

Spectacular views over Castlereagh Lake

Pool at Castlereagh Bungalow

Pool at Castlereagh Bungalow

Castlereagh Bungalow @ Ceylon Tea Trails

Castlereagh Bungalow @ Ceylon Tea Trails

Castlereagh Bungalow

Built in 1925, Altitude: 4,025 ft (1,227 metres).

The actual bungalow lies nestled on the banks of Castlereagh Lake in a woody glade and is perhaps the most romantic of the four Ceylon Tea Trails bungalows. It is also the most remote and is reached along a picturesque and somewhat bumpy road (which adds to the ambiance!) from Dick Oya (near Hatton) around the lake and over the reservoir. The road passes through tiny villages and tea plantations where pickers are busy at work in their bright attire. Whilst driving through these areas you are greeted by warm genuine smiles and waving children.

Tea everywhere

Tea everywhere

Lush green tea fields

Lush green tea fields

Smiles all around - tea pickers

Smiles all around – tea pickers

Ancient Hindu Kovil (temple) on an island in Castlereagh lake

Ancient Hindu Kovil (temple) on an island in Castlereagh lake

I have much much more to share with you, awesome scenic photo’s of flora, pictures of the bungalows’ interior, a bit of history and some tea-infused recipes…please stay tuned 🙂

I’ll leave you  with this for now…courtesy of Tea Trails…

Luxury in the Tea Country of Sri Lanka

Luxury in the Tea Country of Sri Lanka

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HAPPY VESAK!

Now unless you live in a mainly Buddhist country like Sri Lanka or are a devout follower of Buddhism, you’re probably wondering “what is she on about now?” when I happily wish you and your family a happy and peaceful vesak. Today is Vesak Poya (full moon) Day. It is probably the most important festival of the year in the Buddhist calendar. Buddhists commemorate the three most important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this Vesak Poya Day (always the first full moon in the month of May). First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gautama which took place under the arbour of Sat trees in in Lumbini Park on the Nepalese border where Queen Mahamaya gave birth to him. The second event was Siddharta Gautama’s supreme enlightenment as the Buddha, under the Bodhi tree in Gaya. The third event was Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana (passing away) over 2500 years ago at Kusinagar.

The Buddha teaching

The Teaching Buddha

Apart from Sri Lanka, many Asian countries including India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Nepal also celebrate Vesak. In Sri Lanka many religious activities are organised during this period such as Sil campaigns (whole day worship & prayer at temples with devotees all dressed in white), Bodhi Poojas (giving of alms; flowers, fruit, food for the Buddha), Dansalas (free gifts of food, coffee, tea and refreshments to people, in particular travellers on their way to worship at temples), Vesak devotional songs (Bakthi Gee), pandols (thoran) and lanterns . Lanterns are hung up in every home bringing the smallest villages to life and stunning larger displays can be seen in the major cities.

Vesak lantern

Vesak lanterns

On this holy day the Dana (food) plays an important role. Every devotee gives alms. This symbolises sharing the joy and peace with people. Richer members of the community will usually donate food or money to poorer families and societies or just groups of friends will have collected money from the community in order to organise a local dansal (see above). During the Vesak Festival week, the selling of alcohol and meat is usually forbidden and most shops are closed for at least two days.

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What makes Sri Lankan food so special?

In spite of its small size, Sri Lanka boasts an amazing variety of food and styles of cooking.
History:
The island has a rich heritage of indigenous dishes and its regional cooking is strongly individual and varied. For example, Kandyan Sinhalese cooking, with its emphasis on hill country vegetables and fruits; coastal cooking, making the best of the abundant seafood with which the land is blessed; Tamil cooking, closely linked to that of southern India, which is especially prevalent in Jaffna, in the north.In Sri Lanka, as in any other country, the most typical food is cooked in the villages – getting precise recipes is almost impossible. They don’t cook by a cookbook. A pinch of this, a handful of that, a good swirl of salty water; taste, consider, adjust seasoning. That’s the way Sinhalese women cook, and no two women cook exactly alike. Even using the same ingredients, the interpretation of a recipe is completely individual. Ask a cook how much of a certain ingredient she uses and she’ll say, ‘This much’, showing you with her hand. You watch, make notes and try to achieve the same results by trial and error. And when you arrive at the correct formula, write it down!!

Spices

In addition to regional characteristics, some of the most popular dishes reflect influences from other lands. After a hundred years or so it does not matter that this or that style of cooking was introduced by foreigners who came and stayed, either as traders or conquerors – Indian, Arabs, Malays, Moors, Portuguese, Dutch and British. The dishes they contributed have been adapted to local ingredients, but retain their original character. They are not presented as Sinhalese dishes but accepted and enjoyed as part of the richly varied cuisine.

The influence of the Muslims and Malays is responsible for the use of certain flavourings such as saffron and rose water and the spicy korma, pilau and biryani which are Sri Lankan only by adoption.

When the Portuguese ruled Sri Lanka for 150 years in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they left behind words which have worked into the language and customs which are very much a part of rural and urban life. Many recipes end with an instruction to ‘temper’ the dish. This comes from the Portuguese word, temperado, which means to fry and season. The Portuguese also contributed a number of sweetmeats which are popular to this day. These are served at celebrations (Sri Lankans are enthusiastic about celebrating every happy occasion) and people take enormous pride in old family recipes, which they guard with zealous care.

Then came the Dutch, and though their rule ended after 138 years, their descendants stayed on in this prosperous land. They too brought with them recipes laden with butter and eggs in true Dutch tradition, but in the spice-rich land of their adoption they took on new flavour with the addition of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace. The traditional Ceylon Christmas cake is a fine example of this, a fruit cake which stands above all others for flavour and richness.

Today, many travellers, tourists, reviewers and expats regularly rave about the Sri Lankan cuisine. I have found some great links about Sri Lankan food that people have written (some famous & some not-so-famous) from across the world that I have felt worthy of a mention:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Sri Lankan recipes

Sri Lankan Food: 40 of the Island’s Best Dishes

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