Cucumber Sambol

There’s this Indian cucumber salad recipe that I make all the time (from this little gem of a cookbook), that packs quite a punch of heat.  I tend to forget to tell people that it’s loaded with Serrano peppers and so when their mouths start to burn, they assume a curry is to blame they eat the cucumber salad in an attempt to cool down.  Oops.

Similarly, Sri Lankan sambols, loosely translated as condiments, are generally quite hot.  One of the Sri Lankan cookbooks I read had the following explanation: sambols allow you make your rice and curry somewhat mild to appease heat-sensitive diners; those who like a lot of heat can add the sambol to kick things up a notch or two.  Everybody’s happy.

A somewhat standard cucumber salad gets the Sri Lankan touch by adding some fried dried shrimp.  I’d bought these shrimp back when I was cooking my way through Korea, but never used them.  Luckily, Sri Lanka has shown me their versatility (the curried cabbage I made last week also used them).  I was worried they’d make the sambol a little too funky/fishy, but the quick fry mellowed out the shrimp flavor quite a bit.  I’d started with a reduced amount of the shrimp and after a quick taste test, immediately fried up some more.

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Cucumber Sambol

Ingredients:

* 1 large cucumber, peeled and finely diced
* 1/2 large onion, finely diced
* 2 hot peppers (I used one Serrano and one red Jalapeno for color), minced
* 1 Tablespoon lime juice
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 Tablespoon minced dried shrimp

Directions:

Place the cucumber, onion, peppers, lime juice, sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

Heat the oil in a small sauce or frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and fry until golden. Remove from heat and pour the shrimp and oil over the cucumbers.

Mix well and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Coconut Rotti- Sri Lankan Coconut Rice Flatbread

Oh, how I love finding naturally gluten-free breads and desserts from these countries I’m visiting.  The recipes are special namely for what they don’t have, like a long list of ingredients like xanthan gum or egg replacer.  They make life so much easier for me, and I imagine, you too.  Even if you’re not gluten-free yourself, I’m guessing you probably know somebody who is.  And I know having them over for meals can be, well, a little bit tricky.  I actually feel guilty when a dinner host has to make special accommodations for me or run to the health food store to buy special ingredients.  That’s where foods like rotti can save the day.

Rottis are a pan-fried soft bread, similar to Indian nan, that are made with toasted rice flour.  Even with some coconut thrown into the mix, I found them super versatile. I ate them alone with a smidgen of butter, dipped them into extra curry sauce, used one to make an open-faced sandwich.  All great options.

The best part about this recipe?  It has only four ingredients.  And two of them are things you without a doubt already have: water and salt.  The only thing that makes these slightly time consuming is toasting the rice flour and coconut.  But you don’t need any rise time for this bread, so I’d say it all just about evens out.

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Coconut Rotti- Sri Lankan Coconut Rice Bread

Yield: 6 rotti

Ingredients:

* 2 cups rice flour
* 1/2 cup unsweetened, dried and shredded coconut
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* approximately 1 to 1-1/2 cups water

Directions:

Place the rice flour in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir the flour continuously to ensure even toasting. Remove from heat when the rice flour has darkened several shades and emits a toasted aroma. Place the toasted rice flour in a large bowl.

In the same skillet, toast the coconut, stirring constantly, just until it begins to turn golden (note: toasting the coconut second will help unstick any toasted rice flour that's stuck in the grooves of your pan if you have a textured pan like me). Add the coconut to the rice flour and add salt. Stir to combine. Add just enough water to make a soft dough. Knead it until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. To test the moisture level, roll a bit of the dough in your hand and press it flat. It should easily stay in one piece but it should also have some cracking around the edges. If your edges are totally smooth, you've added too much water. In this case you can add a bit more un-toasted rice flour to the mixture.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball. Place each ball between two pieces of waxed paper and use your palm or a rolling pin to flatten to your desired thickness. If you're a rotti newbie like me you might want to keep them on the thicker side; if you make them too thin, the can break easily.

Fry on a preheated, lightly greased griddle or frypan over medium to medium-high heat until it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden.

Orange Spice Cooler

I’ve come to realize that drink recipes are some of the most popular posts here on Girl Cooks World.  I guess it’s probably because they’re an easy way to try something new and exotic without a whole lot of time, effort or money.  So in the spirit of giving the people what they want, here’s a quick drink recipe.

Orange juice is complemented by a light cardamom and clove syrup and finished with a sprinkling of basil seeds as a garnish.  This was my first time using basil seeds but they acted quite similar to chia seeds; within a couple minutes of soaking they become rather gelatinous, just like the chia seeds in chia fresca.

These little black seeds pack a health punch as well: various sources online claimed that basil seeds were good for digestion, detox, weight loss and treating colds and respiratory disorders.  Not too shabby for a pretty little garnish…

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Orange Spice Cooler

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup sugar
* 3 cups water
* 1 clove
* 2 cardamom pods
* 3 cups orange juice
* Basil (tulsi) seeds, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Combine the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil with the cardamom and cloves. Simmer until reduced by a third.

Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature. Discard the cloves and cardamom pods and add the orange juice. Refrigerate until well chilled. Float some basil seeds as a garnish.

Adapted from Sri Lankan Cooking

Sweet Jellied Coconut Squares- Coconut Sweetmeat

With all the Asian and Pacific coconut desserts out there (mochi, bibingka, haupia, etc., etc.), it’s always surprising when a recipe using a similar list of ingredients to many other desserts results in something that seems entirely different and unique.  Such was the case for these coconut squares; they were thick, coconutty and creamy with a unique jellied texture.  For those of you who are familiar with Asian/Pacific desserts, they had a similar mouthfeel to Chinese Steamed Rice Cakes (Pak Tong Koh?) but with a coconut flavor similar to Hawaiian Haupia.

The original recipe called for the cashews to be mixed into the coconut squares but I found that they were distracting to the otherwise creamy and smooth texture.  I would have preferred them sprinkled on top with the coconut, and so I changed the recipe below to reflect that.

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Sweet Jellied Coconut Squares

Yield: About 25 coconut squares

Ingredients:

* 2 cans (15 ounces) coconut milk
* 1/4 cup maple syrup
* 6 ounces grated jaggery (this ended up being about 1-1/3 cup)
* Pinch salt
* 1-1/3 cup rice flour
* Cashews (optional)
* Toasted coconut (optional)

Directions:

Butter or grease a 9-inch square baking pan and set aside.

Combine the coconut milk, maple syrup, jaggery and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Put the rice flour in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and gradually whisk in the coconut milk mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Cook until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Pour into the prepared pan and flatten. Sprinkle with the chopped cashews and toasted coconut, if desired. Let cool to room temperature, cover with wax paper and refrigerate until cool. When cold, cut into desired size.

Adapted from ted from Sri Lankan Cooking