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

Spicy Cashew Coconut Chicken

I’m just going to say it straight up: this is definitely my favorite Sri Lankan recipe so far and quite possibly my favorite recipe this month.  Chicken gets marinated in a spicy coconut cashew paste, browned on the stove, and then gets finished off by a simmer in a coconut milk.

It’s really the perfect dish to serve at a dinner party: exotic enough to impress your foodie friends, but familiar enough to appeal to non-adventurous eaters and kids. It’s also a perfect match for that Sri Lankan rice  that I posted a couple days ago.

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Spicy Cashew Coconut Chicken

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup roasted cashews
* 1/4 cup toasted, unsweetened, dried coconut
* 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
* 1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
* 2 Tablespoons water
* 1 teaspoon cayenne
* 2 teaspoons ground fennel
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
* 1 Serrano pepper, quartered lengthwise
* 1/2 cinnamon stick
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
* 2 pounds boneless chicken (I used thighs)
* 2 Tablespoons oil
* 1 can (~15 ounces) coconut milk
* Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

To prepare the marinade, grind the cashews, coconut, onion, tomatoes and water in a blender or food processor until it becomes a thick, gritty paste. Remove to a large bowl and add the cayenne, fennel, cumin, fenugreek, Serrano pepper, cinnamon stick and fresh ginger and stir to combine. Add the chicken and coat each piece well. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for an hour.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown each side, about 5-6 minutes each side. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has mostly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Sri Lankan Cooking