Inspired by watching the Rick Stein Far Eastern Odyssey on TV, I went out bought the book in order to have a go at some of his recipes at home. I will go deeper into my view on the whole book in another post, but for now I want to give an account of my attempt at one of the simpler (but still tasty) recipes in the book.
For people with a decent pantry who have stocked up for home cooking, most of the ingredients are quite accessible. I will be honest enough to admit that I couldn’t get hold of pandan leaves or Maldive fish flakes and this will no doubt have had an impact on the final flavour but I still feel that my attempt was just about on the money in terms of ingredients used! As I knew that I hadn’t got the right salt balance through missing the fish flakes, I added a bit more salt, but I hadn’t a clue about how to replace the pandan leaves!
Having not had the chance to visit Sri Lanka, I have to confess I was a touch reliant on my understanding of the flavours being used and so I cannot say if I made it ‘traditionally’ or not in the end! I can safely say that the dish is very good value if you are not having to purchase all the spices for the first time and clearly appeals to vegetarians with the main element being potatoes.
Starting the cooking process, it was clear that preparation is key as the majority of the cooking time is actually doing the prep work. After boiling the kettle and putting the baby new potatoes in salty water, it was time to get chopping with the onions, chillies, garlic and cinnamon stick all needing to be chopped finely in order to ensure that everything was at hand when it got a bit more hectic during the cooking! This was certainly not a tricky process and although my knife work could certainly be improved it was something that even aspiring young cooks might have a bash at!
Moving onto the spices and the process was a bit trickier. I don’t have a spice grinder (please don’t lose all respect for me now!) so I had to rely on using my pestle and mortar instead to get all the yellow mustard seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds to the absolute perfect consistency. As you can see from the photos, I feel my two spice mixes didn’t look too far away from being a fine powder and looked coarsely ground. I will confess that, unusually for me, I was a bit slap dash with my amounts of the different spices and this may be a reason for the dish not turning out as well as hoped, so I would implore anyone giving this a try to keep to the suggested amounts.
With everything ready, and my potatoes still hot and nicely drained, the actual cooking time was about 7 minutes. Starting with a bit of vegetable oil heated up, throw in the chilli and onion and let them brown nicely before throwing in your cinnamon stick and curry leaves. Keep frying and then throw in everything else before a bit of water and finally some lime juice and it all comes together rather nicely. One thing that was apparent because it was such a quick dish was that making flavour changes was not going to be easy as everything was happening at the same time.
When coming to the key point of the dish (the eating!) I found that I had made the curry too bitter for mine and Charlotte’s taste. I feel I had perhaps managed to overcook the onions and chilli, which of course helps to create a bitter taste and then on top of this I managed to not get the spice balance right. We had added a few more chillies to the dish (for regular readers you will know how much Charlotte and I enjoy our spice!) and this certainly helped the dish pack a punch. As well as this, it was rather filling and although we added rice it would have quite easily done on its own.
All in all, the dish had potential that I hadn’t fully realised in my cooking.
Despite this degree of failure, I still very much enjoyed the cooking process and I am certainly going to try again at getting this dish 100% right! After all, cooking is always a learning process.
Categories: Cooking Experiences