What I said two posts ago, while reviewing Mira Manek’s first book Saffron Soul, holds true here as well. The guys at Quarto are seriously, seriously (yes, it’s a double) getting things right. I was very curious and very nervous about Sri Lanka: The Cookbook, thinking that I would not be able to give an objective review.
Perhaps ‘objective’ is not the right word to use here, but let’s leave it. When I received it a few days ago, what I saw when I opened the package just made my day.
I wrote to Jessie at Quarto almost immediately with a ‘how beautiful this book is’ e-mail, which I normally don’t do, at least not that quickly. This time round though I couldn’t contain my excitement. It just looks stunning. (As I write this I might take a photo of the book myself, just to show you the texture of the cover – another good excuse to bust out my macro lens. And I did.)
Even though I moved around a lot, and lived in different places for around a decade, I don’t like to call myself a seasoned traveller, because I’m not. I have a working knowledge of European food, but I have never ventured too much into the Asian food culture, and this food culture is vast.
Sri Lanka, which coincidentally is also an island, is far from homogeneous. It’s home to many ethnic groups, and the food of the north and south of the island is diverse, absorbing influences from India, the Middle East, the Far East and also from the island’s numerous invaders. (Does this remind you a little bit of a tiny rock in the middle of the Mediterranean?)
“My wife and I have lived in London for many years, but I was born a Tamil in the Jaffna peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka, and Niranjala is a Sinhalese from the south. Between us, we have a deep understanding and love of the unique styles of cooking that together make up our island’s cuisine. We hope this provides a record of Sri Lankan history and diversity for generations to come.”
Prakash K Sivanathan
Sri Lanka is a little country but it has strong cooking traditions, which is showcased so beautifully in this cookbook. There’s everything you could want to learn to make in this comprehensive collection of recipes, from hoppers (rice pancakes), fiery sambols (salads and relishes), aromatic spiced curries, chutneys, pickles and vada (fried snacks). Most of the ingredients can be found in your local big supermarket, although for some you would need to go to speciality shops.*
Kim Lightbody’s photography as always, doesn’t disappoint, grabbing you by the face and making you wish that you had a dish of Masala Thosai (potato masala pancakes) together with Maalu Kirata (coconut fish curry) to dig into. Plus there’s a 100 recipes so there’s plenty to choose from.
Note on the authors: Prakash K Sivanathan & Niranjala M Ellawala ran an award-winning restaurant named Elephant Walk in North London for eight years until 2012. They are now cookery teachers, and also host workshops and supper clubs.
*My Maltese readers could find sourcing some of the ingredients somewhat difficult. There are alternatives though, so message me if you have the book but find that you’re stuck.
Sri Lanka: The Cookbook by Prakash K Sivanathan & Niranjala M Ellawala is published by Frances Lincoln, part of The Quarto Group, and is out on the 6th May, 2017.
Flexibound & eBook, RRP £20
Photography copyright belongs to Kim Lightbody. All images in this review are used with permission by the publisher.
The close up photo of the cover, showing the texture, was taken by me.
Sri Lanka: The Cookbook was kindly sent by the publisher for review, and is out on the 6th May, 2017.
This is not a sponsored post.