The best of Sri Lanka’s fruits!

When you first say Sri Lanka, you think of tropical fruits of course (this might be for foodies only…)!

Here’s a list of the fruits we tried during our last vacation there in December, from my favorite ones to the one fruit that I hated (yes, such thing exists).

Start with the coconut water!

Start with the coconut water! 

King coconut picture

… And ready to enjoy!

Thambili – King Coconut

On our first boat ride, in Beruwala, we tried the king coconut. Oh my God, that’s a delicious fruit! The vendor will make some holes in it first and you drink the coconut water with a straw, then the vendor will cut it for you and make you a spoon out of the peel so you can eat the flesh. It is very different from the coconut we know and oh-how-yummier!

Did I mention that you can add some rum to it? 😀

cut King coconuts picture

Oh… And the mess we left behind us

Pineapple

Pineapples were always available. We were having them for breakfast and for dinner. Beruwala’s pineapples were not that special, but the ones we had in everywhere else were amazing. The best ones we had were the ones we bought from the local market in Kandy. For 1$, you get a baby pineapple cut and ready to eat.

Red pineapple in a Spice garden

Red pineapple in a Spice garden

We also discovered the red pineapples (we didn’t have the chance to try them though). Apparently, these are the pineapples that help people lose weight, and not the regular ones. Bad news for you?!

Avocado

My sister and I ordered an avocado salad in a restaurant. That was the best avocado I ever had! What a buttery feeling, what an amazing flavor! And then you ask yourself what the hell are those avocadoes they sell in here? 😦

Avocado salad picture

The best of the best

Mango

Even though it was not mango’s season, we found some delicious mangoes on a street cart. Yeah, we had some “Are you out of your mind” looks from people with us on the tour, but the mangoes were worth anything!

We were able to find some mangoes in the market as well, but they were not as good as the first ones we tried. And guess what? For 1 dollar, you can have 4 small mangoes. Hmmm!

Banana

A boring fruit, you say? Well, we’ve tried more than 5 new kinds including red bananas and small bananas, and they’re really good. All of them. And when fried, they’re delicious!

Jackfruit

A new fruit that I never knew existed. Raw and ripe, we were told that it tastes like a cross between mango and pineapple: I was not very impressed.

Jackfruit on a tree picture

Jackfruit on a tree

But the surprising fact is that young jackfruit is used as a vegetable for cooking, and I’ve read that it tastes like pulled pork. Huh?!

... and an open jackfruit

… and an open jackfruit (source: friendfortheride.wordpress.com)

Papaya

I am not a big fan of papaya, but everyone agreed that papayas were good. They were also available in almost every buffet we went to. So if you’re a fan, and you’re heading there, they should be on your list!

A small Banana, Nellis and pineapple (with some other delicacies as well)

A small Banana, Nellis and pineapple (with some other delicacies as well)

Other fruits

In addition, there were guavas, passion fruits, rambutans, watermelons, in addition to a small bitter fruit, “nelli”, that I hated and could not eat. Seriously, how can anyone eat something that sour and bitter? Erghhh

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Foul Recipe with Tahini

Foul with tahini picture

Delicious with a drizzle of olive oil

Last week, I was craving foul mudammas all the time.

I had seen someone preparing it at Souk El Tayeb, and it looked so delicious. I wake up on the next Saturday with the sole intention of preparing fava beans for breakfast.

I am not really used to eating foul in the morning. We usually have it for lunch or dinner, but I love big breakfasts on weekends, so why not?!

I wanted to try a new recipe of course. I went to my beloved Atyab Tabkha and started searching for an interesting recipe, and here it was: Foul with tahini. I usually look for recipes that were added by users, without a picture, so I could add mine once I am done.

The recipe looked like hummus, but with fava beans instead: it required smashing the beans. I tried it and loved it. I did a few amendments to the quantities only and ate almost the whole thing. (I ended with some pains in my tummy and promised myself to never be greedy again…).

Now, let’s check it together!

 

Foul Recipe with Tahini

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Foul Mudammas
  • 2 tbsp Tahini
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Salt and Black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Water

 

Method:

  1. In a saucepan, put the fava beans and their brine. Add the cumin and enough water to cover the beans. Cook on medium fire until liquid boils then leave for 5 additional minutes on low fire.
  2. Remove from heat and smash the beans with a fork.
  3. Add the Tahini and lemon juice then season with salt and black pepper. Serve drizzled with olive oil.

Cooking Class: Making Fresh Pasta From Scratch

fresh raviolis picture

Fresh raviolis ready for cooking!

Last week, I attended a cooking workshop to learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch.

The class was held in La medina Hotel in Maameltein. My sister and I arrived at 10 in the morning and met Chef Hanaa Issa who was supposed to tutor us during this 3-hour session. After a small introduction about Italian cuisine in general, we started the experience.

On the menu: how to make fresh raviolis stuffed with spinach and cheese, how to make fettuccine Alfredo and how to make chocolate mousse.

Chefs for a day :)

Chefs for a day 🙂

We started with the dessert, since it needed some time to cool in the fridge. We wanted it ready for lunch, of course!

The Chef used regular milk chocolate bars to show us that this dessert is convenient for unplanned occasions, when you don’t have the time to run to the grocery store.

Then was the part we’ve all been waiting for. Let the pasta making begin!

The chef prepared an easy spinach and cheese stuffing, using Double Cream cheese. Yeah, no ricotta or other fancy cheese!

She also added a boiled potato that she grated, and insisted on avoiding the food processor for such a preparation, since it ruined the different textures of the filling. And to spice the mixture up, she added a pinch of nutmeg!

Once the filling was ready, the fun part of our day was about to start!

Fresh pasta dough picture

Done with the kneading!

Every attendee had a small bowl with eggs, fine semolina and flour. We kneaded the ingredients together until we got a ball of dough, then we flattened it using the pasta machine, numerous times on different levels, until it was really thin.

Ready to shape!

Ready to shape!

We piped the filling on the dough and, using cookie cutters, we shaped our raviolis into squares, flowers and circles.

For the remaining dough, direction pasta machine again, to form long strips of fettuccine.

Fresh fettuccine pasta picture

When are we gonna eat?!!

Once cooked, the chef showed us how to prepare Chicken Alfredo sauce for the fettuccine. Alfredo sauce is a cream and parmesan cheese basic sauce that is usually served alongside different kinds of pastas, on or pizzas as well.

It was finally lunch time! We all gathered around one table and tried the Fettuccine Alfredo first. The pasta was really delicious. Can’t wait to get my pasta machine and try the recipe again!

As for the sauce, and since my sister and I are big fan of spices, we thought it was a bit mild so we added a lot of salt, pepper and cheese.

The raviolis were served in a pink sauce. The filling was amazing, and it was very pleasing to feel its different textures inside our mouths.

The overall experience was great, and we were told that many new cooking classes will be held soon. I am quite excited about them. Actually, I am a fan of workshops that teach you new techniques and not only how to prepare some dishes.

Grazie mille e a presto!

 

Everyone is super focused!

Everyone is super focused!

The pluses:

  • The introduction was brief and interesting: bravo!
  • Everything that we did during the class can be easily replicated in a normal kitchen.
  • The chef only used small appliances that are usually at hand in a housewife kitchen.
  • Even the pasta machine that we used was a small one, and it can fit in anyone’s kitchen.
  • 30 $ is a very acceptable amount you can pay for a cooking class, making it among the most affordable ones offered in the country lately.

 

The Minuses:

  • The 17 slides should be printed on 3 A4 pages instead of 17 useless pages.
  • I think that people who are willing to make pasta from scratch are not beginners. Alfredo sauce is for beginners.
  • Whatever problem there might be, it can be postponed and dealt with later on. Attendees should not have to listen to fights happening in the kitchen (this happened more than once).

Chicken Nashif Recipe

Chicken Nashif picture

A delicious Bahraini stew!

When I first started working in a food website which target audience was in the Gulf, I started discovering the Gulf cuisine. Until then, Kabsa was the only dish I had heard of.

In fact, despite how close is Lebanon to the Gulf countries, and despite the huge numbers of expats residing there, you rarely see a Lebanese asking for or trying to cook a Khaliji dish.

Restaurants serving such dishes are also very rare, and they were initially targeting the Gulf tourists that were numerous in Lebanon at a certain time. Few have managed to stay open until now.

The first Khaliji dish I ever cooked was “Threed lahem”: a stew consisting of cubed meat and large chunks of vegetables, all cooked in tomato sauce. Once done, the sauce is poured over bread loaves, before adding the meat and veggies. I fell in love with this dish, and I’ve prepared it many times since then. I promise I’ll share the recipe one day.

Today, I decided to try a new recipe from a cookbook that’s been lying on my shelves for some time now: “Asayel khalijiyya” for Hala Obeid – أصايل خليجية.

A simple recipe drew my attention: chicken nashif. I was avoiding rice dishes as I am now trying to get back to diet. It’s a stew prepared with chicken and potato pieces that are cooked in tomato sauce. What makes it special is the cilantro that is added to the sauce.

One of the things that you should know about the Gulf cuisine is that dishes are somehow similar between the different countries. They usually differ in their names or in the mixture of spices used. And since the book did not mention the origin of the dish, I did a small online research. It looked like this dish originated in Bahrain. Perfect, I had a Bahraini spice mixture that I received last year as a gift, and I was dying to try it!

I did a very few changes to the initial recipe: I used more potatoes, added canned tomatoes as I believe they get you a richer sauce, and discarded the skin once the chicken was ready. And believe me, this was one of the most delicious chicken dishes I ever tried. Let’s check the recipe together!

 

Chicken Nashif Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 1 tsp Bahraini mixed spices
  • 1 tsp curcuma
  • 1 tsp red hot chili powder
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 400 g canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into medium cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry in the onions with the mixed spices, the curcuma and the chili powder, until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes (both fresh and canned) and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.
  2. Add the chicken pieces along with the cilantro, the potatoes and the tomato paste. Toss the ingredients well to coat the chicken and potatoes with the sauce. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the water and salt. Cook for 15 minutes. Discard the skin (optional) and serve hot.

So what do you think about this recipe? Would you try it? Are you a fan of Gulf food?