26 Sep Wintry Wellington fuelled cooking passion
My inspiration for conducting cooking classes stems from my deep desire to share my passion for Sri Lankan cuisine with you.
My unique style of cooking originates in the lush tea-laden hills of Sri Lanka, merges with the flavours and tastes of Indian and Malaysian cuisines and blends with the vibrancy of contemporary dining in the West.
I have come a long way since 1974, when my husband and I migrated to New Zealand along with our two young daughters. (My husband Kamal and I now live in Perth, Western Australia).
The change was a culture shock to our system. The weather was cold, but nothing a few warm sweaters and coats could not cure but the food… well that’s a different matter entirely.
No amount of hot sauce (if we could get it) could turn the bland food into anything that our taste buds could recognize. But little did I know that this frustration would in the end be the inspiration that would launch my future passion.
In those days (here truly, I am talking like a grandmother) the choice of spices was very restricted and it was a true test of my ability to be able to adapt and develop traditional Sri Lankan dishes using the spices available at that time.
The adaptation meant creating recipes using my own style of Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine and blending my own curry powder to maintain the authenticity of the dishes.
Now, even in the supermarkets one can get curry powder of many varieties, but I do not trust any of them as I like to prepare my own curry powder using fresh ingredients.
To my knowledge, during the 70s, there were no Indian restaurants or takeaways in Wellington. Chinese restaurants were a rarity.
My colleagues were curious about Sri Lankan food and before long and without much coercion I found myself preparing a Sri Lankan banquet and taking it to the office.
The meal consisted of festive yellow rice, eggplant curry (which in due course became my signature dish) dhal and a greatly toned-down chicken curry that would be easy on the unaccustomed palate of my adventurous colleagues.
My colleagues prepared desserts and brought the wine (something you could do in New Zealand!).
At the time I worked in a typing pool (a draconian vestige from the past), so the festivities were confined to just the ladies, while our male co-workers salivated through glass doors and of course went for the leftovers when we had finished.
This experience inspired my friends to want to experiment with my recipes at home, and were even able to convert the most ardent “Sunday roast and spuds” spouse to a new taste.
Thus began my first expose into cooking for an audience and introducing spicy dishes to the West.
I look forward to bringing you further tales of my cooking adventures as well as recipes, tips and tricks so you, too, can create your own Sri Lankan taste sensations.