Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemons

“As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.Niamh Shields

I totally agree. Sometimes, cooking feels like meditation, all the stars aligned. I remember the first time I felt like this. Or perhaps the first time I consciously noticed feeling like this. It was over a big pot of ragu for lasagne. Everything felt just right: calm, complete, whole, balanced. I was happy and connected. And the dish turned out just delicious.

It’s similar with flavours, but the feeling is stronger and shorter. Like a dart of pleasure, a stronger connection, but one that lasts a shorter time. Some combinations just hit the right note. Like a culinary, gustatory G-spot. They’re simply perfect. Such as the flavours in Claudia Roden’s chicken tagine with lemon and olives, which were a springboard for this dish. I thought how well its flavours of lemon, saffron and herbs would go with fish. And then I made it and they did go together  so well.


Sourdough pancakes with rose petal jam and clotted cream

Birthday pancakes: sourdough pancakes with rose petal jam and clotted cream

When I’m really lucky, normally at the weekend or during holidays, my husband makes me pancakes for breakfast. It’s my favourite special breakfast treat. I sit at our breakfast bar watching him work, and savouring the warm pancakes as they come out of the pan. My favourite fillings are nutella and various jams, while he likes the traditional English lemon and sugar.

It’s my birthday and I have a day off to do whatever I want, and it feels great. Luxurious. A day like this befits a special breakfast, so I combine two things that I’ve been wanting to try for ages: sourdough pancakes, and rose petal jam with clotted cream. The recipe for the pancakes has been adapted from the Herbert brothers in the Guardian using my wholemeal rye sourdough starter, and the rose petal jam and clotted cream inspiration comes via Claudia Roden’s fantastic Arabesque. The rose petal jam was bought in Istanbul, and has a slightly gummy and addictive texture, and a fragrant rose aroma combined with a touch of sourness. It’s sweet, but not overly so, and perfect for the slight tang of the rye starter. The pancakes turned out to well that I had to make a note of what I did and share them!


Istanbul Yoghurt Treat


There was always yoghurt, tahini and honeycomb, amongst many other things, in our hotel in Istanbul for breakfast. One morning, I had an idea to combine them, and so I did. It was delicious! I loved it, and had it with my breakfast every day while we were there.


I am not claiming this is an authentic Istanbuli treat. I have no idea, and so I wouldn’t even try. But I do know it’s absolutely delicious. Do try it! The bitterness of tahini added interest and nuttiness to sweet honeycomb, which in turn provided an interesting texture to nibble on. All this enveloped in delicious creamy, Turkish yoghurt.


It really makes a stunning treat. At home, I use honey, as I don’t usually have honeycomb, but it’s still delicious. Just take a bowl of yoghurt and swirl some honey and tahini over it, and there you go!



Sri Lankan-style chickpeas for Lisa

I’ve created this dish especially for a blogging event run by a one of my favourite bloggers, Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen. The event is No Croutons Required, and the this month’s topic is chickpeas. I really wanted to take part, partly because I haven’t in ages, and partly because I really love chickpeas myself. After a bit of thought, I decided to adapt one of my favourite veggie Sri Lankan recipe, varar, adding caramelised shallots, coriander and lemon juice. The result is a gorgeous warm salad of chickpeas flavoured with caramelised shallots, curry leaves, coconut and lemon juice that goes great with many Indian and Sri Lankan dishes, and it’s also delicious on its own as a snack. I love it. I hope Lisa will like it, too.

A note on chickpeas. I really notice a difference in flavour between tinned and dried chickpeas, and for me, this is one instance when it’s worth taking the time to soak and cook the chickpeas. They’re so much nicer like that! I can even eat them as popcorns after they’ve just been cooked – they really are delicious. But if you really really can’t be bothered, then next time you’re in your favourite Asian supermarket, pick up a tin of East End brand of chickpeas. They’re the tastiest ones I’ve found. Still, for hummus and falafel, I’d soak and cook my own chickpeas.


Sri-Lankan-style chickpeas



Sri-Lankan-style chickpeas salad



SOURCE:  Inspired by Jasmine’s varar

PREPARATION TIME: 2 min, if the chickpeas are ready

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min, again, if you’re not soaking your own chickpeas

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 1 as a salad, 2 as a small side dish




a little vegetable oil

2 medium shallots, halved and then sliced thinly

1 green finger chilli 

a small handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

a little salt

1 tsp tempering spices (a mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

a pinch of turmeric

1 cup of chickpeas (cooked, or tinned)

a handful of desiccated  coconut

fresh lime juice to taste

1 heaped tsp chopped coriander leaves



  • Heat the oil in a wok (or frying pan) and add the shallots and the chili. When the shallots start going brown, throw in the curry leaves and a little salt. Stir and cook until the shallots are completely caramelised. Then, remove half of the mixture and set aside. (This will be sprinkled on top when the dish is done).
  • Return the pan to the heat, and add the tempering spices and turmeric. Stir.
  • Add the chickpeas to the pan, and a couple of tbs of water (or chickpeas soaking water), and warm the chickpeas through. Then in goes the coconut and a pinch of salt. Stir it and cook for 30 s, again until it’s warmed through.
  • Just before serving, add lemon or lime juice, chopped coriander and some more salt if needed. Sprinkle with the remaining shallots and serve. Enjoy!




More Sri Lankan food at Maninas:


The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry (V)

Sri Lankan Fish Curry (Meen Kulambu)

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets



And more chickpeas recipes:

My version of Catalan chick peas with tomatoes and almonds (V) – This is a must-try, with its delicious flavours of saffron, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and coriander!

My Moroccan-inspired chickpeas  (V)

Chana Masala (V) for RCI Punjab

Chana masala from scratch (V) – No shop bought spice mixes!





I’m also submitting this post to to MLLA-21 hosted by Mirch Masala, and started by Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

Sri Lankan Fish Curry – Meen Kulambu

Our next stop on the fragrant Sri Lankan curry leaf trail: Jasmine’s Sri Lankan Fish Curry. Hot, sweet, sour – this curry has one of my favourite taste combinations. The tomato base is mellowed by adding just the right amount of coconut milk, the one that creates a balance of flavour, rather than overpowering the dish with the taste of coconut. (As much as I love coconut, Jasmine’s technique of using coconut as a supporting flavour was a revelation, and gave a new dimension to my coconut appreciation!) As ever, a fragrance of curry leaves envelopes the dish (and your kitchen), which I love.

Delicious and very quick to make, this is another of Jasmine’s recipes, and it’s another winner. You know now why I fell in love with Sri Lankan food!

The photo below was also taken by my friend A, while I was cooking.





Sri Lankan Fish Curry – Meen



SOURCE: Jasmine

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min (mainly to skin the fish)

COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan




1 yellow onion, thinly sliced or chopped

a handful of curry leaves

a pinch of salt

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

100 g tomato puree

1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

1 dsp Sri Lankan chilli powder (or less if you prefer less heat)

700 g salmon, skinned and chopped into

1/2 cup coconut milk

a few pieces of pandan leaf, if you have it (optional)



1. Fry the onion together with curry leaves and a pinch of salt, just enough to soften it.

2. Add garlic, fenugreek and tomato paste, and cook for a few minutes until the smell of the tomato paste has mellowed, and lost its raw taste.

3. Add the chilli powder to the tomato mixture, and cook through for a few minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk. (If you are cooking this in advance, you can stop at this point and continue later, adding the fish and cooking it before serving. )

5. Add the salmon pieces and cook on medium low or low heat until they’re cooked through. It’s best to go slowly here, taking care not to overcook the fish. Add the pandan leaf if you have some (which I usually don’t), and adjust the salt to taste.

Serve with rice, or as a part of a delicious Sri Lankan fish feast:



More Sri Lankan Food at Maninas:

The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry (V)

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