No place like home

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I am a true believer in the phrase ‘a blessing in disguise’. My passport was nearing expiry and I had to make a quick trip to Sri Lanka to get it renewed (the express service is only available in Sri Lanka). While complaining to my husband about the dreaded visit to Colombo (when in Sri Lanka I try to avoid going to the capital city at all costs), in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Four glorious days of tropical bliss, not bad…not bad at all!’. Any excuse to go back home.

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It’s a long four hour drive from the airport to my mom’s hometown, Matale, which is situated in the hilly Central province. But the beautiful scenery along the way makes up for it (as did the constant chatter between me, my sister, my eleven year old niece and their adorable septuagenarian driver, Karunaratne).
It’s fascinating to watch the landscape change from groves of palm trees to misty blue mountains as you make the ascent to the hills.

Something magical happens when the sun sets in Sri Lanka. I have always observed this, even as a child. It’s one of those things that cannot be described in words. The mellow golden rays of the setting sun transforms everything it touches – from trees covered in frothy pink blossoms to paddy fields stretching out into the distance, from the way side tea shops with bunches of bananas hanging from their tin roofs to people walking back home with stray dogs barking at their heel. It’s so beautiful it makes your heart ache…

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Teak trees casting shadows in the evening sun…

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Lonesome souls – a little hut on a paddy field and a crane looking for its supper.

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A limestone kiln by the road.

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Villagers threshing paddy.

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An old Hindu temple and and a quaint ice cream shop.

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Farmers’ market – the real deal!

Colombo (the capital) was as always, chaotic. Horns blaring, people rushing about everywhere including the middle of the roads, carbon fumes delicately perfuming the air, and the heat! it can even penetrate an air-conditioned car – utter bliss! (now you know why I stick to the hills)

After getting the passport done, I was to meet one of my dear friends in front of the passport office (we were later supposed to go for a tamarind mojito). He did turn up – on the opposite side of the road – BIG mistake! He was saying something with his arms and legs and trying to make himself heard above the noise of the stream of traffic and people and dogs and whistle-blowing traffic cops flowing in between. A few minutes into this mime, a cop marches up to him and yells at him to get a ‘move-on’ as his taxi is blocking the road and the next thing I see he gets into the car and disappears into the madness. That’s all I saw of my friend and the elusive tamarind mojito he promised. He later told me it was like a scene from a movie – yeah, like a Woody Allen…

A quick stop at the Barefoot Café provided a much needed respite from the chaos of the city.

IMG00980-20140320-1424The Barefoot Gallery and Café is the brainchild of Barbara Sansoni, a celebrated Sri Lankan artist and textile designer. She started Barefoot 40 years ago as a rehabilitation programme for rural women where they were taught the art of weaving and creating handloom fabrics. Barefoot is famous for its beautifully designed, vibrantly coloured stuffed toys, bags, clothes, jewellery and home accessories, mostly made out of hand-woven, naturally dyed fabrics.

The café is built around an open courtyard and the gallery is in an extension of the building. Two monstrous wooden statues of Hindu Gods guard the entrance and there is a cool deep green pond at the far end of the courtyard – it was lovely to sit outside and sip on a long icy lime and mint while we waited for our food (nothing great to write about, unfortunately).

Picture10DSCN8153DSC_2019After a few bites of chewy, cold grilled pork wraps, we popped into the adjacent gallery. I completely lost track of time once inside  – beautiful hand woven napkins in rainbow hues, hand-crocheted doilies and table runners; delicate and cobweb-like, quirky wooden candle stands shaped and painted like dolls in udarata (traditional Sinhalese) dress, forks and spoons made from Kitul wood, rolls and rolls of cloth in eye-popping colours and abstract geometrical patterns, patchwork wall-hangings – all made by hand. Sri Lankans have truly gifted hands, their workmanship is just exquisite.
I greedily bought everything that caught my eye, all the while wishing  I had taken a bigger suitcase!

Picture1And four days just flew by…

Back in Dubai and it’s the weekend. I made a special Sri Lankan lunch to nurse my homesick heart – yellow rice, chicken curry, pappodams and a lovely brinjal (eggplant) salad which is so simple to make but complements the rice and curry perfectly.

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Purple beauties – fresh brinjals sold at a wayside veg shop in Matale and the ones I had to settle for back in Dubai 😦

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Brinjal (aubergine) Salad
Serves 4

4 large brinjals (aubergines)
1 large red onion, cut into rings
2 green chillies, sliced finely
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
oil for deep frying

Slice the brinjals into 1/2 cm thick slices. Sprinkle over the turmeric and 1/2 tsp of salt and toss well, coating the slices evenly. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the brinjal slices in batches, till golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Put the mustard seeds and vinegar into a mortar and give it a good grind till it forms a grainy paste. Combine the sliced onions and green chillies in a serving dish and add the mustard paste and the remaining salt. Give it a good toss. Add the fried brinjal and toss gently.

Serve as an accompaniment to rice and curry.

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To blog or not to blog?

I recently read a blog post on amateurgourmet.com titled ‘When food blogs stopped being food blogs’ (My Custard Pie thanks for sharing the link on Fooderati!). The author laments the fact that modern day food blogs are looking ‘more and more like food magazines’, the likes of Martha Stewart Living and that the good old days of casual food blogging where people would say what they want, how they want and when they want without giving two hoots about presentation or prose, are gone forever. A few days later another post pops up in my WordPress reader with a 121 page downloadable guide on how to grow traffic and build your blog. The advice given herein is the total opposite of what Amateur Gourmet was saying; interesting content, perfect prose with correct grammar and spelling and eye-catching images are what rocks the blogosphere boat. The guide even gives tips on how to make the transition from  ‘blog’ to ‘brand’.

Interesting yet conflicting perspectives on blogging by blogging greats (Amateur Gourmet has been doing it for over 10 years! And I must add his blog is very entertaining). Being an amateur blogger (only eight posts and counting) I was left baffled…to blog or not to blog?

There are no hard and fast rules to blogging, at least that’s what I thought when I started The Stove & I. I badly needed a creative output which had something to do with food and what better way to unleash your inner Nigella Lawson (or in this case Martha Stewart) than start your own food blog? I love coming up with new and creative ways to transform my foodie thoughts into blog posts – it’s relaxing, fun and my new-found favourite pastime. To me, a blog is a form of self-expression – some use it as a platform to showcase their creativity, some use it to voice their opinions, their thoughts, journaling their day to day lives – like an online diary. To each his own. Why can’t we stop being judgemental and try and appreciate each other’s work for what it is? (sadly we humans are extremely judgemental creatures!) While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I sometimes feel there is unnecessary pressure on bloggers, especially on those who are new to the arena. There are way too many opinions or should I say way too many cooks? 😉

Food blogs are my e-caffeine – whenever I need a break from work I sneak into some of my favourite blogs and get lost in their world. Some are like works of art with beautiful photography and story like prose, some are witty, random and downright funny with candid images taken from mobile phones, but all of these bloggers share one thing in common – the sheer passion for blogging and their commitment to it. And no one can judge that.

In the end it doesn’t really matter what you do with your blog because it is your personal space. You want to start your post with a picture of that perfectly photographed plate of macaroons? Go ahead, DO IT! You want to swear like a sailor but are too worried about what the blogging community would make of your choice of words? Don’t think twice, DO IT!  You want to post an Instagram of your husband flipping pancakes in his undies to stick on your ‘Pancake Day’ post? Yes!! By all means! Just DO IT! (no, am not promoting Nike)

And as My Custard Pie commented “No matter how long you’ve been blogging, nothing will give you more satisfaction than blogging as if no one is reading” (Cook Republic) – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Bloggin 101, as much as I value and appreciate all opinions, can we please hush for a while?

Say it with flowers or a Thai beef salad.

A post Valentine’s Day post.

Picture1Roses are red, violets are blue…and blue is exactly what I’m feeling this Valentine’s. My husband has gone away for three weeks to the North Pole – OK not exactly the North Pole but it’s around -20°C where he is at the moment. While he is freezing away in icy cold Canada I’m basking in the warmth of the beautiful winter sun in Dubai, and as a virtual Valentine’s Day surprise, I thought of making one of his favourite dishes – a Thai beef salad. 

I love Thai salads. They fall into 4 main categories based on the way they are prepared, which are Yam, Tam, Lap and Phla (trust me, I didn’t know this till I started writing this post. Follow this link to Wikipedia to read more about it). I particularly like the Lap salads – crunchy veg and morsels of juicy, tender meat tossed in a perfectly balanced sweet-sour-salty dressing, light and refreshing yet bursting with flavour. I won’t call myself a connoisseur of Thai food (my interest in the subject hasn’t gone beyond shovelling the delicious stuff into my mouth) but I do make two killer Thai salads, if I do say so myself – the beef salad and a chicken salad in peanut dressing. I have my doubts about the origins of the latter but it doesn’t really matter because it tastes so good.

And here’s my Thai beef salad, in pictures…

DSC_1905It all starts with fresh ingredients…

DSC_1868And my five year old who insisted I put this pic in my post.

DSC_1870Mise en place…shredding fresh papaya. There’s an easy way to do this, all you need is a sharp knife and a vegetable peeler (check out this video on how to get perfect, crisp papaya strips).

DSC_1901A beautiful sirloin steak which has been marinating overnight…

Picture9Freshly roasted peanuts and fresh mint from my balcony garden…

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Picture8After some shredding, chopping, pounding, grilling and mixing…voilà!

DSC_1947My Thai beef salad, bursting with colour, flavour and freshness! This one’s for you honey! x

Celebrating Valentine’s Day is not at the top of my To-Do list but I do miss my husband. After the first couple of years of your marriage your spouse becomes very much a part of you. I wish I had a better reference, but it’s like your favourite sweater – familiar and comforting and something you simply cannot live without. We are on our ninth year now so I do feel his absence, even though he’s gone for only three weeks.

Well…here’s to our ninth Valentine’s together and many more to come! Chin-chinOh, and hubs please don’t be offended by the favourite sweater reference – the one I’m talking about is gorgeously luxurious and cashmere xx

PS: Valentine’s Day was not so bad after all as I still had my other Valentine to celebrate it with. And boy did we celebrate…we made heart shaped cards and went out for Italian and had his first taste of lasagna (he’s been pestering me for lasagna after watching Garfield wolf down copious amounts of it on TV). The day ended with my Valentine saying ‘Mummy I want to give you a ‘Balentime’s Day’ kiss’ and planting a big sloppy one on my cheek.

PPS: Hubs came back from the cold bearing loads of maple syrupy goodies and something quite unusual – Icewine tea (more on that later). Happy days!


Thai Beef Salad
adapted from a recipe by Darlene Schmidt

1 to 2 sirloin steaks, depending on the amount of meat you prefer.
Marinade:
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar

For the salad:
1 large bowl salad greens
1 cup bean sprouts
handful of fresh mint or basil leaves, lightly chopped or torn
1 cup fresh coriander
1 cup fresh papaya, cubed or cut into spears (see video above on how to shred papaya)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, left whole or sliced in half

Dressing:
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (available at Asian food stores)
3 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1+1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 fresh red chillies, chopped
2 tbsp toasted and ground sticky rice,or 2 tbsp roasted, ground peanuts (I used peanuts)

Mix marinade ingredients together in a cup or bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the steak(s), turning meat to coat. Set in the refrigerator to marinate (you can leave it overnight).

For the ground sticky rice (if using, instead of peanuts): Place 2 tbsp uncooked sticky rice in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Stirring continuously, dry-fry the rice until it starts to pop and is lightly toasted. Remove rice from the pan and allow to cool slightly before grinding it up with a coffee grinder, or pounding into a powder with pestle & mortar.

Combine all dressing ingredients together in a cup or mixing bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves (adjust fish sauce and lime juice according to your desired taste). Then prepare the bowl of greens and other salad ingredients.

Grill the steak over a hot grill, turning only once or twice to retain the juices (meat should still be pink in the centre).

While steak is cooking, toss the salad with the dressing. Taste-test for salt, adding more fish sauce if not salty enough, or more lime juice if too salty for your taste.

When ready to serve, portion out salad onto serving plates or bowls. Slice the steak as thinly as possible and top each portion with a generous amount of sliced sirloin and a sprinkling of ground rice or peanuts.

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The Hongs of Phuket and Tom Yum Goong from scratch – Gin Khao!

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Gin Khao is Bon Appétit in Thai, although Google says otherwise – it means “eat rice” or “eat food”. If it does mean the latter, pardon my ignorance. I’m starting off my themed posts with a taste of the orient.

I chose Thai food for two reasons: one of my most memorable holidays was spent in Thailand, and it’s one of my favourite cuisines, I love the combination of salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavours which is the hallmark of Thai cuisine.

Before rambling on about all things Thai, I must say a special thank you to La Petite Panière for nominating me for the Dragon’s Loyalty award. To start the New Year with an award for my 3 month old blog… I’m elated! Do visit her gorgeous blog where you will find authentic, mouthwatering Algerian recipes.

I won’t attempt to describe the geographical, historical and cultural data of Thailand because it is too vast a subject to squeeze into a (not so) tiny post but I will talk about the bits and bobs that made my holidays there truly special. I have vacationed in Bangkok and Phuket on two separate occasions. My stay in Bangkok was too brief to thoroughly enjoy what the city had to offer. Nothing special comes to my mind except the touristy floating market which was a lovely experience, I especially loved bargaining with the boat vendors and the palette knife paintings of the market which some of them sold.

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Phuket on the other hand was a holiday of dreams – we (my husband and I) did not gorge on Thai food or get pampered at a spa but spent the entire five days exploring the natural wonders of the islands’ neighbouring Phang Nga bay (I’m afraid this is not going to be a post on culinary travel!).

Phang Nga bay is situated in the Strait of Malacca between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. This shallow bay has around 42 islands and around 400 sq km of it belongs to the Ao Phang Nga National park, which is protected land. The bay is famous for its spectacular limestone cliffs which vertically jut out of the deep green waters creating a surreal landscape.

Picture 046 iInside some of these cliffs there are hidden caves known as Hongs, which are open to the sky and surrounded by towering limestone walls, some which can be accessed by canoe during low tide through narrow openings in the cliffs. There are many tour companies offering sea kayaking trips around the bay but I personally recommend  John Gray’s Sea Canoe tours which we booked for two days.

The first tour took us around the bay on a ‘long-tailed’ boat with a few stops along the way. The first stop was at James Bond Island where, as the name suggests, the Bond movie ‘The Man with a Golden Gun’ was filmed in 1974. It was too touristy for my liking except the remarkable limestone cliff which was made world famous by the movie.

After a light lunch and some free time to do some exploring on our own (you get your own canoe to test your canoeing skills) we stopped at the little fishing village of Koh Panyee. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and built entirely on stilts over the shallow water of the bay, the village is comprised of a closely built network of wooden huts and shops, a mosque and a school and is home to just 315 families. It was fascinating to wander around the village and catch a glimpse of their life – a little old lady drying rice in front of her weathered hut, another selling fried chicken in a street corner, scruffy wooden shops perched dangerously on wobbly stilts selling seashell necklaces and pungent dried fish, school children zigzagging through the maze of rickety huts and shops. There were times I felt like an intruder, that I had no right to be there and some of the villagers did not hide their annoyance at having some goggle-eyed tourist invade their privacy (like that old lady who was drying rice. As we approached her hut, she quickly got inside and slammed the door shut).

We also had a chance to explore a Hong – but this was just a taste of what lay in store for us the following day…

The tour on day two was aptly named ‘Hong by starlight’- you explore one of these caves by day and then, the same cave by night. Our guide Khao was an absolute delight. He had elfin features which reminded me of a forest spirit and he knew so much about the caves and showed us some of his best kept secrets. The same long-tailed boat took us to the cliffs where we anchored and hopped into individual canoes. The canoes were then manoeuvred through a narrow opening in the cliff into a pitch-dark tunnel, its ceiling thick with bats (definitely not for the claustrophobic!). This was called the Diamond cave owing to the glittering stalactites and stalagmites hanging from its walls which sparkle when you hold a flash-light to them.

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After gliding in the dark a few minutes, the tunnel opened out into what I can only describe as Paradise…

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The previous day’s Hong seemed like a miniature in comparison to this mammoth of a cave, I wonder if you can even call it a cave as it is open to the sky. It felt like canoeing in a huge pond surrounded by soaring green walls – the limestone walls were covered by not just shrubs but by actual trees, like a vertical forest, complete with a group of chattering monkeys. It was hard to imagine we were actually in the middle of a lagoon…

Gallery 7Gallery 8Towards midafternoon the tied ebbed out of the cave leaving behind a muddy slush. That was when the mudskippers appeared. These are a type of amphibious fish which can walk on land using their pectoral fins – fascinating little creatures! There were hundreds of them sliding and slapping around in the mud and this was one of Khao’s secret surprises.
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We canoed back to the boat and had one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had, freshly prepared on the boat by Khao’s team. There was a fiery and fragrant Tom Yum Goong, whole steamed fish, fragrantly spiced with lemongrass and Thai herbs, a Pad Thai garnished with deep fried quail eggs and some delicious stir-fried squid. While waiting for the sun to set to begin our night expedition we made Krathongs to float inside the cave (Krathongs are little flowery floats which are set adrift on a river during the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand). These are of course collected back before leaving the cave – another reason I recommend John Gray’s as these guys have a great eco-friendly policy (as the caver’s motto goes “Take nothing but Pictures. Leave nothing but Footprints. Kill nothing but Time”.)

It wasn’t long before we were navigating around in our canoes, tracing the same path we took in the morning.  The night was ink black, broken only by strange, shimmering, neon blue ripples in the water which trailed behind our canoes. It was the bioluminescent plankton  in the water which glowed with a million luminescent lights when disturbed, it looked as if the sky had turned upside down. Khao mentioned that on certain days you also find thousands of fireflies lighting up the cave but we weren’t lucky enough to see even one.

The Hong was devoid of all sound except the chirping of the cicadas and we drifted in the darkness in complete silence. Undisturbed by the noises and lights of human civilisation, it felt like travelling through space – you are overwhelmed by the serenity of it all. The Krathongs were lit and released into the water and there was a collective sense of peace as we watched them float away into the night. Khao, who was on our canoe, took us further into the cave and we managed to get out just in time as the tide started rising fast – we had to lie flat on our backs to pass through the cave opening, talk about narrow shaves! It was the perfect ending to our amazing time in Phuket.

Having relived the wonderful experiences we had in Phuket while writing this post I decided to round it off with this beautiful Tom Yum Goong soup, made from scratch.

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Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot & sour soup)
adapted from shesimmers.com
Serves 1-22 cups stock (I used prawn broth)
7-8 medium sized prawns, peeled with tails intact
5-6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces with centre vein removed
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces and bruised with the blunt end of a knife
4-5 very thin slices of fresh galangal
1 tbsp coriander roots, cleaned well
½ cup straw mushrooms (or fresh white mushrooms), halved
1 tbsp Nam Prik Pao – Thai chilli paste (recipe below)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice or to taste
2 tbsp fish sauce or to taste
4-5 small red chillies, sliced
¼ cup lightly-packed coriander leavesMake the prawn broth by adding the prawn heads and shells, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns, a dash of rice vinegar, half a sliced onion and a pinch of salt into 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour. Strain the broth through a sieve and leave aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a very gentle boil over medium heat. Monitor the temperature so that the liquid is not boiling but barely simmering (the broth needs to be infused with the fresh herbs, similar to making tea).

Add the lemongrass, galangal, coriander root and kaffir lime leaves to the broth  and simmer for 4-5 minutes till the broth becomes fragrant. Add the mushrooms. Stir in Nam Prik Pao. Add the fish sauce, followed by the sliced red chillies. While the broth is gently simmering, lower the prawns into it while monitoring the temperature, the prawns should be poached so they remain nice and juicy and not rubbery (1 minute should be enough). Give the broth a few stirs.

Once the prawns have firmed up and turned opaque, remove the saucepan from heat. Season with lime juice, taste. Add more fish sauce or lime juice if necessary. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve the soup piping hot with steamed rice and a couple of lime wedges on the side. Gin Khao!

Nam Prik Pao (if you cannot find these ingredients, you could use ready-made Nam Prik Pao)
Makes 4 cups

34 g dried red chillies, de-seeded (Thai long peppers or arbol chillies) – make sure you weigh the chillies after they have been stemmed and de-seeded. The amount of seeds you add back into the paste when you grind it determines the level of heat. More seeds, more heat (50% of the seeds have been added to this paste).
64 g peeled garlic cloves
84 g peeled shallots
20 g Thai shrimp paste
190 g palm sugar, chopped into small pieces
24 g dried shrimp
4 tbsp tamarind paste
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil

Cut the garlic cloves and shallots lengthwise into uniformly thin slices. Separate the two. Spread them out on two cookie sheets to dry. Heat up about ½ to ¾ cup of vegetable oil (this amount of oil is in addition to the ½ cup of oil that will be used later to fry the chilli paste) in an 8- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat. Fry the garlic and shallot slices, separately, until light brown and crisp; set aside. Do the same with the dried shrimp; set aside.

In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the dried chillies until they turn brittle. Be careful not to burn them.

In a granite mortar or food processor, pound or grind the garlic, shallots, dried shrimp, and dried chillies into a fine paste; set aside.

Put the paste and the remaining ingredients, including the ½ cup vegetable oil, in a shallow and wide pan set over medium heat. Cook everything, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until everything has dissolved and you get a fried paste that is somewhat runny.

Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool completely. Check for consistency. If the paste is still too thin, reduce it some more over medium heat. When you have achieved the desired consistency, store your Nam Prik Pao in a clean glass jar. No need to drain off the oil.

If you are planning to go sea kayaking in Phang Nga bay and see the magnificent Hongs, do give these guys a try:

John Gray started commercial sea kayaking tours in Hawaii in 1983, and moved to Phuket six years later, setting up the first sea kayaking operation, the multi-award-winning ‘SeaCanoe’, in Phang Nga Bay. Today he runs John Gray’s SeaCanoe, also based in Phuket. For more information call Tel: 076-254506. www.johngray-seacanoe.com

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It’s a new year – once again!

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There’s something very refreshing about a new year – you feel a sense of accomplishment and hope as you look forward to new beginnings and fresh possibilities. It’s like climbing a mountain – you eagerly scramble to the top and peep over the edge of December, curiously staring beyond at January wondering what the next 12 months will unfold…

For us the old year ended with a bang and the new once started with this steaming hot plate of kiri bath also known as milk rice, a traditional Sri Lankan dish usually eaten for breakfast. It’s a sort of savoury rice pudding, prepared by cooking rice in coconut milk and served with a spicy onion relish called lunu-miris or pol sambol. This dish takes centre stage at any celebratory meal in Sri Lanka. Be it a birthday, a new year or even the beginning of a new month you will find a big plate piled high with diamond shaped pieces of snowy white kiri bath sitting proudly in the middle of the breakfast table.

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Being a newbie in the food blogosphere I cannot help but spend all my spare time putting together new ideas for my blog. Many people compare a blog to one’s own child; you feed it, nurture it and watch it grow and you glow with pride when someone stops by to admire it and pay it a compliment. Now I have twelve long months stretching out ahead of me to nurture and grow my new baby.

So here’s a sneak peek into what’s in store for The Stove & I (literally) in 2014…

Gallery 5Bon Appetit! in 80 tongues
OK, 80 is a slight exaggeration…I will have themed months where tried and tested recipes from various cuisines will be featured in the blog. In addition to the obvious Italian, Mexican and French dishes, I will explore (virtually and hopefully physically) the far flung corners of the world for unique, authentic and never-before-heard or tasted recipes. Boy, aren’t we feeling adventurous this year?

DSC_1709You are what you eat and read
Here’s my entire repertoire of cookbooks and books related to food – most of them, gifts. Well, it’s time to hit the book stores or hit the order button on Amazon. A book I will definitely add to my collection will be the upcoming cookbook by food blogger Mimi Thorisson (it’s scheduled to be released this month). I also have a cupboard full of BBC GoodFood and Spinneys Food magazines, they are filled with amazing recipes and you will always find the latest copies lying on my bedside table (I have to read something before I sleep – it’s kind of an addiction).

SL FlagDelve deeper into Sri Lankan food (dive in hook, line and sinker!)
I need to dig deeper and find out more about the origins of Sri Lankan cuisine. I have been eating Sri Lankan food all my life but have never gone beyond the process of cooking, devouring and enjoying the food. It’s a complex cuisine, heavily influenced by so many different cultures and it begs to be explored. Unfortunately there isn’t much literature available on Sri Lankan  cooking so this one’s going to be a challenge! 


Sugar and spice and all things nice
I’ve become a hoarder of all things starting with F and ending with D. This year I will be treating myself to gourmet foodie treats and quirky food stuff like the miniature Tabasco bottle you see in the pic below, whenever and wherever I happen to find them and review them (of course!).

I was rummaging through my pantry cupboards the other day and found this little treasure trove of treats…

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These bottles of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar were winking at me from a stall selling salad oils and vinegars of all sorts at the Ripe farmers’ market. There were so many different oils to choose from but you can have a little taste before deciding which ones to buy. Remember the scene from Ratatouille where Remy finds out how different food combinations create wonderful flavours? He has a piece of cheese in one hand and a strawberry in the other – first he takes a bite of cheese and a couple of tiny stars pop around his head, then he takes a bite of the strawberry and a few more stars pop around, finally he takes a bite of both cheese and strawberry and fireworks explode around him. That’s exactly what happened to me when I tasted some of this truffle oil and then some balsamic vinegar and as suggested by the sweet gentleman behind the counter a combination of both… fireworks! The taste of earthy truffles combined with the rich flavour of concentrated grape juice was pure magic! I can’t wait to try it in one of my recipes, any suggestions?

Fooderati Arabia – hobnob with fellow foodies in Dubai
Fooderati Arabia is a group of bloggers based in the UAE. It’s the brainchild of two passionate foodies My Custard Pie and I Live in a Frying Pan and has been cooking up a storm in the UAE food bloggers scene since 2010. I was supposed to attend my first ever FIA coffee morning last weekend and missed it because I got my AM and PM mixed up in the alarm clock! Hence one of my foodie resolutions this year will be ‘Never miss another FIA coffee morning, even if it means having to wake up at 7am on a Saturday morning! (I’m so not a morning person).

Guests Posts
Food as seen through someone else’s eyes… can be quite refreshing and entertaining. I’ve already got my first guest in mind – but it will require a considerable amount of convincing before I get him to agree.

Here’s to new beginnings and another new mountain to conquer – hope you join me in the climb to the top!

Happy New Year!

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Kiri bath (milk rice)
Serves 4-5

2 cups Basmati
3 cups water
2 cups thick coconut milk
2 tsp salt

Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain the rice and put into a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and salt, stir well with the handle of a wooden spoon, cover pan and cook on low heat for a further 10-15 minutes, till all the milk is absorbed and the rice is cooked to a porridge like consistency. Spoon the kiri bath on to a flat plate while still hot and shape it into a circle about 6cm thick. Using a blunt knife mark the circle into diamond shapes and serve with lunu-miris or pol sambol.

Easy lunu-miris

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp dried Maldive fish flakes (optional)
Juice of half a lime
Salt to taste

Put all the ingredients (except the lime juice) into a mortar and pestle and give it a good grind. Once all the ingredients are combined add a good squeeze of lime juice, mix well and serve.