Sri Lankan Love Cake

What do I think of when I think of Sri Lanka, little island in the Indian Ocean?

Beautiful white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees. Swinging in a hammock, being hypnotized by the sound of crashing waves.

Fish on your plate at dinner time. So fresh, you can still hear the whispered words of the fisherman I wonder how much I will get for this big one?

Wild majestic elephants being heard in the near by jungle as you sip your locally grown tea.

A selection of short eats (small entree sized finger food, Sri Lankan style tapas/yum cha to go- if you will) to choose from as you wonder around in search of the next ancient Buddhist temple to discover. Sri Lankan cuisine that is so full of flavours that your taste buds want to sing every time you eat.

Ancient rock fortress, Sigiriya. With so much history within its rocky walls, that you feel quite overwhelmed at the thought of how much this amazing rock had seen.

A kind of driving that can be only described as tiring. Honk when you are going to over take, honk when you are over taking, honk when you have over taken, honk when you would like to over take…and then begin again.

A country floored by the 2004 Tsunami.

Umbrella Lovers- if you wonder down to the beach, you will be sure to find some young couples sharing some ‘alone’ time, sitting under an umbrella. These umbrellas dot the surrounding areas, as couples shield themselves from prying eyes.

Buffalo yoghurt being made in earthen ware pots, lining the sides of the roads sitting in the sun. (similar to a Greek style yoghurt- thick and creamy, and oh sooo delicious.)

Love Cake, a cake with so many different recipes and variations. Usually made for celebrations. I hadn’t actually tasted this one before, but with the ingredients and the name…

Whats not to love?

Love Cake

150 gms crushed cashew nuts (cadjunuts)

125g semolina

3 eggs

150g sugar

125g softened butter

1 tbs rose water

1 1/2 tbs brandy

1/2 tps cinnamon

1/2 tps cardamom

1/2 tps nutmeg

Separate the eggs. Whisk together softened butter, 3 egg yolks, and sugar. Add semolina, cashews, rose water, brandy, spices.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks appear and fold into mixture. Cook in a square tin, greased and lined with paper. Bake at 180C for approx 25 minutes or until golden.

(recipe taken from a local Sri Lankan cookbook and adapted.)

Embracing the Eastern goddess

Labneh and Rose Apple Jelly.

I was given this cookbook (Crazy Water Pickled Lemons) awhile ago. It’s a tantilizing mix of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cooking. At the time I thought it was pretty but  thought a lot of the recipes were above me. All in the too hard basket, both with methods and ingredients. Then I revisited and woah mama! Of course I can cook out of this! Well I can at least hack a few recipes up and mama-fy them a bit.

First up Labneh. Labneh is a Lebanese Cream cheese, that has the taste of yoghurt but texture of cream cheese and couldn’t be easier to make. So easy you may just have to slap yourself  to believe, just how simple it really is.

First up make some yoghurt, or if you couldn’t be bothered…. buy it, a good natural one. Yoghurt is pretty easy to make though. Christine @ Slow Living Essentials has posted two great methods on making yoghurt. I do the quicker boil the kettle one. (and just a note, homemade yoghurt really is so much better than the bought stuff. No added ‘things’, it’s a LOT cheaper, its easy to make, and your cutting down on all those plastic tubs. Easy to flavour as you like.)

Back to the Labneh. Yoghurt made, and it’s time to to put it in a sieve and some muslin, and leave it for 12-24 hours. My book said for 24 hours, I did it for 12- depends on how quickly the liquid drains out of the yoghurt. Unwrap the muslin and voila! Labneh.

Next step in embracing my inner middle eastern goddess was Rose Apple Jelly. Sounding exquisite, and the colour divine, thursday night was jelly making night. (Naturally I was going to hack the recipe up and make it simpler.)

First roughly chop up your apples, seeds, core, skins and all. Cook it up until soft (approx 40 mins) then carefully drain off the liquid into another pot. Now the recipe did say to leave it for 12 hours in a jelly bag (or muslin) but I didn’t have that time so did it the quick way.

For every 600mls of liquid, add 375grams of sugar. Cook up along with juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 long strip of lemon peel. Cook until gels on small cold saucer. Add rose water to taste. (The original recipe asked for rose petals- with no access to lovely roses, I was going to have to skip that bit too. If by chance you would like to make your own rose water, Dana at  Fleur De Sel posted on making it.

Result? A really delicately flavoured, gorgeously coloured jelly. I hadn’t made jelly before and kept taking it up to the light and letting it sparkle.

Sparkle it did.