“Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University
of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of
Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes.
Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and
Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes,
as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg
rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish
cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes);
and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and
carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily,
with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of
poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured
ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil
influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily
sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu
recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for
over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”
— Publisher’s Weekly
An interview with the author, by Oak Park Eats’ Melissa Elsmo:
Some of the reviews from the sneak peek are out!
“I have recently been paying more attention to cookbooks because I am trying to eat healthier. I also wish to expand my tastebuds. Looking at the photos in this delicious book alone makes me drool with anticipation.
I admit that I am not familiar with a number of the spices used in these recipes, but was pleasantly surprised when they were not difficult to locate locally.
Normally I prefer a printed copy of a cookbook. This time, the pdf version, viewed online, was equally as satisfying.
I also had my curiosity piqued and educated about Sri Lanka and the ethnic influences which went into the recipes offered. I suggest reading more than just the recipes provided.
This volume makes for an excellent wedding gift or addition to a new kitchen.
My son will be receiving a copy, with the condition that he cooks for me more than once.”
“…I learned from Mohanraj’s interesting essays, dotted through the book, that Sri Lankan cuisine is a real fusion of historic and geographic influences. It apparently does lean more towards fish cookery because of Sri Lanka’s being an island so fish were in plentiful supply. As a vegan though, I still found lots of recipes here to inspire me, especially the new-to-me ways of presenting vegetables such as the Poriyal and Varai. I chose to make a Carrot Curry, a Brussels Sprouts Poriyal and a Green Bean Varai, and served them with steamed wild rice. Absolutely delicious! All three cooking methods were clearly explained with easy to follow instructions. Ingredients for these were easy to find too, in fact I already had the significant spices on hand.
I particularly liked the versatility of these recipes. Different vegetables can substituted depending what is in season and the three contrasting textures of the dishes I chose made for a very satisfying meal. The techniques are simple enough for even our caravan kitchen to accommodate, yet the results were rather impressive – if I do say so myself. Thank you Mary Anne!”
“Several words spring to mind as I read this book – mouthwatering, delicious, tasty, do-able, yummy… I think you can see where I am going with this!
Before I start on the recipes I am going to mention all the other things that are included in this book. Mary has included little snippets from her life, her family and friends. Sri Lankan cookery has taken recipes from other cultures and they have been adapted over the years to fit with the food available. These little asides are included in the introduction to some recipes, as poems or in the fabulous Introduction at the beginning of the book.
Some of the recipes have little alternatives or tweaks that she has thoughtfully included, little adaptions that are handy to know and come from experience. Each recipe has a wonderful photograph, I like to see what an end product is so these are a very welcome addition.
Now then, the recipes…Wow! every course is catered for, starters, mains, vegetarian, fish, dessert and, drinks. I have tried a couple of dishes, only simple things as I am between shopping trips at the moment, and to be fair my little village shop does not carry a lot of the ingredients. Though in the list of main ingredients there are often alternatives, this came in very handy indeed.
The first thing I tried was the Chai Tea, this sounds a little bit random, but I buy Chai Tea so I reasoned that as I have everything I needed why not make my own! Much better than the shop bought one I get, I can see this is a recipe that I will be using quite often.
Next up was the Braised Pepper Chicken, a milder recipe that had ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, onions and tomato. A simple recipe to follow that makes use of my basic store cupboard ingredients. Very tasty and I served it with just simple boiled rice, though I do add a veg stock cube to the water while cooking.
I am looking forward to trying more recipes in this book. On my list for the future is Black Pork Curry, Beef Smoore, Beet Curry, Raita that is different from the one I usually make and, I definitely want to try the mango pickle. There are so many recipes that I would love to make and try though.
If you are looking for a cookbook that has a very good mix of recipes then this would be one that would be a good asset for your shelf. A mix of ingredients that are easy to source though I would have to travel a little further afield for some of them.
The recipes I tried were easy to follow and extremely tasty, it is a book I would definitely look to buy in its physical format. It is not just a cookbook, it has so many interesting extras and this makes it enjoyable to read and peruse through
It gets a Highly Recommended from Me!”
“I have a slight addiction to cooks, so when the chance to review A Feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj came up, I jumped at the chance, especially as Sri Lankan food is something I know nothing about, and I’m always eager to learn about a new cuisine.
For me, a good cookbook has to have three elements: recipes that I want to cook which don’t contain loads of ingredients and numerous steps, photographs of the majority of the recipes so I know what I’m aiming for, and be an interesting read where I can learn something about the author; I think A Feast of Serendib has managed to achieve all three of these well.
There is a wide selection of recipes, so you really get a feel for the cuisine, with an emphasis on curried dishes but also recipes for some drinks and desserts which I liked. Many of the recipes call for the use of Sri Lankan curry powder and I’m pleased the author has included a recipe to make my own, apart from the dried curry leaves I already had most of the spices in my cupboards. I’ve not had the chance to make many of the recipes yet but from the few I’ve tried the Fish White Curry and the Tangy Peppered Beef Stew being favourites, just watch out for the peppercorns, my kids also liked the Garlic-Ginger Chicken.
Each recipe has its own photo and a little introduction about the dish which I really liked as t gives more insight into the recipes. The book also has a detailed introduction which gives a lovely insight into the culture and cuisine of Sri Lanka. I think the author has done a great job with this cookbook and I’m looking forward to trying more recipes very soon.”
“This is a wonderful and colorful cookbook featuring recipes featuring several geographical blends, but is mainly based in Sri Lanka. The recipes are eclectic, exotic, yet simple.
…I must say I’ve never encountered any recipes quite like the ones in this cookbook. It’s an interesting marriage of flavors. Once more I found a few recipes that will spice up my summer garden vegetables, which is something I am always on the look out for. This is especially true for eggplant and okra, two vegetables I run out of fresh recipes for…”
“Honestly, if you can’t find anything that tickles your taste buds then you’re not looking hard enough, because there has to be a recipe in here for everyone! The instructions for each recipes are clear, understandable and simple enough for even the most amateur of cooks to do….
All in all, it’s a lovely cookbook filled with lots of tantalising and tasty offerings. I can’t wait to try out the beef and potato curry as it’s my favourite dish out of the whole book! …It is certainly a recipe book which I would definitely recommend and will make a welcome addition to anyone’s bookshelves.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this cookery book because of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s honest conversational tone. It’s more like listening to a friend describe her cooking than reading an austere and prescriptive chef’s manual! The author frequently drops in tips about changes that can be made such as adding alcohol or substituting dried for fresh herbs and spices which might be more readily accessible. It made me smile when she pointed out the extra washing up that might arise from using a food processor in her Red Rice Congee for example.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the personal anecdotes so that I felt I got to know Mary Anne Mohanraj and her family. Her daughter’s favourite ginger garlic chicken is probably my favourite recipe as well. The introduction to the book and the cultural background bring alive the reasons for the recipes and it isn’t every day a cookery book has poetry too so that A Feast of Serendib has little added extras that satisfy the reader and cook. Indeed, my favourite part of the entire book was the poem Come To Me.
It almost goes without saying that there are some super recipes to try and the photographs enable the reader to feast with their eyes before they even attempt to cook. I think some more cautious cooks might feel slightly scared of Mary Anne’s willingness to adapt and alter her recipes as she goes, but they would be wrong. Her style here encourages tentative cooks to experiment and adjust what they are cooking to their own tastes so that they can truly own their food.
A Feast of Serendib is exactly that – a feast of Sri Lankan serendipitous food, culture and information, making for a book to enjoy with recipes to adapt as you cook.”
“There are recipes for everyone, and if you like spices and all the magical smells that they bring, then this is the kind of book that will give you the tools to make amazing, warm, comfort dishes that will warm your heart and stomach.”
“I have quite a recipe book ‘habit’; and can never resist a new one. There are shelves of them in my house and I’m very happy flicking through the pages, choosing what I’ll cook next. However, I do tend to stick to the same well-tried and tested recipes and was a little wary that this book may be filled with ingredients that I’d never heard of and would find difficult to get hold of.
I didn’t have to worry; Mary Anne’s recipes are simple to follow and the majority of the ingredients are familiar and easily sought out locally.
Whilst this is a cookery book, it’s also something of the author’s story. She talks about her ethnic heritage and influences and about her family. The reader gets to know her and it all feels very personal.
Another bonus for me is the detailed descriptions of the various spices and ingredients used throughout the recipes. Even if the reader doesn’t recognise the name, the description will help to decide if it is something to your taste…”