Sri Lankan Mega Feast!

I have eaten very little today, because I am still full from yesterday, the titular Sri Lankan Mega Feast.  I was not comfortably full until two full hours after having stopped eating.  It was that good.  This post is going to be long, because I couldn’t help but bug Michelle and her sister Andrea constantly for what exactly was going into my stomach.   But first, a short explanation of how I came about risking intestinal explosion…

My friend Michelle is one of the best cooks I know, especially at our tender age.  I can bake, but I bow down to actual savory cookery.  Her family is Sri Lankan, from Canada, living in the US, so it’s a mish mash (I enjoy hearing about their Thanksgiving meals), but it’s all delicious.  What’s even better is that her sister Andrea is just as good a cook.  And their mother is too; I got to eat fabulous things from the hands of all three yesterday, and I’m going to eat the leftovers for dinner tonight. At first it was just a big old happy get together at Michelle’s house, but it was extra special because she just got into her top choice of medical school!  Congratulations again, Michelle!

A list:

Eggplant curry (I don’t yet have the recipe, but I do have a promise from their mother that she’ll teach me)

Two types of chicken curry (also subject of a future cooking exchange)

Green beans, Sri Lankan style

The most fabulous daal ever.

Mango lassi


In addition, I made a pie as my ticket of entry, and another guest made up a pumpkin and apple casserole that got ethnicized by the happy addition of coconut milk powder (the magic ingredient).  But enough of my chit chat.  To the recipes.

Most Fabulous Daal Ever.

Ingredient list:

Masoor daal – 2/3 handfuls


3 cloves garlic

Half a medium onion

Canola or other vegetable oil



Black mustard seed

Curry leaves

Coconut milk or coconut milk powder

Before this, I was in love with black daal (lentils), but I have been unable to find a really excellent version of it back here, outside of India.  I will definitely keep looking, but in the meantime, I will glut myself on this.  At the party we made enough for 12 people, but Andrea reduced it down for me for 2-3 people.

Masoor daal: so pretty!

Put about 2-3 handfuls of masoor daal (the orange lentils) in a pot (these instructions are from people who say cook by color and scent, not by measurements, so just go with the flow). Add enough water so that when you place your index finger on the level surface of the daal in the pot, the water comes to the line of your first knuckle.  Now read that again.  I find it easiest to place my index finger against the wall of the pot, find that height on the wall of the pot, and then add water to that point, as the lentils may float around on you.  Got it?  Ok.  No matter how much daal (or rice, same way of measuring water) you decide to cook, this is how much water you need – crazy, isn’t it? The daal will double in volume when cooked.

Boil the daal on high with about 3 cloves of garlic, chopped, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.  Boil for about 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time to keep it from sticking.  Here’s where your own preference comes in: some people like their lentils to retain their own shape, others like it to be basically a puree of lentilly tastiness: either way.  You’ll see when the daal will start to grow very, very thick and lose it’s definition (15ish minutes): either stop there, or cook a minute or so longer for mushier daal.  Be careful when the daal gets thick and viscous – STOP stirring it.  It turns into what Michelle calls the lentil monster: it will spit and burn you, badly.  Bad news bears.

This daal is fully cooked - ready for the addition of the thalisam. See below.

While your daal is boiling, in a separate pan, prepare the thalisam, or the base for most Sri Lankan curries.  Heat a tablespoon or two of oil over high heat (Michelle and Andrea claims that there is no other heat setting on their stove) and fry up half a medium onion (more if you’d like) until brown.  This gives the daal a nice nuttiness and depth of flavor.  To the onion, add about a 1/4

Cumin, fenugreek, and black mustard seeds

teaspoon each of cumin seed, fenugreek, and black mustard seed.  Also add a curry leaf or two – you can get this at Asian foodstores.  It resembles a bay leaf, but is a completely different scent and flavor.  You can remove it at the end of cooking if you’d like, but it is edible.

Fully cooked thalisum

When the onion is done, stir it into the cooked lentils.  Add coconut milk powder or coconut milk to taste, a couple of teaspoons.  The powder has

Tasty rice!

the added benefit of acting as a thickening agent, giving it a beautiful texture, but it’s tasty either way.  Michelle has been known to thin the daal down afterwards with milk or coconut milk and eat it as soup.  I

plan to do that as well as winter sets in, as  I’ll use soup as a cheaper alternative to turning up the heat. Serve with rice or roti.  We were lucky enough to have delicious rice with lemon, roasted cashews, and tomato (sliced and added at the very end).

Mango Lassi

I want these cups.

Andrea insists that there is no other flavor of lassi besides mango.  Others disagree, but I’ll go with her on this.  I usually don’t order lassi at restaurants because they end up super sweet, but this version has no added sugar so is tangy and marvelous.  You’re welcome to use fresh mango, just remember that there’s a giant pit in the middle, so you’ll need to keep that in mind when thinking about the weight.  This makes a whole blenderful, so scale it down for groups smaller than eight – lassi is seriously filling.

Blend the following:

30 oz can of mango pulp

20 oz plain yogurt

1/2 c to 3/4 c milk

Dumbed down falooda - still sweet and fragrant!


Falooda is a southern Indian, Sri Lankan drink.  Different recipes have different add ins, but here is a simplified version that you don’t have to do too much searching to put together.

Usually Michelle’s family adds something called kasa kasa seed (I have no clue about the spelling), which you then soak until it sprouts, adding a crunchy element to the mix, livening up the whole experience.  Apparently it feels like a crunchier, tiny tapioca pearl, for all you bubble tea aficionados out there. As they do their spice shopping in Canada and still couldn’t find it on the last trip, I won’t insist.  Just try this simplified version.

Mix in a glass:

2 tablespoons rose essence (most fun if you find a pink version – theirs read artificial sherbet syrup, but it comes under different names)

8 oz milk

Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and enjoy!

Finally, the non-Sri Lankan pie that I took out of the pie bible.

The finished pie... demure and chaste

Triple-Layer Pumpkin Pie

Tell me all your secrets, provocative pie.

This has a kind of cheesecakey texture to it – it is almost excruciatingly rich, and the combination of flavors is fabulous!  Don’t worry.  But don’t make my mistake either – leave pleeeenty of time for this to cool down completely.  It was still great while still warm, but the flavors really need the chill down to develop their full complexity.  I’d suggest making it the night before (I had planned to do that, but I had taken a five hour test and decided to waste the rest of the day).


Single crust, either graham cracker crust or basic pie pastry.  I had made a crust ahead of time, but left it in my own fridge and didn’t realize it until twenty minutes into a forty minute drive.  So stay tuned for a basic pie crust post later this week.  Instead, I bought a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, and it was just fine.  In fact, I was asked how I got it so flaky.  Don’t worry, I confessed.

Partially prebake the pie crust in a 9 1/2 inch deep dish pan or a 10 inch pan.  To make this easier on yourself, after molding the crust to the shape you’d like, freeze it for ten or fifteen minutes.  That way, during the prebake stage, it stays pretty and presentable, like a child dressed up for the holidays.  Unlike your kid, though, the pie will stay put together longer than ten minutes, hopefully.

Take about 16 in of foil (heavy duty if you have it) and tuck it over your pie shell as if you were adding in another shell.  Let the excess flare out over the edges of the pie plate, like really shiny wings.  Pour pie weights into the shell, if you have them.  They are little balls of clay, but you can also use dried beans of any kind, or rocks out of your driveway.  They won’t actually touch the pie, so it’s all good.  The pie weights work best, beans second best.  Bake for 15 minutes.

These are not candy. I don't know why everyone wants to eat the burning hot pebbles.

After that’s done, lift out the foil and set it aside to cool.  Take a fork and poke some holes in the bottom of your crust to prevent excessive puffing, then pop back in the oven at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes for a partially pre-baked crust, 15-17 for a fully prebaked shell.  Set the shell aside to cool.

Moving on, the filling.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

12 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup of pumpkin puree, canned or fresh (if you are an overacheiver)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 c full-fat sour cream.

By the by, the full-fat instructions are straight from the book – just cave to the fact this is not health food.  Pumpkin does not equal healthy.

Reduce the oven temperature to 35o.  Melt the butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water and add in the chocolate.  Whisk (or spatula) until smooth, remove the double boiler from the water, and set aside until partially cooled.

In a separate bowl, cream the cream cheese, gradually adding in 1 1/4 c of the sugar, then beat the eggs in one at a time.  Blend in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until evenly combined.

Mix slightly less than half of the pumpkin filling with the melted chocolate and set aside the rest.  Pour the chocolate filling into the cooled pie shell, shake gently to settle it, then bake on the center rack for 20 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  If you’d like (I definitely liked the effect), add a layer of chopped pecans on top of the chocolate to further delineate the different levels of the pie.  I also like texture contrasts, so…

Adding in the pecan layer

Spoon in the remaining pumpkin filling over the cooled chocolate layer.  Shake the pan gently to settle the filling and pop it back in the oven, so the part of the pie that was facing the back previously is now facing forward (for even cooking).  Bake until the pumpkin is set (doesn’t jiggle warningly when you shake it to test), about 35 to 40 minutes.  When it’s done, the preimeter of the filling will have puffed somewhat, but not so much that it develops large cracks.

Transfer to a wire rack again and let it cool until the filling settles fully and flattens out, about 30 to 45 minutes (I told you it took a lot of cooling).

Remember, the cooling is worth it. Yours won't be so saggy. But it was still ridiculously rich and silky smooth.

In a small pot, combine the sour cream and remaining 1/4 c sugar over super low heat and warm through, about 2-4 minutes. You just want to heat it to slightly above body temperature – any more and it will start to break.  Pour it over the top of the pie, smooth it around and let it cool completely to room temperature, cover with loosely tented foil and stick it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  Then eat!

That's what I like to see.


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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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