Regal cuisine

Regal cuisine

The recipes present their own surprises, and are clearly intended for experienced cooks—the instructions are brief, and there are no quantities listed. Throw in some obscure ingredients and a range of cooking techniques and demanding preparations, and you have something to intimidate any modern chef. Persevere, however, and you can actually put together a multi-course meal fit to grace a royal table. There are even two recipes for drinks and several suggestions for desserts.

Pilimatalavuva speculates on the multiple influences the recipes reveal—some are clearly Indian in origin. The liberal use of jaggery, pulses and coconut, alongside digestive spices such as green ginger and pepper, are all associated with the Dravidian culinary tradition, he says. Other ingredients are to be found in the island’s indigenous cuisine—jackfruit, leaves of the Bo tree (peepal), wood apple seeds, kaneyya honey, stamen of the naa flower, nelli fruit, bark of the kumbuk tree, and the water lily known as manel.

For sheer entertainment, though, it’s difficult to top the pages at the end of the book that list taboo food combinations (if you didn’t already know this, combining toddy with stork flesh can only end badly). It’s also clear that several ingredients are chosen for their health benefits. “The spices and herbs they used had medicinal values...in their cooking, these little ingredients were added so that they had a long-term beneficial effect on your system," explains Pilimatalavuva, adding that it’s likely the recipes here only hint at the variety that was available in the royal kitchens.

Recipes from the Cookery Book of the Last Kandyan Dynasty can be purchased online atwww.vijithayapa.comfor Sri Lankan Rs3,450 (around Rs1,550).

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