Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean.

Lonely planet describes Sri Lanka as endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, oodles of elephants, rolling surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea and flavourful food.

Sri Lanka has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the ancient city of Sigiriya, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the old town of Galle, the sacred cities of Anuradhapura and Kandy, Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Central Highlands.

The most popular time to visit Sri Lanka is in its driest season during January to March.  May hosts the important religious celebration of Vesak, where the city comes alive in colours, lights and festivities.  Christmas is also well celebrated.

Sri Lankan cuisine has taken influence over history from the Dutch colonialists and Southern India. Staple ingredients are rice, coconut and spices. Recipes include Kottu (stir fry of bread and vegetables), Kool (seafood broth), Pol Sambola (coconut with rice and hoppers) and Pushnambu (rich cake made from coconut treacle). I opted to cook Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry) which had a lovely spicy flavour but was slightly dry.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes + 1-3 hours marinating
Cook time: 35 – 40 minutes

2 chicken breasts
1 medium onion chopped
2 green chillies chopped
1 piece of lemon grass
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1-2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mustard seed (crushed)
salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp vinegar

Trim any excess fat from the chicken, then cut into chunks
Grind the ginger and garlic into a paste
Add the chilli powder, curry powder, turmeric, pepper, salt and the lemon grass into a plastic bag with the chicken and allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 – 3 hours
Fry the onion, green chillies and the ginger garlic paste in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes and then add mustard and cover
and simmer for about 3 minutes
Add the chicken, vinegar and a little more salt and stir
Cover and cook over a low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is tender
Serve with steamed rice

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Ingredients for Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Marinating the chicken
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Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Kukul mas curry (Chicken curry)
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Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka
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Elephants in Sri Lanka
anuradhapura
Anuradhapura
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Pakistan

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spreads over much of what now constitutes Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is the only muslim country to have been created in the name of Islam. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic.

Pakistan is home to the 2nd largest peak in the world, K2, also known as the Savage Mountain. It reaches 8,611 metres (28,251 ft) above sea level and is the highest point of the Karakoram mountain range. There have been around 300 successful summits and 80 fatalities, about one person dies on the mountain for every four who reach the summit. The first successful summit was an Italian expedition, led by Ardito Desio and the two climbers who actually reached the summit were Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni on 31 July 1954.

Often known as the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ the Karakoram Highway, runs through the northern areas connecting Pakistan with China and is the world’s highest paved international road at an elevation of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft) and approximately 1,300 km in length. It was started in 1959 and was completed and opened to the public in 1979. About 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives, while building the highway, mostly in landslides and falls.

More than 50% of the world’s footballs are made in Pakistan. Around 60 milion hand-stitched footballs are produced by small firms in Sialkot, Pakistan. In 2014, 42 million official ‘Brazuca’ footballs were exported to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. Even NASA tested the football and declared it the best football ever made.

The cuisine of Pakistan is similar to that of Northern India with influences from Central Asia and the Middle East. The food varies across the different regions from Pashtun, Punjab, Sindh and Karachi. Some of the recipes I found were Aloo gosht (lamb with potatoes in gravy), Seekh kebab (beef kebab), Matar pulao (rice with peas) and Sindhi biryani (rice & meat). I made Chicken Lahori curry, well actually I made Butter chicken, then realised that it’s not from Pakistan. So two for the price of one! Both were very delicious and got 9/10.

Rating: 9/10

Chicken Lahori curry
Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 – 35 mins

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
1/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger & garlic pounded into a paste
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 or 2 green chillies, chopped (depending on how hot you like)
400g chicken breast skinless and boneless cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
140ml chicken stock or water
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
Salt

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the whole spices with the bay leaves until they crackle
Add the onions and fry for a few minutes, until lightly browned
Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute, stirring well, then add the ground spices (except the garam masala), the green chillies and tomatoes
Cook for 3 minutes, stirring to blend
Add the chicken pieces with the yogurt, stock and salt to taste, and stir well
Simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked
If the sauce is too thick, add more stock
Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala
Serve with steamed rice

 

Butter chicken
Serves: 2 hungry people
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 min

4 Tbsp oil
100g butter
2 tsp fresh ginger & garlic pounded into a paste
450g chicken, boneless cubes
300g tomatoes, blended
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
Salt to taste
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
300g fresh cream
1 piece ginger, julienne
2 tbsp green coriander, chopped

Heat oil in a wok
Add ginger-garlic paste and chicken
Fry till chicken changes colour to golden brown
Add butter to chicken in the pan and then add blended tomatoes
Cook for 2-3 minutes whilst stirring
Add red chilli powder, turmeric, curry powder, salt and stir lightly till oil separates
Add fenugreek leaves
Slowly add cream and stir
Add ginger juliennes and cover with lid and cook gently for few minutes
Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed rice