By Leigh O’Connor.
Inspired by his childhood of traditional cooking in his ancestral homeland of Sri Lanka, Peter Kuruvita’s career has spanned four decades and many iconic establishments.
Having dined at his Sunshine Coast restaurant Noosa Beach House on several occasions, I know first-hand of Peter’s love of local produce and seafood, spiced with Sri Lankan and world flavours. His snapper curry is and will remain my favourite, served with basmati rice and raita, the depth of flavour and texture is simply amazing.
Peter’s latest cookbook Serendip My Sri Lankan Kitchen, takes us on a rich and rewarding journey through his homeland’s food, its family-oriented culture and its colourful approach to life. Those of us who have had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful island can attest to the friendly, welcoming nature of the locals and the delicious cuisine on offer.
In this book, Peter reaches deep into kitchen experiences with his grandmother and aunties and travels to the markets and stalls of this lush green island, to bring readers a comprehensive collection of recipes and a host of heart-warming stories.
There are curries of every kind, traditional snacks, breads and sticky sweet treats – Serendip is a treasury of spicy meals and tasty morsels.
"The heart of every Sri Lankan house is its kitchen and that is the room I have always been drawn to,” Peter says. "As well as mining my own family’s kitchen history, I have also sought out other authentic recipes for a range of Sri Lanka’s best-loved and most traditional dishes.
"People will travel kilometres for the perfect egg hopper, or coconut sambal. Some of the tastiest meals are still bought from small roadside stalls and ‘boutiques’ – most of which are simple little shacks.”
Peter shares three of these recipes with AGFG:
Surrounded by ocean, Sri Lankan seafood is abundant and used in many forms of curry. Peter’s squid curry has a kick of spice, mellowed by the use of coconut milk and cream, along with a hit of lemon.
Cashews come from one of the very few plants where the seed grows outside the fruit - when ripe the cashew apple is an exotic-flavoured delicate little bell, connected at the bottom is the cashew nut.
Peter’s cashew nut curry requires the nuts to be soaked in water first before simmering with coconut nut milk, chilli powder, cumin, turmeric, fish flakes, green chilli, pandanus leaf and cinnamon stick.
Egg hoppers are eaten throughout Sri Lanka and available at the most basic ‘boutiques’, however it is one recipe that nobody can agree on. Peter says the sought-after result is a hopper where the sides are crisp and centre is aerated and soft; the recipe becomes very personal and needs to be tweaked to achieve the result you are after.
Serendip finishes with a heart-felt thank you from this accomplished Chef to his whole family for the impact they have had on his life.
"This book is dedicated to my whole family. My grandmother and her daughters for embracing me in their kitchen; Dad for the wonderful man that he was and Mum, who always gave support, nurtured our dreams and hopes and was confident we could do anything we wanted to.
"Lastly but certainly not least, my beautiful wife Karen and three sons Jai, Marley and Taj for their patience, support and love, that flows from our house in bucketloads.”
Serendip My Sri Lankan Kitchen