Tea is the national drink of Sri Lanka and the country is one of the largest exporters of tea leaves in the world. People drink it first thing in the morning and in the afternoon, when it is often enjoyed with a sweetmeat like this kesari.
Served warm or cold, these sweet Sri Lankan puddings are perfect as a year round snack.
- 1 tbsp cashew nut halves
- 1 tbsp raisins or sultanas (golden raisins)
- 250 g (9 oz/1¼ cups) semolina (medium coarse)
- 400 ml (14 fl oz / 1⅔ cups) boiling water
- ¼ tsp kesari powder (or saffron powder)
- 150 g (5½ oz/¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tsp ghee
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- butter, for greasing
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Dry-roast the cashew nuts in a medium frying pan (skillet) over a low heat until golden brown. Set aside. In the same pan, dry-roast the raisins until they start to turn golden and plump. Put them together with the roasted cashews.
In the same pan, dry-roast the semolina until just beginning to turn golden. Then, add the boiling water and kesari powder and cook for 10–12 minutes, stirring continuously, until the semolina is soft and most of the water is absorbed.
Add the sugar, mix well and cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring continuously. Then, add the ghee and cook for a further 3–4 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the cardamom, cashews and raisins and give it a good stir.
Grease a round cake tin (about 23 cm/9 inches) with some butter, pour the kesari in and spread it to a thickness of about 1.5–2 cm (½–¾ inch). Cut into diamonds or squares, and serve either warm or cold.
Recipe from Sri Lanka the Cookbook by Prakash K Sivanathan and Niranjala M Ellawala (Murdoch Books, pb, $39.99). Photography © Kim Lightbody.