Tempered beets

Many years ago, 1993, when touring around those areas of Sri Lanka which were open to civilians, I was served a dish of curried beetroots. I was so taken by the delicate spicing that I asked the waiter to give my compliments to the chef, as beetroots were never before one of my favourite vegetables.

The chef came to see me and we sat talking for an hour before he had to return to the kitchen. He had been a chef aboard one of the ships anchored by Port Stanley during the Falklands Campaign and was surprised that I had never heard of the method of “tempering” vegetables.

Tempering, a method of preparing vegetable dishes, comes from the Portuguese temperadu, and is only found in Sri Lanka and means “to fry and season”. It always starts with shallow frying of onions and curry leaves in very hot oil, then adding the vegetables and coconut milk.

However, this recipe uses the “cold method” of tempering, which involves no frying, just bringing all the ingredients to a boil in coconut milk and simmering for 15 minutes. I can do no better than reproduce the notes which I was given that most interesting night.

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