Sensational Sweet and Spicy Sambols

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Being someone who loves a meal with many elements, Sri Lankan food was pretty much my dream come true. Every meal is served with plenty of sides: sauces, chutneys, relishes, and pickles, to make each bite unique and surprising. Sambol is the word for this seemingly endless collection of condiments, and I lost count trying to sample them all in a week.

I believe I mentioned in my previous post about Sri Lanka, how spicy the food is there. Like, blow-your-head-off spicy. And as if the curries themselves weren’t hot enough, the chili-based sambols on the side will certainly commit your taste buds to perplexing levels of pain.

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Pol sambol is the ubiquitous, fiery condiment served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is probably one of the simplest dishes to make, consisting mainly of chili, shredded coconut, chili, lime, and chili – did I mention the chili? Yea. This mix ranges from very spicy to volcanically hot depending on whose table you’re sitting at.

On the second day of the trip, my tongue seeking refuge in something, dare I say it, borderline bland, I discovered one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted – and it wasn’t bland to say the least, just not sweat-inducing. Seeni sambol, a fragrant, Sri Lankan caramelized onion jam, turned out to be incredible on everything from hoppers to curries, and could turn a pretty plain bowl of red rice into something remarkably special. I became totally obsessed with this sambol and it was the very first thing I attempted to make when I came home. I really cannot tell you enough how awesome this stuff is. Do yourself a favour and make a batch soon!

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The most memorable experience I had in Sri Lanka was learning to cook traditional recipes with two women in the local village. It was likely one of the most eye-opening culinary experiences I’ve ever had – not only learning from such passionate and experienced cooks, but seeing their traditional kitchen, tools, and techniques really inspired me.

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Take their stove, for example. A large clay bench with large mounds molded into it held the earthenware pots in place, and the heat underneath was adjusted by adding more sticks to the fire, or taking them away. Genius. Above the stove was a large wooden wrack to hang beans, seeds, and herbs for fast drying, which I thought was a brilliant way to take advantage of the residual heat. Ingredients were prepped on the floor, since it’s cooler down there, and also nice to sit while you’re working. The knife to cut veggies was actually attached to a stool, and instead of holding the blade, you hold the vegetables and basically drop them on top, slicing them in the air to fall onto a grass mat. The sambol was made by grinding all the ingredients together on a huge flat stone designed specifically for this task, and as such took all of ten seconds to prepare. Spoons were made from dried coconut shells. The plates were made of woven grass, topped with fresh lotus leaves from the nearby creek. The leaves protected the plates from the saucy curries, and when you were finished your meal, you’d discard the leaf into the compost, so that there was literally nothing to wash! I mean.

This day made me take a long hard look at how much stuff I use in the kitchen. Water, electricity, appliances – these women were literally using nothing but things from the earth around them and it made me wonder how we’ve come so far from that connection. Cooking has become so overblown, and it was this experience that reminded me to cook simpler and eat simpler. Get closer to the earth. I don’t have some grand solution, but it’s food for thought.

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I’ll share a few notes on the recipes…
You will likely think I’ve lost my mind when you begin the task of slicing two pounds of onions (#worthit), but I promise you it is the correct amount, and you’ll see that it cooks down to nearly nothing. I tried half this amount my first time and it just simply wasn’t enough. If you’re going to go for this, you may as well make a batch that will last you at least a few meals, right? Fresh curry leaves are a definite preference for this recipe, but I’ve never been able to find them here in Copenhagen so I used dried. They’re not great, but better than nothing. If you don’t want to gnaw on whole spices or curry leaves you can remove them after the seeni sambol is cooked, but it can be a bit of a treasure hunt situation, just sayin’. Once I’ve smashed the cardamom pods, I like to remove the outer skin and just add the inner seeds to the spics mix. I tend to leaves the cloves and curry leaves in since I like those bursts of flavour.

The pol sambol recipe I’ve written here is admittedly, a wimp’s version. I’ll admit that I can only tolerate spice until it begins to overwhelm the other flavours in the food, so mine is strong but still edible on its own. I invite you to go with your instincts on this one and dial up the heat to suit your tastes. If you can find freshly grated coconut (or a fresh coconut that you can grate yourself) by all means use that instead of the desiccated variety! Some versions of pol sambol include curry leaves, but because I only had dried I left them out. If you can find fresh ones, add about a sprig for this recipe, and crush them well before incorporating.

As far as serving these two sensational sambols go, they are pretty much great with All. The. Things. Rice dishes, curries, stews, soups, wraps, sandwiches, salads…I mean it! Once you taste them I’m confident you’ll find infinite uses for them. The first photo is of steamed brown rice and the Kale Mallung recipe that I wrote from the last Sri Lankan post – still a major fav around here. I love this meal for breakfast with a poached egg, lots of seeni sambol and, ahem, lightly sprinkled with the pol sambol.

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A huge thanks to Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts  and Sri Lankan Airlines for making this incredible trip possible!

Show me your sambols on Instagram#MNRsambol

Emma’s Tahini, Orange + Coconut Muesli

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Tahini Orange Coconut Muesli

I can’t recall the exact day that I stumbled into Emma Galloway’s world, but I do remember being completely and utterly awe-struck, inspired, and grateful. Her blog, My Darling Lemon Thyme has been on my highly edited list of sites that I actually read, and her delicious, innovative recipes have been making regular appearances in my kitchen ever since.

Joy of joys, Emma released a cookbook, and just like the blog, it is a true gem. Flipping through this book is kind of like shopping in a store where everything fits you perfectly, is the exact colour you want, and strikes the perfect balance between need and want. For instance, I need a recipe for gluten-free sourdough bread, and, I want another recipe for granola. She takes familiar ingredients and genius-ly transforms them into something unique and special that makes you ask: why didn’t I think of that?! Sweet Potato and Kale Latkes, Mung Bean Pancakes, Buckwheat Tabouli – the list goes on. Emma uses exclusively plant-based, gluten-free, whole food ingredients, and taste comes first! I want to tuck into every single one of her meals and treats.

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Although it was nearly impossible to choose just one to share here, the recipe I settled on was Tahini, Orange + Coconut Toasted Muesli, as it sounded like the best and most exciting new way of enjoying granola, and the perfect way to bid farewell to those last winter oranges in the market. The idea of adding tahini to granola was totally brilliant (thanks again, Emma), along with the flavours of toasted coconut and oranges. Yum. After baking, the additions of dried fruit are really special and deliver bright, juicy hits throughout the toasty nuts, seeds and grains. It’s incredibly balanced and tasty, and makes a stupendous topping for yogurt, porridge – even as snack eaten right out of the jar. A bag of this on a recent trip halfway across the world proved to be a real lifesaver!

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The next time I make this recipe, I am going to try it with rolled oats instead of the quinoa flakes. Although it was a nice change to use a different grain, I find the texture of quinoa flakes a little too light and powdery – I prefer the heft and crunch that oats give to granola. I’ve even wondered about using buckwheat groats, which I love in cereal. I will keep you guys posted when I try something new!

Tahini Orange Coconut Muesli


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Thank you, Emma, for sharing your gifts with the world. We love granola, and we love you.

xo, Sarah B

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I’m also really excited to share some (hopefully) helpful information for you in the new Resources section here on the blog. Since I get many, many emails with similar questions about the practicalities of running My New Roots, I have decided to write a few pieces on the inner workings of this food blog – and where I don’t have the answer I have asked my team to kindly chip in… you know, about hosting and coding and technical stuff that makes my brain hurt 😉

Have a look and let me know if there is anything else, you’d like a writeup about!

xo, Sarah B.

The Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bar

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Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bars

Being a recipe developer means grocery shopping almost every day. On my way out the door I always ask my husband if he would like anything from the store, and more often than not he says: “a treat, please”. Now, he doesn’t mean a lovely bag of blood oranges or a pint of juicy strawberries – he means a chocolate bar. Not a healthy chocolate bar. A low-vibe, sugar-laden, not-real-food chocolate bar. But I do not judge him. I just buy the thing and pick my battles (toilet cleaning and garbage disposal rank higher on my list).

Recently, standing near the cash register and cruising the candy bars like a very reluctant weirdo, I actually experienced a pang for one myself. That rich and total over-the-top decadence is not something I am often drawn to, but for whatever reason the Snickers and the Twix bar spoke to me like long lost friends. And that was the exact moment I decided that I was going to makeover my two favourites with the best whole food ingredients I could find, that would deliver both total satisfaction and nutrients. A healthy chocolate bar to end all healthy chocolate bars. Could such a dream be realized? Oh yes, the universe loves us and wants us to be happy.

Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bars

The Colossal Healthy Candy Bar is three tasty parts. First, the bottom biscuit layer inspired by Twix, is a mildly sweet, vegan and grain-free cookie made with coconut flour. It is crisp when it comes out of the oven, but goes pretty cake-y once it is combined with the other ingredients. Delicious nonetheless, and a pretty important counter-point to all the richness of the other layers.

Second, the caramel-and-nut layer inspired by Snickers, but with a twist: instead of just using dates in the caramel, I balanced out the sweetness by adding a healthy dose of hazelnut butter. Wowzers. This was a very delicious decision. The caramel became far more complex, rich-tasting, and it is essential to note that this would make a fantastic spread or topping all on its own. If you do not have hazelnut butter, I recommend almond or cashew in its place (click here for instructions on how to make your own nut butter). Instead of using peanuts, I used roasted hazelnuts to sink into the top of the caramel for awesome texture and crunch – almonds could also be used here.

Lastly, each bar is enrobed in luscious, raw, dark chocolate. I usually use coconut oil in my raw chocolate recipes, but after reading the (incredible!) new cookbook Clean Cakes by Henrietta Inman I was convinced that using solely raw cacao butter was the way to go. It delivers a crisper finish and creamier texture. If you want to make things simpler and faster, feel free to use a ready-made bar of chocolate in this recipe instead of making your own. Raw chocolate is of course the healthier choice, but if you’re pressed for time or ingredients, this is a good shortcut to take.

Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bars

Coconut Flour Power!
With so many diets and lifestyles focusing on gluten-free and grain-free eating, coconut flour is wonderful option for many people. Made entirely from dried coconut flesh that is pulverized into a soft, fine powder, coconut flour is a nutrient-dense alternative that is increasingly available at health food stores and even supermarkets. Score!

There are several benefits of coconut flour, my favourite being that it is remarkably high in protein and fiber. Translation: super filling and satisfying! It is low in sugar and digestible carbohydrates, and scores low on the glycemic index, so it a perfect choice for paleo eaters and diabetics. It’s also nut-free and non-allergenic.

The flavour of coconut flour is slightly coconut-y, but not overwhelmingly so. I like it in things like these chocolate bars where there are many other strong tastes going on that overshadow the taste of the flour. If you want to compliment and enhance the flavour of the flour, use coconut milk as the liquid portion of a baked good. Seriously yummy.

What’s the catch I can hear you asking. Well, there are a few downsides to using coconut flour, mainly due to its density, dryness, and lack of elasticity. It’s certainly not a flour to experiment with if you’re looking to replace wheat flour for instance, as the two behave completely differently (that goes for using coconut flour in place of almost any other flour, whether grain, seed, or nut-based). Coconut flour is also crazy-absorbent and needs quite a large proportion of liquid to solid to avoid crumbly results (I’ve read the comments below and it seems like a lot of you are struggling with this factor!) Most recipes I’ve found online remedy this by using a lot of eggs, but I used applesauce and flax seeds instead with good results. Once you get the correct ratio down it’s pretty easy to work with, but I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to use tried and true recipes with this finicky ingredient!

Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bars

Back to the candy bars. Which are insane. These truly colossal creations have everything you could ever want: tasty cookie, ooey gooey chewy caramel, crunchy roasted nuts, divinely rich chocolate, and tiny salt kisses. I am so darn proud of this recipe, and I can’t believe that such a decadent thing can exist without making me feel lousy after eating it. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I feel colossally healthy after eating one. Or two. Stop looking at me like that.


Colossal Healthy Chocolate Bars

I hope you guys find as much satisfaction in this recipe as I have. It’s pretty rad to have a stockpile of candy bars in your freezer for when the urge strikes, and to keep you out of the chocolate aisle on your next trip to the store! For the record, if you see me there, I’m buying treats for my husband…since I’m really bad at sharing.

Show me your candy bars on Instagram: #MNRchocolatebars