One of my favourite food quotes comes from Rick Stein in his TV series India. “When you are hungry deciding on what to eat and the thought of a curry comes into your head, that’s it, it just has to be a curry” So I apologise in advance, because you will be on the hunt for a curry fix after reading this.
Hari hari (ok, ok – it’s coming) Sri Lankan spices, is the creation of Illana Smith. Her Father is English and her Mother is Sri Lankan, they visited Germany on their honeymoon and decided to stay, this is where Illana was born. They lived in a small village and Illana has fond memories of her Mother cooking curries, where the whole village would turn out to eat and party.
When Illana was 10 her parents decided that they would sell up, move to Sri Lanka and open a guesthouse. But after a few months the civil war kicked off and the business failed, causing her parents to separate. Illana stayed in Sri Lanka with her Mother & younger sister, they lived very simply in a fishing village, but extremely happy days playing in the lagoons and neighbours homes. This is where she saw mothers cooking on open fires and was her first introduction to authentic cooking. At first all the food seemed alien to her, she was used to sausages & sauerkraut, now she was confronted with vibrant spices, a myriad of fruits, vegetables & fish.
She left Sri Lanka on her nineteenth birthday so she could go to Bournemouth University and study hospitality management. With the idea of returning to Sri Lanka to work, but she never went back.
She met her partner and when her children were born she became really aware of food and how important it is to cook fresh wholesome foods. Illana also discovered the amazing health benefits of the spices used in Sri Lankan curries, which only helped to further her love for using spices in her cooking. Her curries are enjoyed by family & friends and was always told that she should sell them. But the whole burden of creating a professional kitchen was too inhibitive. So she hit on the idea of selling the spices that she used to make her curries. This would still allow her to be a at home for her children, just as her mother was for her and also earn some extra money.
To bring you the flavour of Sri Lanka to your kitchen, her spice blends are made with only Sri Lankan spices. She has created nine different blends to make nine different curries – chicken, Dhal, prawn, beef, beetroot, green bean, pork, courgette and water buffalo (another soon to be released). Each biodegradable pack comes with the spices and full instructions on how to create the perfect Sri Lankan curry.
She sells at farmers markets, food festival, online and can be bought at some farm shops across Dorset. She has big plans for the future and expect to hear more from Illana over the coming years…
Must dash, its time to make a curry…
Blog and photos kindly written and taken by our volunteer John Grindle.