The Local’s Cookbook book review

The last few months have been dominated by a new cuisine in my house.

Since receiving a copy of The Local’s Cookbook, I’ve barely been able to put it down. Written by Bristol based Jon Lewin following his time in Sri Lanka. It’s a brilliant introduction to Sri Lankan food and cooking.

I knew that this would be a rave review after the first recipe I cooked. However I wanted to make sure that I tried a decent number of dishes before giving a full write up. A brilliant book to buy for yourself (a new cookbook is my favourite treat!) or as a gift. Here’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much.

A photo posted by Gemma Screen (@gemma_foodie) on

The recipes are really quick.

Most of the curries are prepped and cooked within 30-40 minutes. Whilst you’re getting used to the recipes it takes a touch longer, but dinner is still ready within the hour which is perfect for mid-week meal.

They are also pretty easy!

Whilst some of the recipes require a bit more skill than others, on the whole they are extremely easy to make. This makes them ideal for anyone who wants to cook delicious food but isn’t that confident in the kitchen (or doesn’t enjoy cooking that much!)

Recipes generally go something like this: Chop, mix & cook with spices, add coconut milk, simmer, done. Some are more complicated, but on the whole it’s perfect for beginners and those looking for hassle free cooking.

The flavours are interesting.

This is what I’ve enjoyed most about Sri Lankan food. The dishes are just so vibrant and so tasty. Dishes like seer fish white curry (mackerel based) and the beetroot curry are beautifully balanced and make for an impressively tasty dish.

The highlight for me has been the vegetable curries. So packed with flavour, and just so interesting. They really are delicious. I tend to cook two or three at a time, as Jon says in the book, “one curry is never enough”.

Chilli is a key player in Sri Lankan cooking and lots of these recipes pack a punch when it comes to spice. If your tolerance for spice is fairly low (mine is) you can tone down some of the curry powder and added chillies. My personal tip is to cook one hot dish and one milder one so I can alternate between the two!

It’s colourful.

Bright pink beetroot, orange pumpkin or squash, pale yellow curries, white coconut, red and green chillies, purple onion. There’s something so enjoyable about cooking with such a rainbow of ingredients.

Even more enjoyable is serving up several dishes which all look wonderfully unique and equally vibrant.

More than just the recipes, the book itself is rich in colour and includes beautiful photographs of Sri Lanka and the locals who contributed to the book. Thumbing through the pages, I feel genuinely inspired to cook the recipes and to learn more about Sri Lankan food and culture.

Ranjis chicken curry for tea tonight from @thelocalscookbook #srilankanfood

A photo posted by Gemma Screen (@gemma_foodie) on

My favourite recipes so far.

  • West coast beetroot curry
  • East coast pumpkin curry (we used butternut squash)
  • West coast pumpkin curry
  • Seer fish white curry (mackerel)
  • Gayani’s fish curry (salmon)
  • Ranji’s chicken curry

Where to buy the stuff

Once your storecupboard is stocked the recipes in this book are pretty cheap – especially the veggie ones. Make sure you stock up on coconut milk. You’ll need it a lot!

  • Spices. Spices and store cupboard ingredients can be bought cheaply from places like the Sweet Mart or a decent Chinese supermarket (I go to Wai Yee Hong). I’d recommend going to one of these over the supermarket where spices, coconut milk and coconut oil will cost much more. You can also buy Sri Lankan curry powder ready made from The Local’s Cookbook and there are recommendations for online spice retailers inside the book too.
  • Fish. Your local fishmonger will be able to fillet and de-bone fish for you. I’ve shopped at Tovey’s in Easton and The Fish Shop on Gloucester Road for mine.
  • Meat. Most meats are widely available. I like to buy mine from Rare in Redland / Southville or from Better Food Company. Things like goat could be more tricky, I’d recommend MJ Dalton’s on Gloucester Road.
  • Vegetables. Greengrocers usually have great bargains for vegetables. I go to Full Basket near the Arches on Cheltenham Road. For organic produce, I’d recommend Bear Fruits, Better Food or Mabel’s on Chandos Road.

Perfect for.

  • Curry-lovers. Anyone who loves cooking or eating Indian or Thai curries will love this book. The recipes are easy to get the hang of and delicious.
  • Vegetarians and Vegans. There are meat recipes in here as well, but the veggie curries are fantastic. Most (if not all) dishes are made with coconut milk rather than yoghurt or cream which means they are great for vegans too.
  • Dairy free or Gluten free. As mentioned above, most recipes are made with coconut milk so great for anyone lactose intolerant. Whilst there are some recipes which have flour, most are gluten free. Recipes have a handy GF and DF label which makes life easier for anyone with these dietary requirements.

So as you can tell, I’m a huge fan. Of Sri Lankan food and especially of this book. Better still 10% of profits are donated back to the locals who contributed to the recipes and it’s author, Jon, is based in Bristol. Find out more about Jon and where you can buy this wonderful book using the links below:
Like on Facebook
Follow on twitter @localscookbook
Check out some of Jon’s beautiful pictures on instagram

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