Sri Lanka: Matale and Euphoria Spice & Herbal

As soon as we booked our trip to Sri Lanka, I knew I wanted to find somewhere to do a cooking class. Where better to learn how to cook beautiful Sri Lankan curry using the myriad herbs and spices that grow so abundantly in the tropical climate, than a spice and herb garden. Euphoria Spice & Herbal is a spice plantation near Matale, an area with rich and fertile soil and the perfect conditions for growing spices, particularly cinnamon.

matale_spice_garden.jpg

To visit the spice garden and have a guided tour of their huge range of culinary herbs and spices, as well as plants used in Ayurveda, you can just turn up. It’s a great place to break the journey to Kandy from the areas around Habarana and Sigiriya. However, if you want to do the cooking class you have to book in advance so that they can prepare the ingredients and equipment, and there’s a fee.

matale_cinnamon
Cinnamon plants
We started with the tour of the gardens and saw all sorts of plants including cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and curry leaves. It was fascinating hearing how they grow, harvest, and prepare the spices for cooking. There were other intriguing plants too, like one that is similar to cotton with fluffy pods that they use for cushions.

matale_turmericmatale_curry_leavesmatale_cotton

After hearing all about the spices that thrive in Sri Lanka, we had the opportunity to learn how they use them. First of all, we made coconut milk by grating fresh coconut, mixing it with water, and squeezing the coconut before sieving the grated coconut out. We did this twice to draw out the thick coconut milk first of all, and then the thin coconut milk. Then we learned all about the two main different types of Sri Lankan curry powder and when to use each one.

matale_ingredients

It was now time to get down to business cooking up a pumpkin and a chicken curry, lentil dhal, and coconut sambol. Our teacher was great and took us through the recipes, advising us as we went about what we were doing, and what we could use as alternatives if we couldn’t find everything in the UK. In the end we cooked some delicious food and had some recipes to take home. After cooking, we sat down and ate our Sri Lankan feast. Our driver joined us too and seemed pretty impressed with what we had cooked.

matale_coconut_sambol
Coconut sambol

matale_curry_pandan_leaves
Heating up onion with pandan leaves and curry leaves in coconut oil – key ingredients in Sri Lankan food.
matale_chicken_currymatale_pumpkin_curry.jpgmatale_feast

I’m so glad we booked ahead and were able to experience the cooking lesson. The staff were so kind and genuinely delighted that we were there even though it was just the two of us! We learned to cook a number of dishes, learned how to use some of the key ingredients in Sri Lankan cuisine and had a fantastic time, so it was absolutely worth it and I can definitely recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Sri Lanka.

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