Dish It Out: Shereena Neludi Seshani

Apr 25 2024.

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How do our food experts cook and eat? This week, recipe developer and food blogger, Shereena of @thedancingkitchen, takes our Q&A!

What’s your first memory of cooking? 
When I was in Sri Lanka, I didn’t cook anything except peeling onion and garlic and chopping veggies. Even after moving to Italy, I didn’t want to cook. Then, after a few years of my marriage, I got tired of eating non-Sri Lankan food – my inner Sri Lankan soul was screaming for spicy food, so I started to learn to make Sri Lankan cuisine with the help of my mother and social media. Like most of you, parippu was my failed but well-cooked curry! 

What started the Dancing Kitchen?
I created my Instagram around 2018 and just posted the simple dishes I made for my husband and personal stuff. Then I really started to get into food blogging and photography and that gave birth to my blog The Dancing Kitchen. During COVID-19, I started to focus more on cooking and baking and missing my mom’s food and using her guidance to cook made me do it. 

What skill do you possess that you know is undeniably the influence of someone who taught you to cook?
One thing I'm really good at in cooking is thanks to my mother who guided me to make food taste really yummy by mixing different flavours just right. She showed me how to use spices, herbs, and seasonings to make dishes taste amazing.

What do you love about your job as a recipe developer? 
I try to create something new, fancy meal for us. What I always believe is that the “eyes eat first”. I love to cook our meals healthy but delicious and also love to present them beautifully. My family are my guests and they give me the best feedback. 

Your proudest recipe developed for a client so far?
My Kochchi Prawns. I didn’t have any plan or idea of what I was cookin' and then magically I created this spicy delicious dish!

A recipe on your blog the Dancing Kitchen you’d recommend anyone to try? 
My Negombo-style black prawn curry. I love anything with prawns, but this is so special to me. That is one of my favourite recipes passed down from my mom. I highly recommend you use homemade chilli powder instead of store-bought chilli powder for this as it adds an extra flavour to it that you can’t replicate. 

What was your favourite childhood meal?
It is all about one special breakfast meal to me. We had sweet breakfast almost all the time and at least 2-3 Sundays of the month we had kiribath but not the traditional white milk rice rather, Mung beans milk rice with treacle is our family's favorite dish. Every year on Christmas Day my mother cooks this as a family tradition and I’m still continuing it here even though I’m far away from home.

What does healthy eating look like to you?
Balanced eating. This is something that I love the most. In my home, I cook healthy meals almost all the time - with less/no oil, processed foods or sugar and I like to add more healthy fats and protein. Eating ONLY salad all the time is not the only healthy meal for me. I love to add proteins, greens, veggies, pickles, nuts and dried fruits to my salads with a delicious dressing.

Living in Italy – how has the country influenced your cooking or your food preferences?
I moved here when I was a teenager and I was mostly living on Italian food until 2018 because cooking pasta is way easier than cooking a curry for me.  Because of that, I’ve learned so many Italian dishes! 

What’s a dish that sounds hard to make but actually isn’t?
Sushi. Before I tried making it for the first time I thought making sushi was the hardest thing. But I passed my first trial so easily. Now I’m making my own sushi at least once a month. 

What’s your must-try dish in Italy that’s not commonly known?
Caponata di Melanzane. It’s a Sicilian dish. I had this when I was living in Palermo in 2010 and I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. It's basically cooked from eggplant, vinegar and a few other ingredients. Just like a pickle but it tastes amazing! The last bite, you must eat it with bread. Here we call it scarpetta di pane. If you don’t know how to do it, then you are not living in Italy! 

Sweet or Savoury – which one wins? 
Sweet. In our home, my parents are best at making sweet dishes more than savoury ones. We had something sweet for breakfast and evening tea time. But as an adult, I’m trying to avoid it while my heart is screaming for it.

What’s the most adventurous food you’ve eaten? 
It was 2020 when I was home for vacation. We went for dinner at Avenra Bayfont and I had a mutton curry with paratha and it was the first time I ate mutton! It was so delicious, I still talk about that mutton curry everywhere. 

Your favourite odd food pairing?
Toasted bread with cream cheese and fish ambulthiyala. I know this sounds weird but it's heavenly and delicious.

What’s a Sri Lankan food/ingredient you miss that you can’t get in Italy? 
Seafood. Even though we have the Adriatic Sea here, I love Sri Lankan seafood. As a Negombo girl, I grew up eating seafood  24/7. So I know the taste of fresh and good quality seafood. I miss it all the time. 

Your favourite recipe that has been passed down to you from family?
Miris Malu - one of our family's favourite dishes. Whenever we have white kiribath we cannot miss Miris Malu and a simple meal after the festive season is incomplete without it. Whenever we have some extra tuna fish, my mother cooks a big pot of miris malu and we keep eating this for weeks by reheating it until it’s over. The best part - having well well-roasted roast pan with leftover miris malu, it’s divine!

Your unpopular food opinion? 
I actually prefer my pasta slightly undercooked, with a bit of bite to it. I find it adds texture and prevents the noodles from becoming too mushy when mixed with sauce.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..

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