I like to think I’m not a fussy eater. I used to be. I would pick tomato slices out of shop-bought ham sandwiches, and they had to be ham sandwiches. But these days, I like to think I’m much more open to newer culinary experiences. And most of the time, I am. Begrudgingly, I might even try mushrooms if they’re prepared in an interesting way.

But this week’s Home Supper Club meal ran me up against one food that I’ve never enjoyed: custard. More on that in a moment. The cuisine chosen this week was Sri Lankan, which prides itself on its spiciness. As a white man prone to the occasional spice challenge, this set my taste buds tingling. How spicy would the curry be? Would I have to call the fire department?

Mercifully, that wasn’t the case. The kottu roti was certainly very spicy, and while I have had spicier dishes, they tended to overwhelm me with pure heat. For this curry of stir-fried chicken and vegetables, egg, and roti pieces, served with rice, wambatu moju and kale mallung (aubergine pickle and kale and coconut salad respectively), the chef achieved the perfect balance of heat vs flavour. This meant that while there was still the enjoyable heat of the chilis, the other flavours weren’t drowned in it. The sweetly sour flavour of the aubergine pickle was able to stand out. The curry powder, ginger, and garlic in the stir fry were given a reasonable airing. The pieces of roti added a pleasant textural counterpoint to everything else in the dish. Overall? Brilliant. I’m still personally wary of aubergine, but I’m much more willing to try it now thanks to the wambatu moju.

The kale salad, or kale mallung, was also brilliant. I’ve never really enjoyed kale before now. I was always quite wary of it, from a very snobby perspective, as a superfood enjoyed only by health nuts. But this was delicious. Texturally, I’m not a fan of stalks – cabbage, kale, if it has a stalk, I don’t like eating the stalk. But the preparation method kale mallung made it taste so good that this didn’t matter. The kale is lightly cooked until wilted in a dressing of oil, mustard & cumin seeds, chili, and onion. It was delicious. The grated coconut offered a sweeter counterpoint to the slightly bitter kale, and they were both offset by the spicy dressing. Glorious. This is definitely a recipe I will be trying myself. 

And so, we come to the custard. This week, the dessert was watalappan, a cardamom spiced coconut cream custard topped with cashew nuts. To you, that might sound delicious. But in my mind, custard is the wrongest wrong to have ever wronged. It is second only to porridge in “foods I loathe with utter and undying hatred.” So, it is with great reluctance that I admit that the custard itself tasted reasonably nice. Sweet without being too sugary, with hints of nutmeg and cardamom, it was a pleasant-enough taste. But topped with crunchy cashew nuts, the texture of this dessert felt wrong to me. In not having a sense of smell, and in being borderline autistic, food texture is more of a priority to me than it is to others. I must stress how much that made the texture of the watalappan feel wrong. The dessert itself was well-made, and the taste was good, but I could not personally separate it from the wrongness of its texture. Objectively it was lovely, but subjectively, I couldn’t finish it.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal this week. The kottu roti curry was delicious, and the kale mallung and wambatu moju have introduced me to new and exciting ways of trying foods I have previously never enjoyed. That I couldn’t finish the watalappan should not put anyone else off it, as it tasted great even if the texture felt weird. So, what’s next, chef?

Written By Nick Dunn