You can tell the story of a place through its people, through its history, through its food – in Rambutan Cynthia Shanmugalingam does all of this, but what gives this lush book its joyful soul is Cynthia’s love of Sri Lanka, the land of her parents and family. Presented through the lens of a British Sri Lankan girl growing up in the 1980s with parents desperate to fit in but not to forget, this exuberant book bursts with intimate stories of immigrant life – sometimes moving, often laugh-out-loud funny – and vivid images which bind context around the want-to-eat-it- right-now food. Here are recipes from Cynthia’s mum, grandmother, aunties and friends, some of them simplified but all retaining the Sri Lankan spirit and designed to deliver much edible Sri Lankan joy as easily as possible. Seeni sambol – a sticky, fiery shallot jam – is magnificent in an egg and cheese sandwich and the shrimp and seafood kool stew more than lives up to its name. Look out for roast pumpkin curry, fried sweet plantain curry, cashew nut curry, prawn curry with tamarind, black pork belly curry, egg curry – yes, there are plenty of curries because, as Cynthia says, curry is a shape-shifting, magical thing. I can’t wait to try potato and leek spicy stuffed roti and the delight of watalappan tart, a spicy, wobbly, coconutty cardamom-spiked and jaggery-sweetened custard baked into a tart. See an extract of Rambutan on page 82. TRACY WHITMEY