FEAST GIVEAWAY! W00T!

FEAST GIVEAWAY! Woot! Okay, let’s try this!

You: Between now (Mon 9/30) and Saturday midnight (10/5), post a photo of a Sri Lankan dish you’ve cooked in the comments to this post. It can be something from the cookbook, or a recipe from the Serendib Kitchen blog / FB group / my Patreon, or heck, from somewhere else entirely (your own recipe, perhaps?) — as long as it’s Sri Lankan.

Please note what the dish actually is (i.e. ‘stringhopper biryani’ or ‘deviled potatoes’, etc.). Additional comments welcome (‘this didn’t turn out as spicy as I was afraid of’ or ‘my kids loved it!’, etc.). Ideally this is something you cooked this week, though of course, we’ll never know if you sneak in something from days gone by. 

Me:

– every day this week (Mon – Sat), I’ll randomly pick one entry to win an ebook of A FEAST OF SERENDIB! (So yes, you can enter on multiple days! Just post a new photo!)

But wait, there’s more.

– If there are at least 25 entries by then end of the week, on Sunday, I’ll ALSO pick one randomly to be mailed a print copy of A Taste of Serendib, my first cookbook.

– And if there are at least 50 entries, I’ll ALSO pick one randomly to be mailed a print paperback copy of A Feast of Serendib.

– And FINALLY, if there are at least 100 entries, I’ll ALSO pick one randomly to be mailed a hardcover copy of A Feast of Serendib.

So that’s oh, $150 or so worth of giveaways, plus shipping! And all you need to do is cook something Sri Lankan this week, which is really its own gift. Let the games begin!

(Actually, I’ll probably have Pem Hessing track this and randomly pick the winners. But I’m looking forward to all the delectable pictures…)

 

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Chocolate muffins from a mix make Anand equally happy

Somehow my 2.5 hr IKEA trip yesterday turned into a 5 hr IKEA trip. Some of that was driving, but still. But on the plus side, we finished the bulk of Anand’s 10th birthday room re-do yesterday, and showed it to him, and he LOVED it. Photos soon — we still have to dismantle his previous bed and build his new bed, also add glow-in-the-dark stars, before it’s really done. But the painters finished and he has new bedding and we reoriented the furniture to a better configuration; it looks very nice.

One result is that some of the baking I had originally planned to do for his birthday has been abbreviated — instead of making pumpkin-chocolate muffins from scratch, I went for a box of IKEA chocolate muffin mix (just add 1 c. water, shake in carton, pour). They will make Anand equally happy, and I can experiment with chocolate-pumpkin muffins another day….

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Instant pot egg bites

As we enter the season of fall baking (planning on baking pumpkin-chocolate mini-muffins later today, for Anand’s birthday party), I keep thinking about how we show love with food. The kids are so delighted when they come home and find surprise apple-cheddar crescent rolls; it’s very clearly a sign of love. And that’s fine, but at the same time, my family doesn’t do great, health-wise, if we have a ton of starches around (sweet or otherwise) — it’s so easy to reach for the easy carbs.

For the family, we try to always have fruit on hand; I just picked up a double-decker fruit basket, so we can fit even more out on the island. When the kids were younger, I did a lot of cutting up fruit for them, and I still do sometimes, to encourage them to eat it, but at this point, they’ve learned to like it enough that they just grab it and either bite into it, or cut it up themselves.

I haven’t quite gotten them to liking hummus yet (must work on that again), but sometimes when they come home from school, it’s a plate of veggies with ranch that’s waiting for them, and they’ll happily snack on that if it’s out. The specific veggies the kids like does vary over time, which is a little frustrating! But thankfully, they are consistently fans of bell pepper, so there’s at least one raw veg. I can count on them eating. They also like cooked broccoli. Bell pepper and broccoli are on a very steady rotation around here. Yes, it’s boring, but needs must.

For myself, I’m trying really hard to prep more healthy options on the weekend, to make busy weeks easier. This weekend, I grilled Sri Lankan-style shrimp (recipe soon), to toss in a Caesar salad, or with quinoa and tangerine dressing, or just nibble straight up when I want a bite. Better I reach for one of those, instead of a scone. I made two batches of soup on Sunday (chicken and tortellini for the kids, Vietnamese chicken soup for me and Kev — same base, divide into two pots, season and add veggies, etc. appropriately), and Kevin grilled some chicken breast for Kavi’s Caesar salads. Of course, I’m traveling at least one weekend out of four, and I’m not always as organized or energetic as I was this weekend. But still, something to aim towards.

Pictured, a batch of mushroom-swiss egg bites, in the new silicone egg cooker — I did these in the Instant Pot, and I have to say, it was easier than doing them in the sous vide, and I’ll probably take this option going forward. I think you could also just do them on the stovetop, with a steamer tray, if you took a little care with temps.

The kids and Kevin don’t like mushrooms, so this batch is just for me, but I think I’ll try cheddar bites next time, and then if they’ll eat that (they do like scrambled eggs, but this form is going to look weird to them), maybe cheddar-broccoli? For me (and maybe Kev), Sri Lankan green-chili & onion bites will be appealing, but it may take a while to get the kids on board with that. I’m not sure they’ll ever greet them with the excitement of a batch of muffins or scones, but I think I can be okay with that.

And it’s not like the easy carbs are going away entirely — I’m still going to bake! But I guess this is a reminder to myself, more than anything else — there are lots of ways to show love with food.

Here, have something delicious and also healthy, because I want to make it easy for you to take better care of yourself. Let’s make sure we have plenty of fruit and veg and lean protein in the shopping cart this week. I love you.

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Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

These little bites of heaven were designed to appeal to my daughter, who can be quite resistant to trying new foods. When I brought one upstairs for her to try, she initially refused. I broke off a small piece and asked her to please try it, that I’d designed it especially for her, with flavors I thought she’d love. Kavya hesitated, but unwilling to disappoint her mother entirely, eventually took it. A few minutes later, she asked for the rest, please.

Kavi then admitted that she hadn’t wanted to admit that I was right, but it was too good, so she had to give in. She’s twelve-and-a-half now; the tween years are…interesting. Two strong-willed women in one house. 🙂

This is another scone where I was aiming for autumnal + South Asian. My pumpkin spices are a little punchier than you might find in most American recipes, with cardamom and ginger added to the classic cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The jaggery drizzle adds a molasses-like complexity; Kavi and I like our drizzle with some lime, because we are all about the tang. The brightness of the lime highlights the pumpkin in beautiful ways; I love this scone with a cup of chai.

But straight up sweetness (Anand’s preference) works here too, pairing with the toffee bits; if you were going to have this with black coffee, for example, you might be just fine with a pure jaggery drizzle. Feel free to also skip the drizzle entirely; the pumpkin-toffee scone will still be delicious, especially warm, slathered with butter.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. toffee bits

1/2 c. pumpkin puree (blot with paper towel if watery)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 cup milk

Jaggery Drizzle:
1/4 c. jaggery, dissolved in 1/4 c. boiling water
1 T lime juice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain). Alternately, cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in toffee bits.

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly and combine with remaining 9 scone ingredients. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Jaggery drizzle. Dissolve jaggery in boiling water, add lime juice if desired, and pour over scones.

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Chicken Curry Variations

A friend was over the other day and when I offered them some chicken curry (options: mild, spicy, and with added liver) to take home with her, she said that I should explain how I did that. As a busy parent, she said it’d be helpful to others with picky eaters at home, and of course, that makes sense, but some of this I do so automatically these days that I don’t even think about it.

But here’s the process. It looks long, because I explain in some detail, but it’s actually super-simple and quick to do:

NOTE: When I say ‘chili powder’ here, I mean Indian chili powder, which is powdered dried red chili pepper; it’s usually notably hotter than the cayenne you find in American grocery stores. But you can use cayenne. I don’t mean a ‘chili’ spice mix!

NOTE 2: I use boneless thighs for this, because the kids and Kevin eat with forks and so it’s not easy eating chicken on the bone. But if you’re going to all be eating with your hands (like me), cooking it on the bone is tastier. If you have time when making the first curry and want boneless pieces, you can buy chicken on the bone, cut the meat off, and then cook the bones in the curry with the meat pieces. Alternately, if you’re in a big hurry, you can use whole chicken thighs and not cut it up at all — you can even dump frozen chicken pieces in; you just have to simmer a bit longer. I only do that when I’m truly exhausted, but sometimes needs must.

1) MILD CURRY (make as usual):

The kids don’t like chicken curry as spicy as Kevin and I like it. They’re finally at a point (ages 12 and almost-10) where they can handle black pepper, and Kavi likes a little chili, but Anand doesn’t want any. So the first step is to make a mild curry. You could do this with no pepper or chili at all, but for Kavi, I put in about a 1/2 t. of chili powder to the pot.

Then, when I serve the kids, I actually rinse off Anand’s chicken pieces. It makes me a little sad, losing that yummy sauce, but this way he eats it. And that’s actually what Amma recommended, for getting kids used to eating spicy food, what they did in Sri Lanka with toddlers — make it per usual, rinse off most of the sauce, give it to them, so they get a little bit of it. I wish I’d listened to my mom and done that with the kids when they were toddlers — maybe we’d be further along in this process now! Oh well.

I set half the curry aside in a Pyrex for dinner that night, and for their leftover meals the next days.

2) SPICY CURRY (add chili oil):

It’s time to get spicy! In a separate frying pan, I heat up a little oil or ghee, then add 1-2 t. chili powder and sautĂ© for just a minute, until it darkens slightly. I stir that chili oil into the half-pot of chicken curry on the stove, and simmer for oh, about ten minutes, until well-blended. If you have enough liquid, it won’t hurt to simmer longer; if you’re getting low on liquid, add water. (You could add milk or coconut milk, but that would make it milder, which isn’t what you’re looking for…)

Now it’s at Kevin and my heat levels. Usually I’d just stop there, but sometimes, I want one more variation. If so, I portion out some of the spicy chicken into a separate Pyrex for Kev’s dinner and leftovers.

3) CHICKEN CURRY WITH LIVER (add sauteéd liver):

I usually make this when I’m feeling a little under the weather, and I want some extra iron and vitamins. Or when I’m feeling indulgent, because I *love* liver curry. In the same frying pan that I cooked the chili powder, I add some chicken liver and fry it for a few minutes (there’s usually enough oil left in the pan, but you could add more, if not). Brown it a little to bring out the flavor, and then just add it to the remaining chicken curry in the pot, and simmer another 10 minutes or so. If you cook it on high, or cook a long time, the liver will break down, making a very thick, rich, liver-y sauce. Usually I only want it to break down a bit, though, as I like eating the liver pieces, and I like the curry sauce closer to the original. Serve hot with rice or bread.

All this usually makes us dinners for three nights (we all eat leftovers, thankfully), so it’s not too bad to do on a weeknight. If you wanted to save more time on a busy workday when you’re getting home around dinnertime, you could do the chicken curry in a slow cooker or Instant Pot (10 minutes of sautĂ©ing onions to start, then cook long and slow) in the morning, and then just do the ‘add chili powder’ and/or ‘add liver’ steps later in the day. Having batches of cooked seasoned onions on hand (can be kept in freezer) also speeds up the process dramatically.

That’s it! 

*****

Chicken Curry / Kozhi Kari
(1 hour, serves 6)

This is the classic Sri Lankan chicken dish; if you were just going to make one, this should be the one. A key to a good chicken curry is having a tasty kulambu (or kuzhambu, depending on how you do the transliteration), which is basically the curry sauce or gravy. Some people make it more liquid, some more thick (if you use potatoes in this dish, they will thicken the sauce). In this recipe you build a fairly spicy sauce, and then add whole milk partway through the cooking process, which melds the flavors and mellows the spice level, lending your curry a creamy richness.

You can use other kinds of milk if you’d prefer, and in fact, coconut milk is often used in Sri Lanka, but coconut milk is a little rich for everyday cooking—my family tends to save it for special occasion meals. I’ve used goat milk (works fine) and soy milk (a little thin, but acceptable). Almond milk is quite thin, and has a distinct nutty flavor—it’s not bad, but it does take the curry in a different direction; if you can find cashew milk, that might be a better option.

Note: If you’re using coconut milk, which is fairly sweet, you may want to switch out the ketchup for chopped fresh tomatoes + a little vinegar. My mother started using ketchup (which has sugar in it already) to compensate for the lack of sweetness in cow’s milk, when she first came to America as an immigrant in 1973, and coconuts and coconut milk were not so easy to come by.

3-5 medium onions, diced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1-2 TBL cayenne
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
12 pieces chicken, about 2 1/2 lbs, skinned and trimmed of fat
Note: Use legs and thighs—debone if you must, but they’ll be tastier cooked on the bone. Don’t use breast meat—it’s not nearly as tasty. (Alternately, use 6 pieces of chicken and 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed) If you crack the bones (using the back of a heavy knife), it will allow the marrow to add rich flavor to the dish.
1/3 cup ketchup
1 heaping tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 TBL lime juice

1. In a large pot, sauté onions in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seed, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon pieces, until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add cayenne and cook one minute. Immediately add curry powder, chicken, ketchup, and salt.

2. Lower heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring periodically, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick, about 20 minutes. Add water if necessary to avoid scorching. Add potatoes if using, and add milk, to thicken and mellow spice level; stir until well blended.

3. Cook 20 more minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Stir in lime juice; serve hot.

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Autumn Scones with Candied Ginger and Dried Cherries

Autumn Scones with Candied Ginger and Dried Cherries

After visiting Dublin, I’m a little scone-obsessed. All the cafes offered scones, and they were generally so much tastier than the ones we get in America, sigh. These were for Kevin’s birthday, as ginger and cherries are two of his favorites.

I included a glaze option for these, but I didn’t glaze mine, as I don’t like scones very sweet — these are perfect served warm with a thick slathering of butter. If you do want sweet, a little cranberry-raspberry jam goes quite nicely. And tea or coffee, of course!

(If you don’t have a mini scone pan, you can cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.)

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. chopped candied ginger
1/2 c. chopped dried cherries
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Glaze:
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
7 T water

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain).

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in ginger and cherries.

3. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 5 scone ingredients, beating eggs lightly. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Glaze. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and water. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment. Pour glaze in, then dip scones in glaze. Remove to wire rack to dry. Alternately, drizzle glaze over the top.

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Beetroot Curry

I asked Jed which vegetable dishes he’d like for the party, and one of the ones he requested was beet curry. (We tend to call it beetroot, actually, not just beets.) He ended up on beetroot-prep duty, and has the hands to prove it!

I keep wanting to make edits to the cookbook, and it’s too late now. So I’ll just note for you folks that AFTER I handed the book in, I made beetroot curry, and I was a little busy and distracted, and I had the heat on higher than normal when I was sautĂ©ing the beets with the onions, and I almost burned them — but not quite, and they came out SO GOOD; closer to roasted than I’d typically get on the stovetop, with even more depth of flavor. So if you make this, you might want to try to do that. But don’t let them burn — it’s a fine line. 

*****

Beet Curry
(30 minutes, serves 4)

This dish has a lovely sweet flavor with just a hint of spice—beets have a higher sugar content than any other vegetable. The lime tang beautifully balances the sweetness and the spice, for a flavor characteristic of Sri Lankan cuisine.

3 medium onions, chopped fine
3 TBL vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
4 large beets (about one lb), peeled, cut in thick matchsticks
1-2 rounded tsp salt
1 rounded tsp turmeric
2-3 tsp lime juice
1-3 chopped green chilies
2 dozen curry leaves, optional
2 cups coconut milk

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown). Add beets, salt, turmeric, lime juice, chilies, and curry leaves. Continue cooking on high about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, just enough so onions and beets don’t burn—you want that beautifully caramelized flavor coming through.

2. Lower heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until beets are cooked through and coconut milk has reduced to simply coating the beets, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

***

My new Sri Lankan cookbook, A Feast of Serendib, launches on March 6, 2020, but we’re doing a long, slow pre-launch of the special Kickstarter edition in the interim. Right now, we still have discounted Kickstarter pricing available for pre-orders, along with Kickstarter goodies — you can pre-order here: http://serendibkitchen.com/a-feast-of-serendib/

If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj

And here’s all the foodie social media:

Serendib Kitchen blog: http://serendibkitchen.com
Serendib Kitchen Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/serendib_kitchen/
Serendib FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/132029834135500/
Serendib FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/mohanrajserendib/

Thanks for your support!

#serendibkitchen

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Feasting!

Feasting. Funny note — Jed and I went to the grocery store yesterday, but I forgot to check what spices he had on hand before. If I’d been thinking when I packed in Chicago, I would’ve at least brought along some of my homemade dark-roasted curry powder.
I didn’t want to try to reproduce an entire Sri Lankan spice cabinet, so I just grabbed black mustard seed, cumin seed, turmeric, cayenne, and the Madras curry powder they had on hand — not the same as ours, but close enough in a pinch. (North Indian curry powder is very different; don’t try to substitute…)
I’d consider those spices (along with some fresh green chilies and limes) the bare minimum for getting by with Sri Lankan cooking — that’s what I started with in college. Add in cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pods, and you’re pretty solid — those will get you through most of our dishes just fine.
As it turned out, Jed actually did have just enough of my own curry powder in the cupboard for last night’s cooking (must send him home with more next time, to replenish his stock), but he also had two other barely used jars of black mustard seed, presumably from the last times I was here, and cooked for a Sri Lankan dinner party!
I ended up making Genisha take two of those jars home with her, because she actually cooks, so they wouldn’t just sit on the shelf gathering dust. Mustn’t waste food!
***
My new Sri Lankan cookbook, A Feast of Serendib, launches on March 6, 2020, but we’re doing a long, slow pre-launch of the special Kickstarter edition in the interim. Right now, we still have discounted Kickstarter pricing available for pre-orders, along with Kickstarter goodies — you can pre-order here: http://serendibkitchen.com/a-feast-of-serendib/
If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj
And here’s all the foodie social media:
Thanks for your support!
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A memoir, in its own way

Jeremy has delivered the final, indexed and fully designed, text of Feast of Serendib. I am feeling weirdly emotional about the whole thing. My cookbook makes me want to cry. I’m not sure that’s normal.

It’s a memoir, you know. In its own way, though not exactly the sort of memoir I learned to write in my creative nonfiction class. But I think I’ll send my professor a copy anyway…

#serendibkitchen

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