Starry Nights in Serendib: Tamarind-Chili Marshmallows

I think I’ve decided when I’m really pleased with a recipe, that’s when it deserves to get its own name. I tried adding another 1/2 c. of tamarind puree to my marshmallow recipe, and it’s just perfect now — that’s what it needed to get the fluffy height and soft pillowy goodness that you want in a marshmallow. I swapped out the corn syrup for honey too, and that gives a more complex, interesting flavor to play with the tamarind. Perfect. Done.


Starry Nights in Serendib:
Tamarind-Chili Marshmallows, dipped in Dark Chocolate

1 c. tamarind puree
1/2 t. raw red chili powder or cayenne
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
14 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
edible gold stars and crushed red pepper for decorating

1. Combine tamarind puree with chili powder. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with tamarind-chili puree. Stir briefly to combine.

2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, granulated sugar, honey, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes.

5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

9. If dipping, melt chocolate (either in microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, or over double boiler), stir until smooth. Dip each marshmallow and let dry on waxed paper. Immediately sprinkle after dipping (you can dip the whole set first) with a sprinkle of cayenne and edible stars.


A Feast of Serendib as memoir

Stephanie was setting up the Goodreads giveaway for Feast, and asked me if there was a secondary genre category for it beyond Cookbook, like Memoir or History. Honestly, it’s some of both, I think — I told her to add it to the memoir category.

A friend just messaged me this morning, after picking up another copy of the cookbook at the OPALGA+ potluck last night; she’d already bought the paperback, but is now gifting a hardcover to a relative. (Every writer should have such friends!) She said, “I’m looking through your cookbook, again appreciating so very much the work that you’ve done to share such treasures! And by that I mean the stories and histories as well as the recipes.”

And a memoirist friend of mine who’d stopped by to pick up some confectionery told me a few days ago that she was actually *reading* the cookbook, which wasn’t something she usually does with cookbooks…

All of that makes me so happy. It’s really what I wanted to do with this book, what all the months of research were for, reading through so many other versions of these recipes, trying to learn more about the food history of Sri Lanka & Sri Lankan diaspora culture. To convey more than just a few recipes — bringing in some of the immigrant experience, and the homeland culture it draws on.

I’m grateful to my academic training — I don’t think I realized when I was doing the work how much of putting together this kind of cookbook would call on those habits and skills of effective research, summary of significant points, synthesis into something that would be accessible to a broad audience. Several years of grad school and over a decade of teaching practice went into creating this, along with a few decades of cooking practice.

It’s a really good book, you know. (It feels weird and sort of shameless saying that, but I think that’s mostly cultural conditioning and I’m trying to put it aside. I did good work; it should be okay to say so.)

I worked on it so hard, so thoroughly, the way I did with Bodies in Motion during my doctorate. I was kind of exhausted when I finished it, and then there was the rush and anxiety of trying to find a publisher, etc. It’s only now, as the reader responses are coming in, that I can be reassured that I did what I was trying to do. I’m finally getting to be proud of it, which is lovely.

Of course, because I apparently can’t just let anything rest, I’ve started taking notes for the second edition, should one ever exist. Because I’m already coming up with variations on the recipes that I’d like to add, and new recipes that I wish I’d put in (Jed, can you please note in that file that I really need to add a recipe for Milk Rice?).

But more than that, I’d love to go a little more in depth in a few of the header notes to the recipes — most of them do offer some memoir or history or both, but a few, especially of the earliest recipes, are a little more purely functional. And it’d be nice to add a little more family immigration history too…

I don’t want to make the book too big, though! It’s already quite large.

Goodreads giveaway setup

Hey, Stephanie kindly set up a Goodreads giveaway for me for A Feast of Serendib, but I admit, I’m not entirely sure how this works, or how to best tell people about participating in it.

But the plan is that we’ll be giving away 5 hardcover copies of Feast to Goodreads members in the U.S. (International shipping costs, bah.) It’ll start at 12 a.m. PT on Monday, February 10, and finish at 11:59 p.m. PT on Wednesday, February 26.

I’m not actually sure what you do to be entered in the giveaway. Help??

UPDATE: solved!

Potluck cooking

Potluck cooking. In theory, one should only cook one dish for a potluck, but how can you serve beef smoore without also serving rice?  We did cashews, dried cherries, and rose essence in the rice, along with veggie broth and a stick of butter, to make it rich and indulgent.

I also pulled some jackfruit & chickpea curry out of the freezer, to make sure we had a nice vegan option to go with the rice. There aren’t a lot of vegetarians at our Midwest potlucks, I’ve found, but they’re so grateful for a yummy vegetarian dish (that isn’t just pasta or salad), it’s well worth a little extra trouble.

(Three, three dishes cooked. Ha ha ha ha ha….)

Thanks to Kev for cutting up the beef to make it easier to serve at a potluck! Best of husbands.

(The beef smoore recipe is in the cookbook. You can even do it in an Instant Pot — see my site. The jackfruit curry is too, though without chickpeas — I’ll be posting the chickpea variation here sometime this weekend.)

Sending a little love into the world

NOTE! If you missed yesterday’s sale, I’m going to go ahead and extend it ’til 5 p.m. today, because I realized it won’t really affect my ability to get orders out on time. As detailed below…

Finishing up making sweets this morning — orders are mostly ready to be packaged up, though I need to finish a few sweets this afternoon. Next step for most of these is wrapping, which is fun; I love wrapping things in tissue paper and tucking in postcards and such; it feels like holiday gifting. Sending a little love out into the world. (I am such a sap.)

Around 10:30, I head into campus to teach, so will teach a few classes, and then be home around 2:30. I should be able to cut the marshmallows and toss them in powdered sugar then, also dip them in chocolate and decorate the tops.

Tonight, we’re hosting an OPALGA potluck (LGBT folks in the area, all are welcome to our monthly potlucks; it’s a great party with lots of very nice people and tons of yummy food — would love to have you join us), so I”m hoping to pack all this up and move it into the basement before 7.

(I should also cook something for the potluck — I’m tentatively thinking a big pot of beef smoore with rice, and I also have some jackfruit & chickpea curry in the freezer that I can pull out for the vegans.)

Then tomorrow morning, I have an iGov meeting from 8:30 – 10:00 (part of my library board responsibilities). After that will come packing up for shipping, which is slightly less fun than wrapping — I need to figure out what size boxes are the right ones to use, to be most efficient with shipping costs. Somehow that’s always harder than it ought to be.

Once that’s done, though, I can write back to people and tell them how much their final cost will be, so hoping to finish that by midday Saturday. (I may be able to figure that out sooner; we’ll see.)

And then by 5 p.m. Saturday, go to the post office, ship them out. That’ll be satisfying. 

Valentine’s/Galentine’s Day Flash Sale

Valentine’s / Galentine’s Flash Sale: $10 off most books, plus sweets!

Place orders in comments here, will confirm, then PM to arrange payment details via PayPal or Venmo. Sale ends @ midnight tonight, though sweets may run out sooner. Shipping & handling will be calculated on receiving order — usually $5-$8 within the U.S.

(sets of four, $10 per set, 2 sets for $18, 3 sets for $25)


a) “I Plight Thee My Troth” Marshmallows
(rose, passionfruit, and vanilla / love, passion, and home)
– 14 sets left


b) passionfruit, ginger, and cashew-filled dark chocolates
– 1 set left

c) chili chocolates
– 1 set left (but if there’s a lot of interest, I can make another batch today)

d) rosewater cream chocolates
– 5 sets left

e) mango cream chocolates
– 5 sets left

f) tamarind-chili marshmallows
– 15 sets left

g) assorted (chef’s choice, four different sweets)
– 12 sets left


A Feast of Serendib hardcover: $30
A Feast of Serendib paperback: $15
Bodies in Motion hardcover: $15 — Sri Lankan American immigrant stories about love and family
Perennial paperback: $7 (regular $12) — a little garden romance



4 oz. bag: $8


Sunday dinner: pork with sweet orange sauce

Sunday dinner this week, both Kavi and I were busy with something, so it ended up being Anand and Kev doing the cooking, in a somewhat minimal way. Kevin apologizes for not taking photos of Anand pounding the pork with his new Thor’s hammer meat tenderizer. Apparently, it took a little persuading to keep Anand from pounding it until pulverized.

They were trying to recreate the meat in a sweet orange sauce that the kids get at school — the end result was tasty, though Kavi says the school version is notably sweeter. We liked this, though.

The broccoli part didn’t quite work, though — it soaked up too much sauce and got a little soggy with it. If we made this again, I think I’d just roast the broccoli separately and serve it on the side. And oh, we didn’t even make rice — that’s leftover rice reheated from a previous order of Thai food.

End result, though, we lit candles and sat down together and ate and it was good. We tried playing Two Truths and a Lie, which only sort of worked. Maybe we need more practice. 🙂

Sunday’s ice cream: chocolate with Nutella stirred in

Sunday’s ice cream was Anand’s choice — homemade chocolate with Nutella stirred in. Pretty good, though I used the chocolate ice cream recipe that came with the machine (just stirring cocoa into cold cream, essentially), and both Kev and I thought the end result was a little grainier than we would’ve liked. But it was fine, and the kids were delighted, so all was well. It’s almost gone now — even mediocre ice cream is still ice cream. 

I am feeling a desire to immerse myself in sweetness

Planning to run a little Valentine’s / Galentine’s Day flash sale tomorrow (Thursday) of sweets, hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder, and Feast of Serendib cookbooks on sale ($30 for hardcover, $15 for paperbacks, $10 off, such a deal!)

I am feeling a desire to immerse myself in sweetness.

If you’d like to be tagged into that, comment below — I’d be planning to mail out by Saturday the 8th, so should reach throughout the U.S. before the 14th, no problem. I can only ship food within the U.S., sorry, but cookbooks will also be on sale, and happy to ship those anywhere, and also to sign and/or personalize!