Sri Lankan Bombay Toast / Bombatoast

(serves 4)

Buttery-sweet bombatoast is one of my favorite breakfast foods. The term comes from Bombay toast, like French toast, but the Sri Lankan version has sugar in the mix, so you don’t need syrup. There are savory versions too, with onion and green chili, but this is the one I grew up eating. It’s soft and tears apart as you eat it; my children love it too.

It’s the perfect meal for recuperating from an illness, or just for a lazy Sunday.

12 slices white bread (not too mushy, or it’ll completely fall apart)
2 cups milk
2 eggs
6 TBL sugar (this makes it pretty sweet; you could cut back a bit if you wanted)
butter for spreading

1. Butter both sides of each slice of bread. (You can do these as you go, pretty much.)

2. Beat the egg well and add sugar; beat well until sugar dissolves. Add mix this to milk and beat well.

3. Dip a slice of bread in the egg and milk batter (both sides) and put it in hot buttered griddle (I’d use nonstick). (If you leave in the batter too long, it’ll get soggy and hard to flip without tearing. Still yummy, though.)

4. After a bit (when you think it’s browned, but not burned, flip and cook the other side. Serve hot.

Sri Lankan-Style Green Chili & Onion Egg Bites

Sri Lankan-style egg bites, done in the sous vide — delicious. it was very satisfying finding a way to make my favorite egg breakfast in egg bite form.  The sweetness of the onion, the flavorful heat of the green chilies, all wrapped in unctuous egg and creamy cheese — perfection!

10 minutes active cooking time, serves 7.

1 T ghee or butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1-2 green chilies, chopped fine
8 eggs
3 oz. cream cheese
1 t. salt
1 t black pepper
extra equipment: 7 4 oz. / 125 ml canning jars with 2-part screw on lids

1. Fill sous vide cooker with water and set to 172 F.

2. Sauté onion and green chili in ghee until golden.

3. In a blender, combine eggs, cream cheese, salt, and pepper until smooth.

4. Distribute onion-chili mixture evenly among seven canning jars, and follow with evenly distributed egg mixture.

5. Attach lids and close to fingertip tightness — do not over-tighten.

6. Once closed, submerge jars in water bath and set timer for 1 hr.

Serve warm — I eat them straight from the jar, generally, but you can also slide a butter knife around the jar, invert onto a plate, and broil or sear with a torch for color if you’d like a fancier presentation. They reheat easily in the microwave (no lid!) for about a minute on low heat. Enjoy!

Tangy Chili Shrimp on Toast

(30 minutes, serves dozens)

My mother is known for these delicious, fussy little appetizers. They present beautifully for a cocktail party.

1 lb medium raw, peeled shrimp
2 medium onions, minced
enough vegetable oil to sauté (about 3 TBL)
1-2 rounded tsp cayenne
ketchup to taste (about 1/4 cup)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 – 1 rounded tsp salt
cilantro or curly parsley for garnish
either buttery crackers or slices of white bread
butter to spread
mustard to spread (optional)

Optional: Cut small circles of white bread and toast in an oven for a few minutes. Spread with butter, or butter mixed with mustard. Alternately, use crackers.

1. Sauté onions in oil until golden; add cayenne and sauté on high a minute or two until darkened.

2. Add shrimp, ketchup, lime juice, and salt; turn down heat to medium and cook, stirring, until well blended.

3. Serve on toast or crackers, placing 1-2 pieces of shrimp on each one and garnishing with a sprig of parsley or cilantro.

Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard / Vattalappam

(90 minutes, serves 8)

This is essentially a cross between coconut milk flan + chai-style spicing, legacy of Portuguese colonialization of my little island. Using jaggery and treacle would give a darker color, more characteristic of vattalappam; you can add a little dark molasses to approximate that color and add a tasty, slightly bitter, note.

Note: When cooking for a *big* party, I usually double the recipe and cook it in a single large baking dish, serving it alongside a big dish of mango fluff, marshmallows, milk toffee, etc.

4 fresh eggs
1/2 cup jaggery (or firmly packed dark brown sugar)
1/2 cup maple syrup, kithul treacle, or a combination
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 rounded tsp ground cardamom
1/4 rounded tsp ground mace
pinch ground cloves
1 TBL rose water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Beat eggs slightly (not ’til frothy). Dissolve jaggery in water over a low heat and then cool slightly. Add sugar syrup and maple syrup to beaten eggs, add the coconut milk, and stir to dissolve sugar.

3. Strain through a fine strainer into a large jug, add evaporated milk, spices, and rose water. Pour into individual 4 oz. custard cups. Put custard cups in a baking dish or roasting pan; put dish in the oven and carefully add water to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until set, approximately 1 1/4 hours.

4. Cool and chill custards before serving.

Note: Old eggs have less egg volume than fresh ones, and may not set properly; if you only have old eggs, try adding an extra egg or two.

Beet Curry

Heather and I spent much of the weekend assigning photos to recipes for Feast — only to find that I somehow didn’t actually have a photo of the beet curry. So I made it again today and photographed it. Guess I know what’s for dinner tonight…

*****

Sri Lankan 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, and sugar is sometimes made from beets.

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
two 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.

2. Lower heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until beets are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove cover and simmer, stirring, until well blended. Serve hot.

Off to layout!

I have finished my edits on Feast, and am sending the cookbook to my indexer and layout person.

No more changes, Mary Anne. I mean it. If you decide you need to add another hundred recipes, please wait another decade or two.

Still planning to bring out more little cookbooks — Instant Pot Sri Lankan, etc., no fear. But this was a big production, as my mother would say.

Kickstarter launches April 1st with discounted pre-orders. Mark your calendars!

Eep.

Halibut with Roasted Spicy Beets, Beet Green & Coconut Mallung, and a Dill-Citrus Gremolata

    I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook different kinds of fish, so tonight, I took on halibut. This seems like a fairly delicate fish, and many of the recipes I reviewed were very simple and lightly seasoned. Which is fine, but, y’know, Sri Lankans gotta bring a little heat, right?

So I took an pleasant-looking recipe on Epicurious, which made use of both beets and beet greens for a very pretty result, and started messing with it. Lime and lemon instead of orange, mostly to lead it in a Sri Lankan direction. A little green chili improved the beets, and a little lime juice improved the halibut.

The real excitement was taking the beet greens and using a mallung-style approach with coconut, lime juice, and sugar. So good! On roasting, the greens sitting under the fish soaked up lots of flavor, and the greens on the edge got delightfully crispy. I could’ve made a meal out of beet greens alone, which is not something I say every day! But they were delicious with the halibut and the roasted beets.

If you wanted to make it just a little more South Asian, I think you could add a t. of cumin powder to the halibut, and/or 1-2 T of coriander seeds and maybe a few T of yogurt to the beets. I’ll be trying that next time!

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Gremolata:
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel + 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

Beets:
3 medium (1 1/2- to 2-inch) beets with green tops attached; beets trimmed and scrubbed
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1-3 green chilies, chopped fine (optional)

Beet greens mallung:
Beet greens very coarsely chopped (about 4 cups, ideally)
1/2 c. grated dried coconut (unsweetened)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Halibut:
4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets or mahi-mahi fillets (about 1 inch thick)
2 T lime juice
more salt and black pepper to grate over

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Cover large rimmed baking sheet in foil and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Mix chopped dill and grated peel in small bowl for gremolata.

2. Peel beets and slice into 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick slices; put in medium glass bowl; add enough water to cover beets halfway. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high until just tender, 4-5 minutes. Uncover and drain. Return beets to same bowl, and add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon gremolata, sliced shallots, and green chilies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss well.

3. Toss chopped beet greens in another medium bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, lime juice, sugar, salt, and pepper.

4. Spread beet slices in single layer on half of prepared baking sheet. Mound beet greens on other half of baking sheet.

5. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; place fish fillets on top of beet greens and pour remaining lime juice over fish. Brush fish with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle fish with 2 tablespoons gremolata.

6. Roast fish and vegetables until fish is just opaque in center, about 10-12 minutes.

7. Divide fish and vegetables among plates. Sprinkle with remaining gremolata and serve.

Ginger-Garlic Chicken

(30-90 minutes, serves 6-8)

The timing on this is so variable because you can either do it the long way described below, the way my mother recommends, which is definitely a bit tastier — or you can do a much faster version, where you mix the spices with the chicken, skip the marinating, and then just sauté the chicken in the pan on medium-high until cooked through and serve. I use both methods, mostly depending on how much of a hurry I’m in. Regardless of which method you use, this dish is best served fresh; if it sits, the chicken will tend to dry up and not be as tasty.

NOTE: This is my daughter’s favorite chicken dish, and one she always greets with delight; she started eating it when she was about five, with no added chili powder. Over time, I’ve added a little more chili powder when feeding it to both kids, serving with milk to help them along; you can also use black pepper if you’d prefer.

1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
12 chicken thighs, about 2 lbs., deboned and cut bite-size
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 to 2 heaping tsp red chili powder (to taste, optional)

1. Mix first four spices in a large bowl; add chicken pieces and rub with your hands until well coated. Marinate 1/2 hour

2. Heat oil on high; add chili powder (if using) and cook 15 seconds, stirring.

3. Add chicken and sear on high, turning to brown all sides.

4. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone.

6. Tilt pan and push chicken pieces to one side; allow excess oil to drain to one side for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to dish and serve hot.

 

NOTE: If reheating a day or two later, I recommend reheating in a pan with a little coconut milk; just simmer 5-10 minutes, enough for the milk to thicken with the spices into a nice sauce. Or serve dry chicken with a nice coconut-milky vegetable curry, like carrot or beetroot curry.