Easy Way to Feed the Kids

Lots of posting this morning, but now I’m going to turn off FB for a while and try to write. I leave you with a one-pot dish — take my Sri Lankan ginger-garlic chicken, cook it most of the way, add 1-2 cups of water, bring to a boil, dump in a bunch of leftover takeout rice, cook the water out, taste and add more salt if needed, stir in some frozen peas.

Easy way to feed the kids around here and also to use up leftover rice that’s starting to get dry. 

Feels Indulgent

Beef curry really is one of my staples; when I was learning to cook, I probably cooked it once every two weeks, and ate it for 3-4 days straight. These days, it’s very lovely to have with an egg hopper and some tempered potatoes. Feels indulgent. 

(Also was so much food that I ended up saving half of my breakfast for lunch…)

How to Make Chicken Liver Curry

Okay, I admit, no one came clamoring to me and demanded that I make a video on how to cook chicken liver curry. My daughter refused to even taste it. But I love it so, so much, I actually crave it sometimes, esp. when I’m feeling depleted. Chicken liver curry is a) cheap, b) nutritious, and c) delicious. So here you go!

Easy, Frugal, Yum

Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of think chilaquiles and kottu roti are kind of the same thing? Along with kedgeree / khichuri, and probably lots of other similar dishes from around the world. (Casserole is related, though baking rather than stovetop is a different process.) All ways to salvage dried out leftovers and transform them into something fabulously delicious.

For example, I had some leftover restaurant fish tacos. They were cold and dry and completely unappealing, but we don’t waste food in this house, so I was going to make myself eat them. But we also try really hard not to eat sad food in this house, so I had to make them delicious first. A variation on chilaquiles was the obvious answer.

– I chopped a shallot and some green chili and sautéed it in a good amount of oil
– I chopped up the tacos and added them to the pan, sautéing them all together
– I poured in some jarred tomatillo sauce (Kevin made a batch a while back, so it was particularly tasty tomatillo sauce, but any will do)
– I could have stopped there, but we had fresh cherry tomatoes, so I chopped some of those and stirred them in too, after taking it off the heat — a great contrast
– if we’d had fresh cilantro, I would have topped it with that. A little queso fresco would be nice too. Could’ve added some chopped raw onions for a little more bite and freshness

But this took may 5-10 minutes to make, saved the tacos, gave me lunch today and probably breakfast tomorrow, and was SO, SO tasty.

This basic process, of rehydrating and cooking dried out protein + starch in a sauce, ideally with some fresh elements added too, is a pretty key cooking skill, I think. Easy, frugal, yum.

Sri Lankan Varai

This isn’t so much a recipe, but a what-do-you-do-with-veggies-that-you-need-to-use-up approach to cooking. My default is to turn it into a Sri Lankan varai, a lightly cooked vegetable dish.

In this case, I had leeks, cabbage, and carrot that I needed to use.

  • Chop leeks (remember to rinse them, or you may end up eating grit)

  • Sauté in a bit of oil until golden-translucent, with mustard seed and cumin seed.
  • Add chopped cabbage. Add carrots, cut up small. (This method also works with thawed frozen mixed veg; drain the excess water).

  • Stir on medium-high for 5-10 minutes, until partially cooked and a little browned. If you want it spicier, add chopped green chilies (or crushed red pepper, or cayenne).

  • Stir in desiccated (not sweetened!) coconut, salt (1 t.), and a little turmeric

  • Cover and turn to medium low for 5-10 minutes, so veggies can cook through (depending on what veggies you’re using, you may be able to skip the covering stage — peas don’t need it, for example)

  • Remove lid and cook a few minutes more, stirring, until water has evaporated. Serve hot with rice and curries.

NOTE: Day after, this is easy to reheat with a little oil and leftover rice, scrambling a few eggs in, to make a healthy and filling vegetarian meal. You could also sauté some ground beef, and stir this in with rice similarly; we’ll be doing that for dinner tonight.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

This is a dish you can get in restaurants and homes all over Sri Lanka, just a classic. It’s my parents’ 50th anniversary today, and this is one of the dishes I learned from Amma. She made chicken curry probably once a week for my entire childhood, and my recipe is still pretty much identical to hers, almost thirty years later. Standing the test of time!

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 red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
12 pieces chicken, about 2 1/2 lbs, skinned and trimmed of fat. (Use legs and thighs — debone them if you must, but they’ll be tastier if cooked on the bone. Don’t use breast meat — it’s not nearly as tasty.) (Alternately, use 6 pieces of chicken, and three russet potatoes, peeled and cubed)
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 chili powder 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. (Be careful not to cook on high at this point, as the milk will curdle.)

3. Cook an additional 20 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Add lime juice; simmer a few additional minutes, stirring. Serve hot.

So, if You Remember

So, if you remember, I made some badly-overcooked cod. I can’t stand throwing out food, but I also hate eating bad food. I was hoping I could figure out a way to make it vaguely palatable, so I went looking, and it seemed like the uses for overcooked cod mostly fell into one of these three options:

– mashing them up with potatoes, maybe rolling in bread crumbs, and frying them into a cutlet / patty kind of thing
– chopping them up with mayo, etc. for a fish salad kind of thing
– making kedgeree

Well, kedgeree was way more attractive to me than the first two, so I was obviously going to go with that.

“According to “Larousse Gastronomique”, what we call kedgeree originated from a concoction of spiced lentils, rice, fried onions and ginger known as khichiri dating back to the 14th century and eaten across India. The early colonists developed a taste for it, as it reminded them of nursery food. Both khichiri and fish became mainstays of the Raj breakfast table and, in time, their Indian cooks integrated the two. Eggs, believed to have been introduced to the Indian kitchen repertoire by conquering Mughals centuries earlier, were later added as a garnish. When the dish travelled back to Edwardian country homes, via letters and regiments, the lentils were usually left out and flaked smoked haddock added in (the Scots take credit for this). Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria were especially partial to kedgeree.” – 1843 Magazine

I had another problem, though — I’d made a lot of marinade for the fish, and I didn’t want to waste it. All that good onion-ginger-garlic-spiced goodness! So I wanted to turn it into a sauce. Now, remember, you had raw fish sitting in that marinade, so if you do this, be sure to bring it up to a boil for at least five minutes at some time in the process.

But what I did was start with heating oil in a pan, adding the marinade, and trying to sort of sauté it, because the raw onion-ginger-garlic was very intense. That sort of worked? Even after ten minutes or so of sautéing, it was still fairly intense. But then I added some chopped cherry tomatoes, some ketchup, some coconut milk, checked the seasonings, and simmered it all for a while, and eventually, it turned into a reasonable curry sauce.

Then it was just a matter of flaking the fish (it looks nice, doesn’t it? You can’t tell it’s rubbery by looking), adding some frozen peas, simmering that together for a bit, and then stirring in rice and hard-boiled eggs. Kedgeree!

Now, would I serve this to anybody else? No. Because the fish is still chewy and sad. But it’s in tiny shreds and at least sufficiently disguised by everything else that I’m now willing to eat it, and this rest of it is delicious, so we’re going to call this a win.

*****

https://www.1843magazine.com/…/the-…/the-origins-of-kedgeree

Kind of a Disaster

So, this was kind of a disaster, trying to make Sri Lankan marinated cod, baked in banana leaves, because the fish itself did not cook well. But the overall *process* was okay, I think, so I’m documenting.

I started with some onions, ginger, garlic, finger hot chilies, pureed them in the food processor, added lime juice to make a marinade. Also seasonings. So far, so good, right?

The tricky part was adding the cod to the marinade. I’m not so familiar with this process, but I googled, and instructions said marinate at least 30 minutes, but longer is fine. And I was busy that day, so I ended up marinating for 4 hours or so. Which I think was bad, because I think it essentially half-cooked the cod, like ceviche.

Another problem was that the cod has been previously frozen, and I’ve done a lot of cooking fish from frozen before, like tilapia, but apparently it is trickier to cook cod from frozen? At least when I googled afterwards, I found a lot of people complaining about it.

The sadness here is that the end result had good flavor, but the texture of the fish was terrible. It looks fine, but that’s a lie — even the nice, flaky-looking fish is actually rubbery-sad.

I might try this again sometime, but if I do, I’m going to try it with fresh cod, and only marinate for 30 minutes (before baking for 15-20), and see whether that takes care of it.

I was so excited. Sigh.

Chicken with Veggies and Rotini

I don’t really have a recipe for this, more of a process? This is a pretty standard thing I make for the family almost every week, and as people are getting a little bored with their pandemic cooking, thought this might be useful.

*****

Chicken with Veggies and Rotini, maybe in a Cream Sauce, if you feel like it, and you could also add a little Sausage or Shrimp (yeah, I don’t know what to title this one!)

1. Set some water boiling for pasta. Dice 1-2 onions, maybe some garlic if you’re feeling ambitious.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a big sauté pan, sauté onions / garlic for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. If you have the heat on medium-low, you can do the next step while this is going.

3. Cut up some chicken thighs (much more flavorful and moist than breast). Turn the heat back up to high, stirring so the onions don’t burn, and add the chicken (and about a teaspoon of salt, plus some black pepper). Brown it a little bit, stirring, then turn heat back down to medium, and cook a few minutes longer, until chicken is cooked through. (If you want, you can also add some cut up Italian sausage at this point. Mmm….)

While that’s going, stirring occasionally, you can cut up veggies. I used bell pepper and pea pods for this, but you could do broccoli, carrots, whatever veggies you want, really. Frozen peas or mixed veg would also work fine.

4. Somewhere around here, the pasta water has probably come to a boil. Dump in a box of pasta and a bit of salt. Set a timer — for rotini, I think this was 7 minutes.)

5. If you want more of a sauce, at this point, you can sort of scooch chicken and onions over in the pan, making enough room that you can add a T of flour to the oil (add a little more oil if needed) and brown the flour for a minute. Then mix that all together, and add a little milk or cream, stirring to make a sauce. A little butter at this point wouldn’t hurt anything either. If you’re feeling super-fancy, simmer in a little white wine or sherry.

You can also skip this step; the result will be a little more dry, that’s all. If it’s too dry, add a little olive oil, at least.

6. Add the veggies, and at this point, you really don’t want it to cook for much longer, so the veggies don’t get mushy. My kids hate mushy veggies, and would generally prefer to just eat them raw, but I’m trying to get them to like cooked veg. too, so this dish is helping with that.

7. By now, the pasta timer is probably going off. Drain in, and then dump the pasta in with the chicken and veggies. Stir it around, and you’re basically done.

8. If you’re feeling ambitious, try grating some fresh Parmesan in at this point. Don’t try to use the cheese from the shaker — it has additives that make it not blend well into a sauce.

9. And if you’re like me, the only person in your family who likes shrimp, maybe you have some grilled shrimp in the fridge. Portion out some of the dish for your family, and then add the shrimp to what’s left, for you to enjoy.