Chicken Mulligatawny (Soup or Stew)

Chicken Mulligatawny (Soup or Stew)

This is a great recipe for a slow weekend. Yesterday, I made enough to feed soup to the people who were over for afternoon board games, then added some rice, lentils, and coconut milk, turning it into more of a stew, and took it to the potluck last night.

This morning, I scooped out four Ziploc bags’ worth and stored them flat in the freezer (careful not to scoop up the potatoes and carrots, which don’t freeze well), saving them for a rainy day when I’m too tired to cook and want some hearty, easy comfort food. And there’s just enough left for lunch today. 

Many mulligatawny recipes add apples, which would be a fun fusion approach — mulligatawny is thought to be a colonial-era adaptation of earlier South Asian soups like rasam, and is often vegetarian. But I chose to go with chicken, carrots, and potatoes this time. Yum.

(This recipe is gluten-free, and I’m planning to include it in the new gluten-free ebook.)

*****

INGREDIENTS

BASE SOUP:
– 1/4 c. vegetable oil or ghee
– 2-3 onions, chopped coarsely
– 3 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 T ginger, chopped
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 3 cloves
– 3 cardamom pods
– 1 t. black mustard seed
– 1 t. cumin seed
– 1 T ground black pepper
– 4 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock
– 2 c. (or more) water
– 1 tomato, chopped
– 1 T tamarind paste

ADDITIONS:
– one roasting chicken, cut up, skin removed
– 3 carrots, cut in chunks
– 4 – 6 new potatoes, cut in chunks
– 1/2 – 2 c. lentils (optional)
– 1/2 – 1 c. rice (optional)

FINAL SEASONINGS:
– 1-2 t. salt (to taste)
– 1-2 T lime juice (to taste)
– 1 c. coconut milk (optional)

1. Sauté onions, garlic, ginger, mustard seed, cumin seed, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper on medium-high until onions are golden.

2. Add potatoes, carrots, and chicken pieces (on the bone), turn up the heat to high, and sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally as you brown the chicken (careful not to burn).

3. Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato and tamarind paste, and lentils if using. Cover and cook at a simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: Lentils may need a bit longer, depending on how soft you want them — just add more water, bring it up to a boil, and then turn down to a covered simmer, until lentils are as soft as you like.

4. Remove chicken pieces to a bowl and let cool. Remove meat from the bones, shred with your fingers, and add meat back to the pot. Taste and add salt / lime juice as desired.

NOTE: If using lentils and/or rice, you’ll probably want to add more tamarind or lime juice, and/or bump up the pepper — adding lentils / rice will mute the overall flavor of the dish.

5. If using rice to make it more of a stew, add the rice now, bring the pot back to a boil (adding water and/or coconut milk if needed), cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook an additional 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked.

6. Serve hot! Toasted naan would be nice as an accompaniment to the soup, and if you’re feeling fancy, you could top each bowl with a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of chopped cilantro.)

#serendibkitchen

Sri Lankan lentils without coconut

What if you want to try Sri Lankan food, but are allergic to coconut? At some point when I have free time (hah), I’d love to create a section of the Serendib Kitchen website that suggested adaptations. (Stephanie, add to queue?) Vegetarian / vegan, allergies, low-carb / keto, etc. For example, yesterday I was cooking dinner for 30 students, for my colleague Anna Guevarra‘s food and culture class, and there were a few restrictions we had to work around:

We had:
– a vegetarian (so I just kept it all vegetarian, super-easy to do well with Sri Lankan food)
– a cashew allergy (so we skipped the cashews toasted in ghee for the rice pilaf, and it was still good with saffron, rose, and sultanas), and
– a coconut allergy.

Now THAT one is tricky, as I’d learned back when I was cooking for my roommate Cliff Winnig, also allergic to coconut! (And nutmeg, and nuts — he says he had a lexical allergy…) We could just leave the coconut out of the kale mallung, bumping the sugar up a bit to compensate for the sweetness. It’s still tasty and worth making, but honestly, it’s not as good as it is with coconut, and so far, I haven’t come up with anything that would really work as a substitute.

But for the dal (lentil curry), it proved surprisingly easy to compensate for lack of coconut milk. I started with using cow’s milk instead, but as I asked the students, there’s still two major elements missing that we’d want to add back in. After a few moments, they correctly identified them.

Want to try to guess before reading further?

(The pictures may have given you hints!)

1) Sweetness, since coconut milk is sweeter than cow’s milk. We added in a little sugar, in the form of grated jaggery, and that worked very nicely to bring out the sweetness of the onions and help balance the dish.

2) Fat! Coconut milk has notably more fat than cow’s milk, and while the lentils were still tasty on their own, stirring in a stick of butter towards the end of the cooking time gave them that lusciousness that has you coming back for seconds and thirds. 

I’ve heard that the latter is actually a common restaurant technique when making sauces (maybe a French thing?), to stir in a stick of butter towards the end. I don’t indulge in that normally, and honestly, I don’t even want my daily dinner food to be that rich.

But in this case, a stick of butter stirred into a big double batch of lentil curry, feeding 30 people, was the perfect addition.  Mmm…

#serendibkitchen

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.

Instant Pot Sri Lankan Lamb Curry in Coconut Milk

(1 hr, serves 8)

Cooking lamb curry in the instant pot is only a little faster than cooking this on the stovetop, but does mean that you can make it in advance, or go run an errand (or attend a board meeting, in my case), and let it keep warm until you’re ready to devour the dish.

3 TBL vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
2 TBL ginger, chopped fine
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
6-12 curry leaves (optional)
1-2 TBL raw red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 lbs leg of lamb, cubed, about 1 inch pieces, with some fat left on

1/2 c. ketchup
1 can coconut milk
1-2 TBL lime juice

1. In the Instant Pot, heat oil and sauté onions with ginger, garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and curry leaves until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed.

2. Add chili powder, curry powder, and salt, stirring to combine, then add lamb and sear, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the meat.

3. Add ketchup and coconut milk, stir well, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom.

4. Set to pressure cook for 15 minutes; allow pressure to release before opening. Add lime juice and salt to taste, simmering if needed to reduce liquid.

5. Serve hot, with rice or bread.

Instant Pot Black Pork Curry / Uru Mas or Padre Kari

 

 (1 hour, serves 6-8)

Cooking this in the Instant Pot only saves about 30 minutes off the traditional recipe, but it does make it easy to set it going, and then wander off, knowing it’ll be kept nice and warm for you until you get back. When I made this test batch, I was able to take Anand to his swim lesson after I set the pressure-cooking going, knowing that it’d be all done and ready for me to eat when we got back!

This traditional tangy, peppery dish gets its dark color from the combination of dark roasted curry powder, tamarind paste, and lots of black pepper. (The colloquial name ‘padre kari’ refers to the black robes of a padre / priest.) Tamarind paste is fairly easy to find in Mexican and Indian markets, or you can order it online. It keeps well in the pantry for a long time, even after opening. Typically, you’d leave a good portion of the fat on the pork pieces; it soaks up a ton of flavor, and is truly delectable, balancing the meat, which can otherwise be a bit dry after long cooking. But you can trim all the fat off if you’d prefer.

3 medium onions, chopped
2 TBL ginger, chopped fine
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
6-12 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1 heaping tsp salt
4 tsp black peppercorns
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 inch pieces, with some fat left on
3 tsp tamarind paste
1/2cup white vinegar

1. In the Instant Pot, sauté onions, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves in oil until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed.

2. Add curry powder, salt, and peppercorns, stirring to combine, then add pork and sear, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the meat.

3. Add tamarind paste and white vinegar; stir well.

4. Set to pressure cook for 30 minutes; allow pressure to release before opening. Serve hot, with rice or bread.

Instant Pot Beef Smoore

   Instant Pot Sri Lankan Beef Smoore
 
This dish translated really easily to the Instant Pot — I hardly had to modify it at all. And it’s simple enough that even a novice cook shouldn’t find it too intimidating. It normally takes 4-6 hours by the traditional method, but this was just an hour, start to finish. Maybe add another 10-15 minutes if you’re slow at chopping onions, but still — v. speedy, and I didn’t notice any lessening of flavor from the traditional version.
 
Beef Smoore / Mas Ismoru
(1 hour, serves 8)
This is a dish of Dutch / Sri Lankan origin. Yummy with rice — also great in weekday lunch sandwiches on hearty Italian bread, or shredded into a pita or folded naan, with some pickled onions and a little yogurt. Long-handled metal tongs will help with moving the large piece of hot meat. This is made to authentic Sri Lankan spice levels; reduce chili powder for a milder version. Delicious with a deep red wine; garnish with cilantro if desired. A fabulous dinner party dish.
 
3-4 lb chuck roast
3 TBL ghee or vegetable oil
1 TBL salt
1 TBL pepper
1/2 cup vinegar
1 TBL tamarind, dissolved in one cup water
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 TBL finely chopped fresh ginger
1 stick cinnamon
2 stalks curry leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
1. Set Instant Pot on sauté and heat oil. Rub beef with salt and pepper, then sear the beef until lightly brown on all sides, which adds great depth of flavor to the sauce.
 
2. Add the vinegar, tamarind water, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, curry leaves, lemongrass, curry powder, chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek, remaining salt, and coconut milk. Stir to combine, scraping up any browned meat on the bottom of the pan.
 
4. Cover the Instant Pot and set to pressure cook for 45 minutes. When finished, release steam and then remove lid.
 
5. Remove meat to a serving dish; if the gravy is too thin, reduce it by boiling rapidly uncovered. Transfer gravy to a serving bowl. Slice the meat into the desired thickness, and pour gravy over the slices; serve hot with rice or bread.

Pongee

Happy Pongal! Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka (this year it’s Tues Jan 15 – Fri Jan 18) — when crops like rice are harvested. Yes, it’s a little goofy celebrating it in Chicago in midwinter, but any excuse to celebrate, right?

I haven’t made pongal (rice & lentil porridge) before, but I think it came out pretty well. A quick, simple, one-pot dish, packed with protein, that would be even better accompanied by a nice curry –– eggplant, perhaps? Coconut chutney and sambar are traditional accompaniments.

Pongal
20 minutes, serves 4

1 c. rice
1 c. moong dal
4 c. water
1/2 t. salt

2 T butter or ghee
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. sultanas
1 t. cumin seeds
8-12 fresh curry leaves
1-2 green chilies, chopped, optional

1. Add rice, dal, water, and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer 15-20 minutes, until cooked.

2. While rice is cooking, heat butter or ghee, sauté cashews, stirring, until golden. Add cumin seeds, sultanas, curry leaves, and green chili if using, stirring for a few more minutes. Mix into cooked rice & lentils and serve hot.

Other standard ingredients: chopped ginger, pinch of asafoetida, turmeric, black peppercorns (whole or crushed).

 

Sweet & Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Seeds

People ask a lot how I do all this stuff, so I must periodically make clear that my life wouldn’t function if Kevin couldn’t feed himself and the kids as needed. Sometimes he’s cooking from scratch, and making well-balanced meals or fresh-baked bread; sometimes he’s throwing some frozen peas on the plate and calling it a day. That’s parenting for both of us around here. But I can go out of the country for a week, or spend all weekend at holiday fairs, and I know that as long as Kev’s not cross-scheduled (we do have to be a little careful about that), he’ll get the family fed. It’s not nothing.
 
I don’t know what the rest of the family ate for dinner tonight; I was still out. Kev would’ve made me dinner too if I’d said I’d be home in time. This picture is actually what I made myself for dinner tonight. With all the running around, I’d been eating poorly for a few days, grabbing mostly starch things because that’s what was easily accessible. Also too many sweets — it’s hard not to nibble truffles and marshmallows and rich cake when you’re making them!
 
So I came home from the sale today, flopped in a chair for an hour….and then got up, trimmed some brussels sprouts, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, chili powder, honey, and apple cider vinegar, then roasted them at 375 for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with some fresh pomegranate seeds and a few more grinds of salt if needed, and you are good to go! It was nice to cook something not on a deadline and just because I felt like eating it. 🙂
 
Kevin loves brussels sprouts, so it’ll be nice for him too. Which is the only reason I didn’t eat all of them with a fork out of the roasting pan, standing right at the kitchen counter. Mmmm….

Melissa Elsmo Supper Club

On Friday night, I visited an Oak Park underground supper club. It’s called Kindred, and it’s someone cooking out of a private space; I gather this is quite a thing in big cities these days? But I’ve never been to one before, and it was fabulous. My favorite bite was perhaps the chicken sausage and sweet potato in the second course; my favorite presentation was probably the third course salad of edible flowers, micro greens, and soft cheesy dressing, served in a little glass cloche. But it was quite wonderful all around.

  

  

Usually Chef Melissa Elsmo does 12 courses; we only did 8, because we were intercutting it with the other event of the night, a powerful and moving storytelling session organized by Cynthia Martz. I was deliciously replete by the end, and also emotionally rejuvenated by the honest storytelling and warm fellowship of the women Cynthia brought together. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it handed to you.

This was just splendid, and I’m hoping to take Kevin for supper there another time, perhaps for his birthday, if we can arrange 6 friends to come with us. (She also puts together blended tables, if you don’t have 8 people on hand.)

More about Melissa here: https://www.oakparkeats.com/…/meet-the-ope-t…/melissa-elsmo/

Find her on Facebook and send a message to reserve your spot!