Quinoa / Red Rice with Tandoori Chicken, Lime-Masala Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Chopped Green Chilies, and Honey-Lime-Yogurt Drizzle

These fancy bowl things have long names. Another yummy experiment, and only about 30 minutes to make (assuming you pre-marinated the chicken in a tandoori-spiced yogurt earlier in the day).

Pre-heat your grill pan, then start the chopped mushrooms sautéing in a separate pan in butter, masala powder, salt and lime juice. Five minutes in, the grill should be hot, and you can turn the mushrooms down to simmer while you roast the peppers and then grill the chicken (3 minutes each side on high). Chop some chilies and mix up a drizzle while the chicken’s finishing cooking (3 more minutes each side, on low, covered), and you’re good to go. (The chopped chilies could be served on the side so people can spice to taste; I love chomping into them.)

I have to be honest, though, chicken breast doesn’t excite me. It’s just a little dry, even when you marinate it in overnight. But the roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and yogurt drizzle did do a nice job balancing that, esp. with a little lemon squeezed over the top. Personally, I like breast better when it’s chopped in more of a chicken salad sort of thing, so it stays really moist. But truly, if I made this particular dish again, I’d use chicken thighs instead.

 

(As a side note, while the bowl looks very pretty like this, it would be easier to eat if you cut the chicken and bell pepper into smaller pieces. And that slice of grilled lemon on the top is purely decorative!)

Quinoa & Red Rice Bowl with Mackerel Curry

I’ve been experimenting with alternatives to white rice, and alternatives to the traditional Sri Lankan way of eating rice, which is a big plate of rice with a little curry on top. That’s reasonably frugal, but also pretty high in starch and low in fiber (things I pay attention to as I get older and my metabolism slows down).

The problem is that it just doesn’t work to simply reduce the amount of rice and add in quinoa, because you can’t eat it the same way, rolling up the rice and curry into satisfying little balls with your hand and popping them in your mouth. The texture is wrong, the rice and curry won’t hold together in those proportions, etc.

So I figured maybe there was something to this quinoa bowl thing that’s so popular right now, and maybe if I tried to compose a Sri Lankan bowl, that might work better. The red rice + quinoa (cooked in a mix of chicken broth and water) on its own was a little dry, esp. after the first day, so I knew I wanted to add plenty of unctuous rich flavor. Fried egg was an obvious contender (egg hoppers are classic Sri Lankan food, and so delicious), and mackerel curry is nicely traditional (and deliciously spicy). Avocado lent another creamy element, and a cool balance to the heat, and a crisp kale-coconut-onion-tomato sambol was the perfect vegetal accompaniment.

I wasn’t even hungry, but dear reader, I DEVOURED this bowl, and was tempted to fry another egg and go back for seconds. Experiment: wildly successful. (Bonus, this would be easy to pack up and take to work to eat with a fork in the office.)

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll try it with beef curry, for poor Kevin, who doesn’t appreciate fish. Pretty sure that will also work great, keeping all the other elements the same. (A little seeni sambol added in wouldn’t hurt either…)

Spring Sale!

I’ll be making Sri Lankan marshmallows with Kavya this week, and sending them out as part of a spring book sale. Will run it for just the first week of April, so if this sounds appealing, get your orders in quick!

Spring Books Into Flowers Sale!

In spring, a person’s thoughts turn to dreams of flowers, and how better than to sell a few books and artisanal hand-made Sri Lankan sweets and dark-roasted curry powder? I’m clearing out a bit more of the basement book stock — U.S.-only, I’m afraid, due to food regulations and shipping costs. Happy to sign / dedicate any books, of course!

– Bodies in Motion (Sri Lankan immigrant stories) hardcover: $15
– A Taste of Serendib Sri Lankan cookbook: $10
– Torn Shapes of Desire (erotic fiction and poetry: $10 (TS is out of print, so when they’re gone, that’s it…26 copies left)

– Cashew milk toffee (3 pieces): $12
– Chai spice truffles (2 pieces): $8
– Chili-chocolate truffles (2 pieces): $8
– Vanilla-rose marshmallows (2 pieces): $8
– Mango-lime marshmallows (2 pieces): $8 (note: experimental!)

– 2 oz bag homemade curry powder: $5
– 4 oz bag: $7

+ Shipping & Handling: $5 / order

Comment below or e-mail mohanraj@mamohanraj.com with the subject line SPRING BOOKS to reserve your copies; I’ll take orders as they come in. Please note which books you’d like signed, and if you want just a signature, or dedicated to someone.

Transliterate

Putting my dad to work — he kindly went through the TOC of the new Sri Lankan cookbook and corrected all my transliterations. I got a *few* right…

In my defense, the issue is that there are gazillion ways to transliterate Tamil words, and if you just google, you’ll get a lot of variations. Especially since some of the letters just don’t exist in English — three variants of an ‘l’ sound, or a ‘ng’ sound, for example. But my dad is something of a purist and a scholar about Tamil, so this way, we get pretty close to how it would sound in Sri Lankan Tamil.

Green Bean Varai

A fresh, green element on the dinner plate.

1 medium onion, minced
1 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 rounded tsp turmeric
1-3 dry red chilies, broken into pieces (optional)
1 lb green beans, chopped finely (in a food processor is fine)
1/4 rounded tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

  1. Cook onions with turmeric, black mustard seed, and chilies in a dry pan over high heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until semi-cooked.
  2. Add green beans, pepper, and salt, and cook a few minutes more, enough to take the raw edge off. Green beans should still be crispy.
  3. Turn off heat, stir in coconut, and serve with rice.


 

Sourdough Soup Bowl & Watermelon Salad

One consequence of writing a cookbook is that now when I eat out, I find myself taking mental notes and/or critiquing the food. These are two dishes from the Marriott I was staying at in Walnut Creek. The clam chowder was delicious, but the best part was how they served it in a little individual bread bowl, that they had buttered and crisped up before filling it with soup. Great contrasts of crispy bread exterior with soft, soup-soaked interior. Would make a fabulous autumn / winter appetizer or light meal.

I also liked this watermelon salad appetizer — so pretty! But the raspberry dressing was too sweet; it needed to be more citrus, to contrast with the candied nuts. And while the long cucumber slices are pretty, they required pulling out a knife, which none of the rest of the salad did, which was sort of annoying. I’d do it on a bed of round cucumber slices instead.

Curried Chicken Livers with Onion

Note to self — on a day when you had a fair bit of blood drawn (routine check-up stuff, not to worry), maybe it’s not the brightest choice to a) eat lightly and then b) go workout with the trainer at the gym. I had to sit down partway through because I got light-headed! It’s all fine; a few minutes of rest put me right.
 
Then I came right home and made myself a quick batch of curried chicken liver — high in iron, rich and fortifying. You could eat it with rice, but I like it best on buttered toast. Small portions would make a great (intense) appetizer. I’m feeling much better now.
 
Curried Chicken Livers with Onion
(15 minutes, serves 2)
 
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 T butter or ghee
1 t. red chili powder
1/2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
3/4 t. salt
1/8 c. ketchup
1 T lime juice
1/2 lb. chicken livers
1/4 c. coconut milk
 
1. Sauté onions in butter on high, stirring, until golden.
 
2. Add chili powder and stir about 30 seconds, then turn heat down to medium and add curry powder, salt, ketchup, lime juice. Stir to combine, then add chicken livers and fry for a few minutes, stirring very gently.
 
3. Stir in coconut milk and simmer about 5 minutes more, until livers are cooked through. Serve hot with rice or bread.
 

Beef and Pickle

Short-grain rice, Sri Lankan beef curry, Thai carrot salad, my friend Kat’s watermelon radish quick pickle, and some sliced bell pepper. Yummy — I especially like how the pickle enhances the spiciness of the beef curry. Also, it’s ridiculously pretty.

Thai Carrot Salad

Thai Carrot Salad
 
1 T ginger & 3 cloves peeled garlic, grated very fine
2 T fresh lime juice & zest of 1 lime
1-2 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce (optional; vegetarians can skip it)
2-3 T brown sugar
1-2 green chilies, minced (optional)
1 carrot, shredded
 
Combine all ingredients and let sit five minutes. Serve cold with rice and Thai curry.