A Craving for Cake

I had a craving for cake last night, but there was none to be had, and no one was volunteering to bake a cake for me and I didn’t have the energy. So that was sad, but I went poking around in my pantry, and realized I had sweetened condensed milk, which reminded me of a classic dessert of my childhood, mixed tinned fruit with sweetened condensed milk, and we had fresh cherries, so I thought they might be good together, and Reader — they were.

So Very Summer

The danger of easing into your day with a little GBBO is that you may decide that what you really want to make is a meringue bombé for your first post-COVID party on the coming weekend. (Everyone attending vaccinated, numbers very limited compared to previous years, we’re easing into this…)

I really don’t have time to experiment with meringue bombés right now!

But I might make a pavlova. That’s easy. 🙂 And so very summer…


Thanks so much to all 75 people who have so far supported my Vegan Serendib Kickstarter with pre-orders — and also to everyone who helped boost the signal! Woot. 🙂

I’ll be back later today with an update about stretch goals, but for now, I will just revel in the moment.

To be clear, there are still plenty of rewards and pre-order discounts available for the next 23 days, if you’d like to hop over to the Kickstarter site:



Pedestrian Tastes

Did a compare-and-contrast with random store kithul treacle, and high-end single source kithul that was probably three times as expensive. Both good with yogurt, as expected — the random store treacle was much sweeter, and the fancy treacle was somewhat more complex and interesting.

Although honestly, I like them both probably equally. 🙂 Maybe my tastes are just more pedestrian.

Sakkarai (Jaggery) Pongal

(30-40 minutes, serves 8-10)

For this one-pot celebration dish, rice is mixed with a little toasted mung bean and cooked down until very soft, close to custard texture. Sweeten the rice with jaggery and coconut milk, season with fried cashews, raisins, cardamom and saffron, and you have a dish fit for the gods — which was, in fact, what jaggery pongal was intended for. It was traditionally made to offer the gods as part of the harvest celebration of Pongal (typically around mid-January), and on other similarly celebratory occasions.

In modern times, many will use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to bring the rice quickly to the right texture, but I go a bit more old school here, which requires stirring on the stovetop.

2 c. rice (white or red, your choice)
4 c. water
1 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. green grams / mung bean, toasted in a dry pan
1 c. jaggery
1 t. salt
2 T vegetable oil or vegan butter
1/4 c. cashew nuts, chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 t. ground cardamom
pinch of saffron threads

optional garnish: whole cashew nuts and raisins fried in more vegetable oil or vegan butter

1. Soak the toasted green grams for 30 minutes, then add to a large saucepan, along with rice and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until rice is mostly cooked through.

2. Stir in jaggery and coconut milk, then cover and continue to cook, stirring periodically to keep from sticking. If you need to add more water, do so.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil or vegan butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cashews and raisings and fry until cashews are golden brown. Stir them into the cooked rice mixture.

4. Add cardadmom and saffron and continue to cook, stirring periodically, until rice has broken down, and the entire dish has a somewhat creamy texture (similar in appearance to risotto).

5. Remove from heat and cool. You can simply spoon it in to bowls for serving, or for a fancier presentation, mold into portions by pressing into greased cups, then unmold and serve garnished with additional fried cashews and raisins. A little fried ripe plantain would also go nicely with this, or fresh ripe mango.

Thank you, hibiscus tree, for giving me a single flower just in time for this photograph. 🙂

Halapa / Sweet Coconut Steamed Appams

I first encountered a version of this recipe titled “Ooda Appam” in a Jaffna-based cookbook, but had trouble finding other recipes under that name. With the help of one of my cousins and Sri Lankan friends, I realized this was essentially halapa, which made my search for recipes much easier.

To make halapa, you need pani pol, a mix of sweetener (usually jaggery and/or kithul treacle) and coconut. Sometimes, pani pol serves as a filling to the rice flour steamed bun, but in this version, the pani pol is mixed directly in with the toasted rice flour.

In Sri Lanka, the flattened balls would traditionally be steamed in kenda leaves, but those are hard to find in America; you can use banana leaves or parchment paper. These are best right out of the steamer — be careful not to burn your fingers or tongue when devouring them! Delicious with a cup of tea; also commonly served for breakfast with fresh fruit.

1 c. red rice flour
1 c. grated fresh coconut
3/4 c. jaggery or dark brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
hot water
1 banana leaf (or a few sheets of parchment paper)

1 t. vegetable oil

1. In a dry pan, toast rice flour, stirring, until aromatic.

2. In a large bowl, combine rice flour, coconut, jaggery, and salt to a smooth paste; add a little hot water as needed to bring together.

3. Briefly run hot water on the banana leaf to soften it, and cut it into pieces (roughly 2×2 inches); alternately, use squares of parchment paper.

4. Use a paper towel dipped in the vegetable oil to grease each piece of banana leaf (parchment paper).

5. Make small balls from the paste, then place each ball on the center of a leaf. Flatten into a circular shape and fold the leaf over.

6. Steam over simmering water in a covered steamer until cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Tandoori Chicken

We frequently get a whole tandoori chicken from local restaurant Khyber Pass, but day-after takeout tandoori chicken can be a little dry. Usually I like it fine on sandwiches with a little mayo and some chopped green chili, but sometimes I get motivated to do a little more:

– sauté the onions that came with them in butter
– make a roux (add flour and brown, add milk to make sauce, add salt to taste)
– add shredded chicken

– add cooked pasta

Several more meals for the family…

Vegan Now a Project We Love

Hey, isn’t this lovely? Kickstarter has chosen Vegan Serendib as a “Project We Love.” I get a badge and everything. 🙂 Congrats, little Kickstarter project!

We’re up to $1741 of the $2500 funding goal, so getting close! To pledge (and get books at a discount), go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/vegan-serendib-a-sri…

Speaking of discounts, I have a special treat to announce for today — Feast has been out for more than a year now, and with Vegan getting close to done, it felt like it was time — we’re dropping the price on A Feast of Serendib! $5 off on all editions — hardcover, paperback, and ebook. I’m not sure how long we’ll keep that sale price up — at least through the end of the Kickstarter, so through the end of June. So if you’re looking for a non-vegan Sri Lankan cookbook, I got you. 🙂

Shop here: https://serendib-kitchen.myshopify.com/collections/books

Let the Games Begin

Aw, you guys. I woke up and realized all my plants were in dire need of water and on the verge of death, so rushed out for a few hours of emergency watering, and so it’s only now that I’m checking on my vegan Sri Lankan cookbook Kickstarter — we’re more than 60% funded in just a day! Thank you, thank you. It’s a weight off my mind.

Please do continue to spread the word! 🙂 I’ll be back shortly with news on who won yesterday’s first day raffle for a free hardcover — but today, we’ll continue with ebook fun. If you comment, like, or share THIS post (maybe with a little note saying what it’s about), you’ll be entered to win an ebook of Vegan Serendib (and we’re happy to send it to a recipient of your choice — you just need to give us their e-mail address).

As for me, I think I’d better start thinking about stretch goals.

What else would you like from me? Gluten-free Serendib will be the next cookbook, probably about 2 years out from here, and I’m hesitant to commit to any full-on cookbooks beyond that. But there are other possibilities:

a) 10 more additional vegan recipes that will be e-mailed to Kickstarter supporters

b) I’ll write a science fiction short story about a Sri Lankan cook

c) I’ll write a fantasy short story about a Sri Lankan cook — with magic!

d) I’ll put together a digital sampler: a baker’s dozen of Sri Lankan cocktail party treats (all vegan) — savory and sweet bites + beverages (including non-alcoholic)

e) A different digital sampler — teatime in Sri Lanka!

f) I’ll commit to writing three food essays this summer and sending them to you

Please feel free to vote for any of these, or suggest more in the comments. (Digital rewards preferred, as anything I have to ship out adds significantly to cost, but if you have a burning desire for a physical object, go ahead and list it — you never know!)

Let the games begin. 🙂