Teaching Kavi to make curry powder

Kavi overslept, and since today is a half day anyway (conference time), I told her she could stay home for the two hours she would’ve been in school, IF she wouldn’t be missing anything important AND if she let me put her to work. She has to learn how to cook this food sometime…

Sri Lankan Grilled Shrimp

The last few days have been so harried that I was eating very badly – I didn’t have time to cook, and was often running from event to event, so there were a few days of just grabbing whatever random snacks I had around the house, making mediocre sandwiches, etc. One dinner this week? Rice cakes + chocolate, both snacks I had in the car. Gah.

This was bad in two ways: a) this was generally way less healthy than I normally eat, and b) it makes me cranky and sad, eating bad food.

By yesterday, I had hit my limit, and finally caved and ordered some Japanese & Thai takeout from Bua Hana up the street – that was good, because eating some fresh seafood was such a relief, taste and health-wise. And their Thai green chicken curry with rice has fed me for three straight solid meals. But it also makes me wince; that cost $40 to feed the family, and I know if I’d cooked, I could have made meals just as healthy and delicious for $10 or less.

We do what we must, and sometimes, there just isn’t the bandwith to cook, even for someone like me, who loves cooking. But I wish I’d thought ahead a little, and made some protein on the weekend to carry me through the week. A few weeks ago, I did a batch of Sri Lankan grilled shrimp, and that was perfect – I threw them into Caesar salads, with quinoa and a tangerine dressing, and into sandwiches and quesadillas. The spicy flavors made me happy, and the extra protein made my body feel great.

So here’s a new recipe that’ll be in Gluten-Free Serendib, along with a resolution to try to remember to grill up a batch on Sunday. If you buy peeled, raw shrimp, it takes almost no time to toss them in a spiced yogurt marinade – then go off and do something else for a while, let it work its magic. When you come back, a few minutes on a grill pan on the stove is enough to make a week’s worth of happiness.

NOTE: This will, of course, also work with scallops, chicken (thighs are tastier than breast, but both will work), steak, eggplant, mushrooms, etc. Just adjust grilling time appropriately.


Sri Lankan Grilled Shrimp

2 lbs. raw shrimp (either fresh or thawed from frozen), peeled and deveined
½ c. yogurt
1 T Sri Lankan curry powder
1-2 t. cayenne
1 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
juice of one lime (2-3 t.)
oil to spray on grill pan

1. Combine ingredients and marinade one hour (or four hours in the fridge; or even overnight).

2. Heat a grill pan to high heat and spray with oil. Add shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes on one side. Flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side, until shrimp are pink-orange and cooked through. Serve hot or cold, with whatever you like – rice, naan, quinoa, salad greens, eggs, or just straight up as a snack.

Ginger Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas

We’re not vegetarian, but we’re trying to be more ‘lessertarian’ these days, for a variety of reasons. Anand is tender-hearted, and would rather be vegetarian if he could bring himself to give up meat. It’s clearly better for the planet if we eat more plant-based, and it’s generally healthier too.

But it’s going to be a process in our household getting there, as the kids aren’t used to eating beans and chickpeas and the like, and of course, I really like and cook with meat all the time. So, a compromise — we’re starting with trying to incorporate more vegetables and beans into our meat dishes, which I think of as Mediterranean-style. We’re aiming towards Meatless Mondays within a few months, but it’ll help a lot if they start actually liking beans! (I have some sympathy, as I didn’t start liking beans until I encountered Ethiopian food in my 20s. Then I fell in love with them. Yemisir wat, shiro, yum.)

This dish was a success on the flavors front — I took our standard ginger-garlic chicken that the kids love, added a cup of canned chickpeas (it would’ve been better texture with soaking dry chickpeas overnight, but I was also aiming for easy dinner on a week night with no planning ahead) partway through.

I added some peas at the end, to bump up the vitamins and fiber a bit, which were pretty and tasty, but got mushy on sitting, which is not ideal, esp. as Kavi already doesn’t like cooked peas. Next time I try this, I might try this with kale or spinach, though the kids are even less likely to like those.

I really liked the dish as it came out, and though I had mine with some toasted ancient grain naan (which Whole Foods carries now, which kind of bewilders me, but okay), if you served this with rice, it’d be a great gluten-free dinner option. Or you can skip the starch entirely — it’s on the salty side, though, so something to cut that would be nice. The kids had theirs with lots of raw bell pepper, which is one of their favorite veg.

Anand ate the chickpeas (though he preferred the chicken). Kavi tried one chickpea and refused to eat the rest; I didn’t push her, because she gets very distressed when forced to eat food she doesn’t like, and no one wants a sad Kavi.


But I think we’ll make this with the chickpeas from now on, with the hopes that if she tries one or two every time, she’ll eventually get used to them, and even start to like them. That’s generally how it works with her — it’s just a slow, slow process. Patience is key to changing food habits around here!

Will have the recipe in the new Gluten-Free Serendib ebook going out to Kickstarter backers, but here it is, just for you!


Ginger-Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas
(90 minutes, serves 6-8)

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 c. canned chickpeas, drained (or dry chickpeas, soaked overnight)
1/2 c. frozen peas

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, add chickpeas, and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone. Stir in frozen peas and cook a minute or two more.

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.


Final Thoughts on Croissants

Croissant dough looks like marble.  Lovely veining.

Triangles. I don’t know who figured out that croissants would look pretty if you made triangles and rolled them up, but good call, yo.

These actually look exactly like the Pillsbury crescent rolls that I usually make, but they are, in fact, baker’s croissants, that I made with my own two little hands and lots and lots and lots of butter.

Pretty pretty croissants. Some of them do look a little thick; I could’ve rolled them more evenly. But they will taste good regardless.

The kids wanted to try the croissants before bedtime last night, so even though they hadn’t had time to rise, and I hadn’t had a chance to brush them with egg, I tossed a few in the toaster oven. Just as well I did, because the temp suggested (425 for 15 minutes, drop to 350 for 10-15) was too high for my oven — these burnt just a bit. Without rising, they were pretty dense too!

The kids ate them anyway, but a) protested the dark chocolate in some of them, and b) like the Pillsbury crescent rolls better. I promised to make them some of those today, stuffed with apple and cheddar, and some milk chocolate ones too, once I pick up some milk chocolate. I think Kavi and Anand felt quite sorry for Mommy after all the work they’d seen me putting into these; they were very apologetic about not finishing their croissants!

This batch had enough time to rise properly. Now that’s a better color. Please note the literal POOL OF BUTTER.

Lamination, baby. Eat that, Paul Hollywood!

Kevin looked at the recipe, and says that I managed to get 81 layers in there. Roll out, fold into thirds (3 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (9 layers), chill, roll out, fold into thirds (27 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (81 layers).

It doesn’t look like 81 layers, but it’s certainly a lot of layers.

Look, I’m not saying I’d win the technical challenge, as these are not PERFECTLY the same size, but for a first pass at croissants, they’re not terrible. I wouldn’t be embarassed to have these at my station for the judging. I lowered the heat to 400 for the first 15 minutes, 350 for the next 15, which I think is about right for my oven.

(And I think the bigger ones at the bottom are stuffed with chocolate and cheese, respectively, in my defense.)

Final croissant-making notes — they’re good, but not perfect. The exterior is MUCH flakier than a Pillsbury crescent roll, which makes them somewhat messy to eat, but quite satisfying — I believe the King Arthur flour recipe described these as ‘shatteringly crisp,’ which is about right.

The interior is rich and buttery and I did very happily just eat an entire croissant. But my complaint is that they did not come out as light and airy as the ones I ate in Paris, or at Léa, the French cafe two blocks away from me. Kev and I spent a while trying to diagnose what went wrong, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced him, but I *think* I overworked the dough.

When I first started mixing it, I mixed it in the stand mixer with a dough hook, and it wasn’t coming together well, so then I turned it out and started kneading it, but after five minutes of kneading, it still wasn’t holding together, so then I added a little water and it finally came together, and then I kneaded it some more. I think all of that probably doubled the working time on it (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes) and made it tougher than it should’ve been.

And then THAT may have led to it being SO HARD to roll them out. I mean, I was seriously feeling like a wimp — after two turns and roll outs, both times, I broke a sweat and felt a little shaky, even though I was working in a cool kitchen. If the dough was tougher than it was meant to be, maybe it made rolling out harder than it should’ve been?

I hope so, because that is the ONLY possibility that makes me even think about attempting these again some day. And even so, if I do them again, I plan to have Kevin ready and waiting to help with the roll outs, in case that wasn’t the issue, and the dough is just normally that difficult to roll.

Ah well. All that said, I have several croissants to eat and feed people in the next day or two, and they are yummy, and I have half a batch of rolled out dough in the freezer, and in a few weeks (after the intense rush of finishing all the sweet & curry powder prep for the Kickstarter ship out of Feast), I’ll pull it out and experiment with some Sri Lankan-inspired fillings for croissants. Suggestions welcome! My first thought was seeni sambol, but that actually seems like it’d be too much oil in a croissant. Passionfruit chocolate, though….

As for whether I’ll ever make croissants from scratch again — we’ll see! Thanks (?) to Pooja Makhijani, food inspiration, for the challenge. 

RECIPE: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/bakers-croissants-recipe

The first batch of roasted curry powder for Kickstarter fulfillment

So, I finally ground the first batch of roasted curry powder, and then did the calculations as to how many batches I’ll need to do for Kickstarter fulfillment. To send out 128 packets of 4 oz. each, it turns out that I need to do 100 batches. Eep.

I can do them roughly 10 batches at a time (that’s the max my big pan will hold), with about an hour each for roasting and grinding (grinding would be faster, but I need to let the grinder rest between cups, so I don’t burn out the mechanism). So 20 hours of roasting & grinding await in the next 10 days. Packing party on 10/30, with shipping starting on Halloween.

I think it’s time for Kevin, Kavya, and Anand to learn how to make Amma’s curry powder…

Also, my hair, sweater, house are going to be PERMEATED with curry powder scent by the end of this 10-day stretch. Good thing it’s such a DELICIOUS scent.

Layers of flaky, buttery pastry

I came home from teaching thinking I’d knock out the croissant lamination, no problem. Well, first off, it turned out I hadn’t made my dough square quite large or square enough. So I took the butter square off to try again. More rolling.

Second roll got it square enough, so I put the diamond of butter inside the square, folded over the triangles (like making an envelope), and pinched them sealed. Easy-peasy. Next — flipping it over and rolling it until it measured 10″ x 20″. I have to admit, having looked at the rest of the recipe by this point and seeing just how often it asked for measurements, I caved and went down to the basement to get a ruler. [shakes fist at the French] It took a while, and my shoulder muscles had started to ache, but I did it, finally. 10″ x 20″, achieved.

Next step, fold it over in thirds, like a business letter. No problem. Flip and turn and…roll it out to 10″ x 20″ again? Okay, I can do that. It went a little easier this time, as the dough wasn’t quite as chilled, but I feel like a wimp admitting that I was super-tired by the end of this roll. I think I still have some sort of stupid lingering cold, as I have been weirdly exhausted for much of the last week (weeks?).

I did the roll out, folded it in thirds again, wrapped it and put it back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, sat down on the couch to look at the recipe again. Two MORE turns and rolls? Seriously? How many layers of flaky, buttery pastry does one person need?

ALL. I need ALL the layers. But I acknowledged that I had hit the point of tiredness where this was starting to be no longer fun, and there is no point in this kind of nonsense unless you are also having fun, so I paused for the night. Croissant-finishing would have to wait another day. Instead, I took myself to bed with a few episodes of dumb interior design TV and called it a night.


Croissant-making hurdle #1 — Kevin insists that the brewer’s yeast he has on hand will work just fine in bread-making, and that that jar of active dry yeast we have is very old and I shouldn’t risk it. I trust my husband, right? Right. Onwards.

Croissants, next step. So far, so good. Mix eggs, warm water, flour, sugar, yeast. This is totally within my power. I am a baking god.

Croissants, step 3. I let the frozen butter sit for about an hour, so it was no longer hard as a rock, but still cool to the touch. Sliced and into the mixing bowl. Is that enough butter for ya?

Croissants, next step. Mix butter with salt and flour in a stand mixer. Um, I used the dough hook (think maybe the paddle attachment would’ve been better), and ended up having to do a lot of shoving butter down towards the center with a spatula, which I don’t remember ever seeing them do on GBBO; am starting to question my baking god qualifications.

Still, looks all right?

8 inch square of butter mixed with flour. When we say 8 inches, we mean that I held up a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and eyeballed it from there, because I don’t actually keep a ruler in my kitchen because I am not as obsessive as the French, and I am also too lazy to go down to my craft table in the basement and get one. But that looks vaguely right, I think. Into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Ha ha ha! You thought we surely had ENOUGH butter with the pound of butter that we just sliced up. Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you have to melt MORE butter and pour it over the ‘sponge’ as they call it. MOAR BUTTER.

Um. This seems very dry. And crumbly. I’m supposed to have it come together into a dough, and then knead five minutes, adding a little four if it’s too too sticky at that point. It is not too too sticky at that point. It is super-dry at that point, and has still not come together into a dough. Also, my arms are aching from five minutes of kneading because I made the mistake of doing it up on the island instead of the kitchen table, so I don’t have as good an angle as I could have and also, I almost never make bread and am really out of practice with the whole kneading thing.

I gingerly add some warm water (about 1/4 c.), fearing disaster, as this is NOT in the instructions. And that was too much — the dough finally comes together, but now it’s decidedly sticky, sigh. Should’ve been more conservative, tried a T or two instead. GAH.

(No photo of the sticky portion, as my hands were covered in goop. As it was, my phone was getting a little more flour-y than was perhaps wise, but seems to have survived, whew.)

Okay. I think I salvaged it. A few more T of flour, and it came together into a reasonable dough, and it’s now shaped into a 9″ square (and yes, I eyeballed this one too, what kind of obsessive baker do you think I am? (There is a reason I’m more of a cook than a baker. Precision is NOT my thing.)), wrapped, and delivered safely into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Just one problem; in 15 minutes, I’m supposed to be across town at Oak Park Works, teaching publishing and writing for the next 3 hours. So I’m going to go do that, and hope that an extra 3+ hours of chilling doesn’t hurt either the butter or the dough. It’ll be fine, right? And when I get home, experiments in lamination — hopefully my sore arm muscles will have recovered by then.

(This may be the most elaborate thing I’ve ever baked. Are flaky, buttery layers worth it? Hmm….)