Curried Chestnut, Leek, and Carrot Soup, with Fried Prosciutto (or Sautéed Mushrooms)

The semester is over, so I had time to actually come up with a new recipe tonight, for a curried chestnut soup.  So seasonal!

You can roast the chestnuts yourself — a little more effort, but it’s tasty to peel and eat some of that sweet nuttiness while it’s hot. Just be careful when cutting crosses into the chestnuts before you roast, so your knife doesn’t slip. Or you can buy a jar of them already roasted, though you may need to find a specialty shop for that. If you cleverly reserved turkey stock after Thanksgiving, you could pull some out of the freezer and use it for this. That was my plan, but I forgot to freeze the extra stock until it was too late this year. Oh well.

I used Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, but I think any standard South Asian curry powder would be tasty. The complex spicing balances the sweetness of the chestnuts and the saltiness of the prosciutto (or the mushrooms sautéed in butter with salt). Substitute in vegetable oil, vegetable stock, and coconut milk to make this a filling, nutritious, and delicious vegan meal.


Curried Chestnut, Leek, and Carrot Soup, with Fried Prosciutto (or Sautéed Mushrooms)
(serves 4, about 30 minutes (aside from chestnut roasting time))

3 T unsalted butter
2 leeks, white parts sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
about 15 oz. (3 c.) roasted and peeled chestnuts
6 c. chicken stock
1 t. curry powder
1/4 c. heavy cream
additional salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t. lime juice
Optional: either fried prosciutto or mushrooms sautéed in butter for garnish — make them while the soup is simmering

1. Heat butter in large soup pot and stir in leeks, carrots, salt, and pepper. Sauté, stirring, about 5 minutes.

2. Add chestnuts and chicken stock, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3. Transfer soup carefully to blender — I’d use a large ladle rather than trying to pour a pot of hot soup! (If you have an immersion stick blender, that’s even easier.) Purée, and return to pot. (It’s fine to leave a cup or so of broth in the pot; just stir it into the purée when you return it to the pot.) Add cream and stir. Taste and add salt / pepper as desired; if the soup is too thick, add a little more stock. Stir in the lime juice and simmer a few more minutes, until well blended.

4. Serve hot, garnished with prosciutto or mushrooms. (I don’t recommend both together — I tried it, and oddly, they clash.) If you want to make it even prettier, you could drizzle a little cream into the bowl, or add a scattering of chives. Mmm….

Kavi loves organizing things

Kavi doesn’t have a problem with the red and green M&Ms mixing it up sometimes — she just loves organizing things. You should have heard her when I lightly jostled the tiered server while getting ready to take these photos. She gasped in dismay: “I worked SO HARD on that, Mommy — if you messed it up….!”

Thankfully, I had not. 

Seeni sambol buns

Heh — I was cooking in a bit of a rush, so accidentally made the seeni sambol for these buns to Sri Lankan spice levels — some of my guests were scared to try them, as a result. They were pretty darn hot! On the other hand, a friend’s 10-year-old son adored them and had no trouble eating them, so I guess it’s all in what you like / are used to.

Seeni sambol buns are widely available from roadside stands, shops, roving sellers on the train platforms in Sri Lanka, and are a great option for vegetarian travelers (though typically, they would have a bit of dried Maldive fish in the seasoning, so if you’re strictly vegetarian, take note). They’re usually not this hot, either!

You can make the dough from scratch (I have it in the ‘mas paan’ recipe in my Feast cookbook), but it works just fine to use a readymade refrigerated bread dough, which is easier for a party.

We used Pillsbury’s French bread dough for this, just slicing the log of dough into rounds. We spread them out a bit with our fingers and spooned the seeni sambol in, then wrapped it up into a bun (seam side down). Bake a few minutes less than the package suggests, until golden brown, and you’re done!

Seeni sambol buns freeze well, and are also great for taking on the road with you for a long car ride or as plane snacks. And if you just want to make the seeni sambol (easy, but about 30 minutes of slow stirring as the onions caramelize, will keep in fridge for weeks), it’s excellent on buttered toast for your breakfast.

If you have time to make an over-easy egg to go with it, even better. Toast + butter + egg + seeni sambol on top = perfection. Or scramble an egg and put it all in a tortilla (or better, roti!), if you want to turn it into a wrap…

Seeni sambol recipe:

I really must learn to pace myself

Heh. I appear to have lost two pounds this week without trying. I will now market my new weight-loss plan: cook and decorate obsessively for seven days straight, and you will be too hyped up on adrenaline to remember to eat much, and will wake up the day after the event with arms and legs as sluggish as if you’d done an intense gym workout.

Was fun, but also ridiculous; I really must learn to pace myself! Am contemplating rule for next party — no more than ten (10) savory items and ten (10) sweet items. But can I actually hold myself to that, is the question???

I seem to be worrying about something in the photo below — maybe the possibility that I haven’t made enough food…

(As I plan to just sit on the couch and eat leftovers for the next three days, I’m sure those pounds will swiftly return. )

Cloved-clementine pomander

Cloved-clementine pomander. We will not be playing the kissing games of our college holiday parties tomorrow, (which inevitably resulted in many people coming down with colds anyway), where you use your teeth to take out a clove and then pass it to someone else, as a medieval breath freshener. We are not doing quite so much random kissing these days as we did in our early 20s. 🙂
Tip: It’s way easier to push the cloves in, even with a soft-skinned clementine, if you use a toothpick or skewer to poke the holes first! Also, recommend putting the ribbon on first, if you’re doing it as an ornament…
This does make a very nice addition for the kitchen ornament stand. The stand was my present to myself this year, a little commemoration of doing Feast — I’m planning to have all kitchen / cooking-themed ornaments on it, ideally ones that I would actually use in my kitchen.
My mother-in-law just got me the most adorable red blown-glass stand mixer ornament, and I have a few copper pots on it, along with a pomegranate and a lemon. (I should note that this is not an invitation to give me such things as gifts generally, as I will likely be v. picky about what ornaments I actually want for it…)

Roshani took me out for lunch yesterday

Roshani took me out for lunch at the local Vietnamese place yesterday — I somehow hadn’t registered that when Saigon Pho moved from the neighboring suburb to Oak Park, that they’d also gone from being a takeout place to including a small sit-down restaurant.

My clay pot spicy catfish with rice = delicious, and I think Roshani really liked her ‘bun’ — noodles with grilled pork, lots of veggies, and a classic sweet sauce to drizzle or dip. Kevin often gets their beef pho, and if I’m feeling very nice when I’m in the area, I pick some up for him to go — they pack it in a host of separate containers, so you can combine it perfectly at home.

Late night bark-making with Kavya

Late night peppermint bark-making with Kavya. It’s funny how she reminds me of my mother. Kavi is painstaking — see how she’s carefully pushing the bigger peppermint pieces down so they stick well? This is how my mother cooks, with fine attention to detail and much care.

I’m trying to teach Kavi more of my slapdash carefree ways — I’m a big fan of ‘good enough!’ — but she is resistant.

Kavi did enjoy the smashing of the peppermints, though.

Peppermint bark, next level! Okay, I don’t think this is really bark anymore, to be honest. Molded peppermint chocolates? But regardless, cutest snowflakes. 

Kavi likes these, but is disappointed that the mold only has two snowflake patterns — “Snowflakes are supposed to be all different!” Fair critique! Winter holiday mold-makers, take note.

Gluten-Free Sri Lankan Love Cake

Success! Gluten-free Sri Lankan love cake; I substituted 1/2 fine polenta & 1/2 almond flour for the semolina, and it came out great.  Beautifully golden, the way love cake should be.

Honestly, there really isn’t so much flour in this anyway, since it’s mostly cashews, eggs, dried fruit, & sugar, so I suspect many substitution options would work fine; next time, I may try Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour (which is mostly rice flour, I think).



Love Cake
(two hours, including baking time; serves dozens)

Some say this Portuguese-derived cake was baked to win the hearts of suitors, while others say it’s because of the labor of love involved in all the cutting, chopping and grinding of the fruits, nuts, and spices (much easier these days with access to a food processor). But regardless, it tastes like love: sweet, tangy, and fragrant. My mother says it doesn’t taste right without the crystallized pumpkin, which you can find at Indian grocery stores, though honestly, I like it just as well with the candied ginger. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

8 ounces butter, softened, plus more for greasing
16 ounces raw unsalted cashews
10 ounces fine granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
Zest of two limes
Zest of one orange
Juice of two limes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
3 drops rosewater extract (or two teaspoons rosewater)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces fine polenta
6 ounces almond flour
3 ounces candied ginger and/or crystallized pumpkin, minced as finely as possible
5 egg whites
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 250. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter and line it with two layers of parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter.

2. In food processor, grind cashews to coarse meal.
3. In a standing mixer (paddle attachment), beat 8 oz butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add zest, juice, spices, honey, rosewater and vanilla; mix well.

4. Add semolina and mix well; add cashews and candied ginger / pumpkin and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into cake mixture.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until firm to the touch. (Alternatively, spoon into buttered & floured (Baker’s Joy makes this easy) mini tea cake molds (Nordicware made the excellent one I used for this) and bake for about 40 minutes.)

7. Let cool completely in the pan, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional), cut into squares and serve.

Gluten-free Christmas village love cake.

Decking the halls

Maybe there are enough sweets on the table, Mary Anne. The parents of the kids attending tomorrow may not thank you for this. Better switch to making savories at least…

It’s not Christmas until I make the trifle. 🙂 Mostly the same every year, but I added a bit of lemon curd this time around, which I think will be nice. And I was out of sherry, so it’s brandy. Mmm…