What do you do when you have some leftover limp cooked green beans and equally limp roasted carrots that no one in the household wants to eat ? I’d make a poriyal, a sautéed veg. dish common in Sri Lanka and southern India.
No precise recipe here, but basically, heat some mustard seed in oil, add cumin seed, turmeric, salt, a diced onion. If you have the energy to add in some fresh minced ginger and garlic, that’s always good, but not required. Sauté the onion ’til golden-translucent, then add in whatever veg you want.
I did a mix of fresh and leftover — I chopped up a bell pepper and added that to the onions, cooked a few minutes, then added in the leftover green beans and carrots. A few more minutes sautéing, to let it all blend together, and you’re all set with a much more appealing vegetable dish that you had previously.
So we tried another Hello, Fresh recipe. This time, we were much more ready to just modify as desired from the start, now that we had a sense of what it was about. It was supposed to be gouda burgers with tomato jam and potato wedges. When the box arrived, we just put the potatoes in the root vegetable bin, because potatoes + buns seemed like a lot of starch for us in one meal.
We made two plain burgers right away for the kids that night, on the potato buns provided, and they seemed to like them fine, which is not surprising. Kevin and I were having lamb curry, so we skipped the burgers.
Then today, I had a little time, so I tried following the recipe, sort of, for lunch. We skipped the buns, because we wanted a fairly light lunch. The sour cream + mayo + smoked paprika sauce was nice, and I wouldn’t normally think to make something like that, so that’s a nice addition to the week’s meals. There’s quite a bit left (even though we only used half of the sauce ingredients provided), so I probably will make potato wedges at some point for dipping into this. Probably with some grilled shrimp, which I think would be tasty with this sauce.
The tomato jam was less successful, in my opinion. Slice an onion, fine, sauté until browned a bit, good. Add more smoked paprika was interesting — it’s not a spice I normally cook with, and I admit, I found the scent of it once heated in oil a little overwhelming. But I’m sure I’d get used to it. The flavor isn’t too overpowering.
The real problem was the tomatoes — they said to chop these two plum tomatoes, add them to the pan with salt, sugar, chicken stock concentrate, and water, and stir for 2-3 minutes until caramelized. People, you can’t actually caramelize anything in 2-3 minutes. So it was definitely going to take a little longer to cook down to a somewhat jammy consistency — also, the tomatoes in dead of winter were not great, unsurprisingly, and really could’ve used a little tomato paste added in to amp up the tomato flavor. The end result tomato-jam produced according to their recipe was okay, but also a little sad, because it wouldn’t have taken much to make it a lot more flavorful.
We ended up splitting two burgers (no bun) with the sauce, melted gouda, and tomato jam on some sliced cucumber, which was a pretty reasonable lunch for us (1/2 a burger each). Tasty, not too much effort, nice for a change.
I think if you’re going to do a meal kit like this, it really helps if you amend it to the actual portion sizes you want; their original recipe of theirs probably made a meal that provided at least twice the calories we’d normally eat for dinner.
It turns out that when you’re used to making a roast leg of lamb for Christmas dinner and you’re generally serving 6-10 people, but this year you only have two adults and two kids who don’t actually eat masses of lamb on the regular, then you might end up in our situation. Three days after Christmas, we still had a solid three pounds of roast lamb in the fridge, and I had actually had my fill of sliced roast lamb with mint sauce and stuffing, roast lamb sandwiches, etc.
Luckily, it is easy to transform leftover roast meat into a delectable Sri Lankan curry. I don’t have a precise recipe for you here, but basic procedure:
– chop three onions
– chop plenty of garlic (I think I did half a head)
– cube the meat (fairly big cubes are fine)
– sauté onions and garlic in oil with 1 t. each mustard seed and cumin seed, cinnamon stick, 3-5 cardamom pods, 3-5 cloves; if you have curry leaves on hand, toss those in too
– add 1-2 T cayenne (to your taste)
– add 1 heaping t. Sri Lankan curry powder
– add 1 – 1.5 t. salt
– add 1 t. tamarind paste (the liquidy paste in the Tamicon jar — if you’re using a different kind, you may need a different amount)
– add a few T ketchup or 1/2 can tomato puree
– add 1 can coconut milk (I like Chaokoh)
You should now have a delicious sauce. The meat is already cooked (hopefully on the rarer side for best results), so just add it now, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer it for 10-20 minutes, covered, just to let the flavors blend.
Have finished lamb curry with bread or rice. If there’s STILL more than you need, it will freeze beautifully this way, to pull out a month or two from now when the thought of roast lamb is a distant, fragrant memory.
Alternatively, you can now take your lamb curry, and use it to make either a lamb biryani or lamb kottu roti, which would make for a pretty fabulous New Year’s feast dish, letting you take that 3 lbs. of lamb and make enough food to feed a dozen people. We don’t have a dozen people around our place at the moment, but next year…
This was another Hello Fresh thingie that I had for lunch — prosciutto and cheese sandwich on ciabatta with fig jam, arugula, and balsamic. It was pretty yummy, but the teeny tiny bottle of balsamic feels wasteful, and I do usually keep a jar of fig jam on hand. (Though we happen to be out right now, must buy more.) Still, a fancier sandwich that I would probably think to make on my own for lunch, so that was nice. And it reminded me to get more jam, and more prosciutto…
So, we tried signing up for Hello, Fresh, one of those meal kit places. The idea being that it would make it easier to teach the kids how to cook, since all the components would come together and we could skip the menu planning, grocery shopping, gathering ingredient phases.
I think that part basically does work, but I have a pretty mixed review of our first dish. The idea was that it would be roasted tomatoes and garlic with spaghetti and pan-seared chicken breast in a creamy sauce . The end result was quite pretty. Kavi (age 13) was able to do most of the steps, and Anand (age 10) helped a bit too. BUT.
a) the components would have been noticeably cheaper (maybe half the price?) if we’d bought them ourselves (and, in fact, we had almost all of them on hand already) — I mean, I knew that going in, and it’s okay, given the ‘easier for learning’ aspect, but wanted to note in case that wasn’t clear to anyone
b) they had us pan sear chicken breast for 5-7 minutes on each side, and even doing it for just 5 minutes each, the chicken did end up rather dry, as you might expect — it’s just not a great way to prepare chicken breast. I would definitely have used thighs instead, but Americans have this thing about chicken breast, which I guess is why they used it, but if you’re going to use breast, then you want to do something to keep it moister — brine it, maybe, or poach it and then give it a quick sear. Something.
c) for the sauce, they had us melt butter in a pan, and then add four little tubes of cream cheese and the pasta water. It felt somewhat wasteful having all those little separate tubes of cream cheese, and also, the resulting sauce still mostly tasted like cream cheese, instead of like a cream sauce, which I think is what they were trying to approximate. It was…OKAY, I guess, in terms of being slightly simpler than teaching Kavi how to make a roux and a cream sauce, but not that much simpler, and really kind of felt like it was mostly a way of advertising Philly cream cheese.
d) finally, the big complaint, is that they had us take two cloves of garlic (I don’t even want to know what they charged for the two cloves of garlic, but anyway), wrap them in foil, and roast them with the tomatoes for 20-25 minutes. I was pretty dubious about that method, and when we took it out and tried to crush it (which Kavi was really excited to do), she found, unsurprisingly, that the garlic was completely overcooked and pretty burnt. It was uncrushable, and we couldn’t use it. We added some garlic powder to the pan sauce instead, which was okay. We’re going to show Kavi how to properly roast garlic sometime soon, because actual roast garlic is a thing of great beauty.
So…I mean, I’m not cancelling this. We have burgers coming up later in the week, and next week’s meals ordered, and I think we’ll do it for a little while at least. It did get all four of us cooking together, which we haven’t done in a while, with everything being so harried, so it might be worth it just for that. I think it’s a good way in for beginner cooks, or even intermediate cooks who want to be pushed to try new things.
And it is nice, even for me, to have some of the decision-making taken out of weekly meal prep.
But I think going forward, we’re also going to feel free to critique their recipes and amend them as we feel necessary.
The last of the December treat boxes have gone out, at the top Interstellar level, and I have to say, it’s pretty impressive how much I can jam into a large Priority Mail box. Chock-full! I couldn’t fit it all into one photo — there’s a sweets layer, and a bath layer, and a textiles (infinity scarves, tea towels) & stationery (greeting cards) layer. I hope the recipients are delighted. The next boxes go out in March — theme: Unicorn Garden.
I’m limiting the number of these I offer, because I want to be sure not to exceed my capacity, so there’s only 2 subscriptions left at this level currently.. Reminder that if you sign up at any of my Patreon levels for a year (what a great gift!), you get 4 quarterly shipments sent to you, AND 10% off for the annual subscription.
And kitty-dragons! I’m not sure if they’re meant to be kitty-dragons or baby dragons, but they look like kitty-dragons to me, so we’ll go with that.
I was going to put a little blood orange extract in the icing, for a bit of extra dragon excitement, but I forgot, oh well. But they’re still nummy, with a light lemon flavor, and so ridiculously pretty.
Dark chocolate-dipped passionfruit marshmallows, sprinkled with silver stars and pink hearts. I do a lot of experimenting with food, and a lot of the joy for me is coming up with new combinations, but sometimes, something just works so well, you know you’re not going to mess with it anymore.
These are becoming a staple, along with the dragonfruit chocolate (Kavi’s favorite chocolate!), Sri Lankan cashew milk toffee, and love cake. One thing we’re planning to explore in 2021 is whether we can expand the Serendib Kitchen sweet-making a little bit. I don’t have the time to cook any more than I already do (and honestly, I should probably be cooking a little less, and writing more).
So that would mean me teaching someone else how to make these, taste-testing to make sure they have it down, and then having them produce them. If we can figure it all out, then maybe we’ll even be able to supply some for local stores (which will require getting a different license, etc. and so on).
Of course, that’ll require researching aspects such as which items are shelf stable (the dragonfruit chocolate and the milk toffee, I think), which need to stay refrigerated (the marshmallows are okay sitting out for a day or two, but if they don’t sell quickly, better to refrigerate them for freshness, and love cake should be frozen or at least refrigerated if you’re going to keep it for any length of time), etc. We’ll see!
It’d be lovely to offer, alongside the cookbooks, going forward.