New Year’s Eve comfort food — my desert island choice, if I could only pick one thing. Sri Lankan beef and potato curry.
I’ve been trying to think about a promo I could do for Vegan Serendib in January — lots of people do ‘veganuary,’ so it seems the logical time. What do you think of something like this?
- I post a set of recipes from Vegan Serendib — maybe two dozen or so, to get people going.
- if you cook and post photos of three recipes / week, between Monday and Sunday, you get a free digital copy of our cookbook sampler, with 40 vegan Sri Lankan recipes, AND you’ll be entered into a drawing for a paperback edition of the full cookbook for that week. (If you already have a digital copy, you can gift others to friends!)
- if you do that for all four weeks of January, you get a free digital copy of Vegan Serendib (120 recipes), and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a hardcover edition
Does that seem clear? Appealing enough that you might want to enter? Thoughts welcome to help me refine this! The goal would be to post it tomorrow morning and kick things off.
Lunch today, adorable quail eggs, hard boiled and slipped into a ground lamb curry, delicious with rice or bread.
Holiday party — I was so busy talking to people that I didn’t take any pictures of my guests during the party, which is a shame! Especially because we had a really nice crowd — about 50-60 people, I think, with a great mix of old friends from college, long-time friends, new friends and colleagues, adorable little children, grad students and undergrad students of mine, a bunch of Kavi’s high school friends, and even a smattering of local elected officials.
It felt more like one of our old parties than it’s felt in quite a long time — well, since December 2019, I guess. Stupid pandemic. I’d still say we were at maybe 75% of pre-pandemic party; a good dozen or so folks had to cancel at the last minute because of colds and fevers. I think people are being more conscientious about that than they were before COVID, which is a good thing — we all went to work and school and party too often when we were sick back then. But they were missed.
I also think I should really hire some help for these parties going forward — it feels a little weird to do so for a family party, but if I have a student worker who can be tasked with refilling trays as they empty, clearing the sink, and taking out the trash when it’s full, then I’d get to spend more time talking to my guests. My only regret for this party is that especially for the people who came early, when I was still finishing up tasks, I didn’t get to talk to them as much as I’d have liked.
Kevin does his share, of course, and the kids help out a bit, but for this big a party, it’d be nice to just have someone tasked with those jobs.
I did hire some help beforehand — Eliana and Gabriella came the day before and helped with all the outside decorating and hanging the garlands indoors, which was super-useful. And various of my students did help out before and during the party. I love having my creative writing students attend, and getting to introduce them to other writers and academics. In retrospect, I wish I’d invited my lit. students too — next time! And I got to introduce two grad students I’m working with to each other, so that was nice.
A few food notes:
– the dish I got the most compliments on was the brinjal moju (eggplant pickle, but it’s not a pickle like an American pickle) — recipe in Vegan Serendib, but I will be very nice to you and post it here as well. People kept seeking me out to ask what it was and tell me how good it was. It’s SO tasty on toasted naan, I think I pretty much have to make it for every party going forward. And I should make a double batch, because it was entirely demolished by halfway through the party. Sorry, latecomers!
– another hit were the lemon snowball truffles — I don’t have a recipe for you yet, because these were a little tricky — I wanted more lemon in my ganache, and so I added citric acid, but that ‘broke’ the cream, and I had to fix it by warming another couple T of cream and whisking that in. Which all worked fine, but it’s fussy to write up for a recipe. Maybe I’ll make them again for our New Year open house potluck, if we have it, and see if I can write up the recipe in a coherent and reliable way. Little bites of lemon heaven.
– I also made an ice ring for the punchbowl for the first time, which I realize isn’t a revelation for anyone, but hey, it worked great, and I am absolutely going to do it again whenever we pull out the punchbowl. At least one of my bundt cake pans got some use! I had pomegranate seeds, sliced circles of lime, and cranberries in this one, which separated themselves into layers. The punch had to be refilled twice, so I guess people liked that too — very simple mix of cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and ginger ale, in roughly equal proportions.
That’s it for party pics! Here’s the brinjal moju recipe:
Eggplant Pickle / Brinjal Moju
(20 minutes prep + 30 min. cooking time, feeds 8 as an accompaniment)
Eggplant was the one thing I wouldn’t eat as a kid — I had a visceral reaction to the texture. But I adore it now, due to preparations like this, which really transform the texture — the eggplant here is a little chewy, a little soft, and supremely flavorful. If you leave the onions whole, they’ll retain a little crunch when you bite into them; it’s also fine to cut them and let them soften and crisp up more.
We call it a pickle, but brinjal moju is a quick-pickle — you can eat it right away, though it’s even tastier after the flavors (sweet, spicy, tangy) have had a chance to meld for a few hours. It’s terrific on a sandwich too! Try brinjal moju with coconut roti and big slices of grilled portobello mushroom (oil and salt and grill for a few minutes) for a hearty and delicious vegan lunch; it’d also pair beautifully with grilled chicken or roast beef.
(Thanks to Samanthi Hewakapuge for tips on how her family prepares this!)
NOTE: Pearl onions can be a little tricky to find in America; I often buy mine frozen at the Indian grocery store. They thaw well for use in preparations like this. But shallots also work; you want that type of delicate flavor.
1 lb. eggplant (any kind), cut into thick matchstick shapes (about 2 in. long)
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. salt
oil for deep frying
1.5 c. shallots or pearl onions (cut large ones down to about 1 in.)
3-4 green finger hot chilies (or 10-15 Thai chilies)
1 T ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1-3 t. cayenne (depending on how hot you want it)
1 T. ground mustard
1 1/2 – 2 T sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
1. Place eggplant in a bowl, add turmeric, salt, and enough water to cover. Leave for at least 10 minutes; if you need to leave it to sit for longer, that’s fine.
2. Take the eggplant out by handfuls and squeeze the water out, transferring to another bowl or plate.
3. Heat oil in a deep pan and fry eggplant in batches (to golden-brown), removing to a plate lined with paper towels.
4. Use the same oil to fry the shallots or pearl onions, then fry the green chilies, removing to the paper towel-lined plate.
5. Pound ginger and garlic together in a mortar and pestle (or combine in food processor).
6. In a large bowl, combine ginger-garlic paste with remaining ingredients, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust flavors.
7. Stir in shallots and green chilies, then gently stir-in the eggplant. Set aside for a few hours to let the flavors blend, then serve with rice and curry, or with bread.
NOTE: Brinjal moju will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, or follow proper canning procedures to store for longer. Makes a little over a pint for canning — eggplant cooks down quite a lot.
• greenery hung, with the help of Gabriella and one of my students and his partner (cedar garlands from the Oak Park Conservatory Winter Greens market make my old Victorian feel very Victorian Christmas somehow)
• trifle (this year’s was pear, blackberry, strawberry, with ladyfinger cookies, Bird’s custard, a thin drizzling of ginger jam and a smidge of lemon curd, whipped lightly sweetened cream, and a topping of pomegranate seeds — no sherry for a change, so the kids could dig in freely, and I didn’t miss it) — all devoured by end of party
• ribbon sandwiches of beet, carrot, and spinach (Kevin made the spreads, Kavi and I spread the sandwiches Saturday and layered them with damp paper towels, two half-size sheet pan trays wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge overnight, and then we cut them just before serving at the party) went over well, per usual — very popular, all got eaten, and everyone agreed they were both tasty and pretty
• mango fluff was topped with plenty of frozen thawed mango, which is pretty much the best I could do in Chicago in the winter — also all finished by end of party, but we didn’t actually start the second tray that Kavi insisted we’d need, so I guess she’ll just be eating that herself for the rest of the week — she doesn’t seem sad at the prospect…
• Kavi and I are festive; Anand and Kevin were also suitably festive, but I spared them the agony of suffering through a photo this year, because I am the kindest
Recipes for ribbon sandwiches and mango fluff in A Feast of Serendib. (I didn’t include them in Vegan Serendib, but you can make both vegan by substituting in vegan cream cheese, agar-agar, etc. appropriately).
The trifle I just kind of make up every year, but if you google ‘berry trifle,’ you should be able to find some good starting points.
Eleven seconds of simmering brinjal moju (eggplant pickle).
Sautéing onions, green chilies, curry leaves, ginger. See, I love you all so much, I let this go without stirring for ten seconds to get this video, risking burnt onion edges.
Amma would have scolded me.
(Don’t worry, it was fine!)
Brinjal Moju (eggplant pickle). Usually served as an accompaniment to rice and curries, but I love it as a little appetizer bite on some toasted naan. Savory / sweet / as spicy as you like it.
Recipe in Vegan Serendib — it’s one of the 40 new recipes I added for that cookbook.
Making fruitcake? Take that bottle of brandy and pour yourself a nice glug. Add some of the cherry syrup from the jar of glacé cherries, some cherry or orange bitters, some clementine and cherry for garnish. Juice the rest of the clementine into the glass.
Take that with you when you’re wrestling the lights for the tree…maybe don’t get up on the ladder, though.