Cooking Class: Sri Lankan Brunch (8/25, in person)

Cooking with Mary Anne! Learn how to make a classic Sri Lankan brunch of hoppers (with both egg hopper and sweet coconut hopper variations), along with coconut (pol) sambol accompaniment. Served with an accompanying fish or jackfruit curry, and mango-passionfruit mimosas.

  • Sunday, September 25, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • $60 / person (or $85 / person, which includes a signed copy of A Feast of Serendib and a 4 oz. sampler of homemade Sri Lankan curry powder).
  • Limit 8 in class.
  • 332 Wisconsin Ave, Oak Park, Illinois

Click here to sign up for the class.

Jaggery S’more Bars

Another one for the Patreon boxes!

(30 minutes, makes 30 bars)

What’s summer without s’mores? You can make these with brown sugar, of course, but jaggery adds an extra dimension of yumminess. They are very gooey, in the best way.

1 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
2 c. jaggery (or dark brown sugar), packed
2 T. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. flour
4 c. graham crackers, broken into small pieces
2 heaping c. mini marshmallows
2 c. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F; butter and flour a 9×12 baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter (cooled slightly) with egg, brown sugar, and vanilla.

3. Add flour and stir until just combined.

4. Add graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate chips; fold until blended.

5. Pour batter into prepared baking dish, smoothing out as needed.

6. Bake 22-25 minutes, until edges are set and lightly browned, with the center of the pan relatively firm.

7. Cool bars in pan for 30 minutes, before attempting to slice. Slice and serve. Can be frozen for long-term storage.

Variation: Try mixing in some salty pretzels!

A Spin on Classic Fairy Bread

Finishing up the Patreon baking. For the fairy theme, I thought it’d be fun to do a spin on classic fairy bread, which is bread and butter with sprinkles, popular in Australia and New Zealand.

I did sugar cookies instead of bread, spread with a rose & vanilla buttercream and covered in sprinkles. The end result is quite sweet, but I gather fairies are very fond of nectar, so it does seem appropriate. 🙂

*****

The Spruce Eats had some fun notes on fairy bread:

“The exact origin of fairy bread is not known, but some say it may come from the poem “Fairy Bread” by Robert Louis Stevenson in his anthology A Child’s Garden of Verses published in 1885. The poem is as follows:

Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

For a variation on fairy bread, try topping buttered bread with chocolate sprinkles instead. This treat is popular in the Netherlands, where it is called “hagelslag,” which quaintly translates to “hailstorm.””

https://www.thespruceeats.com/fairy-bread-4771689

Fairy Dust Experiments

Kitchen experiments for the Patreon boxes — homemade marshmallow fondant (tasty, easy to make, stretchy and therefore easy to work with, very sweet, the kids like it). Also used an embossing set for these fairy dust cookies (and then gilded the embossed portions).

The result doesn’t look super-professional, but I figure fairies probably aren’t super-professional either. 🙂

A Meal Fit for a Reporter

You get a pic of me along with the meal I served the reporter yesterday, because I knew she’d be taking photographs so I actually changed out of grubby summer garden clothes for a change. I really go a little wild / feral in the summer. 🙂 But look, clean hair! Earrings that match my dress! So fancy.

One of the things we talked about was how there aren’t any recipes using meat substitutes in Vegan Serendib — no Beyond meat, etc. I thought about using those, but a) they’re often expensive, b) they’re not commonly used in Sri Lankan cuisine, and c) there’s SO MUCH that’s inherently vegan in Sri Lankan cuisine, that you just don’t need meat substitutes to make large, satisfying, varied and interesting meals.

Neither she nor I are actually vegan, so another thing we talked about was how we definitely want to feel full and satisfied after a vegan meal. For this meal, the jackfruit & mushroom curry takes that role — it’s the main ‘entree,’ as it were, and you could just eat that with rice and feel satisfied. (Adding chickpeas or cashews to the curry would make it even more substantial.)

Of course, I wanted to let her taste lots of different dishes, and usually you’d have at least a few accompaniments to the meal in Sri Lanka. Sambols, pickles, etc. I was just cooking out of what I had in my fridge, so this is what I ended up with:

• red & white rice combo (Sri Lankan red rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice, and I’ve taken to doing half & half with white basmati when I make rice these days)

• jackfruit & mushroom curry

• mixed vegetable poriyal (potato, carrot, and pea pod)

• potato sothi (a coconut creamy, fenugreek-heavy mild dish)

• eggplant sambol

• ripe jackfruit curry

• coconut (pol) sambol)

Not bad for a few hours of cooking. 🙂 If I hadn’t run out of onions AND coconut milk, though, I would’ve been tempted to make just one more curry….probably lentils / paruppu / dal, which would have made the meal even more filling.

I Recommend Jackfruit

It was interesting talking to the reporter yesterday about jackfruit — she’s a very accomplished chef (much more than me), but hasn’t really worked with jackfruit. I told her that yes, you could often find jackfruit nearby at Pete’s or Tony’s grocery stores, if you wanted to buy fresh and break it down, but to be honest, that’s a lot of work, and mostly, I like to just keep jackfruit on hand in forms that are easy to work with.

So for green jackfruit, that’s cans, usually packed in brine (it shouldn’t be very salty, but taste before adding more salt in your recipe, just in case). It’ll be cut up already — sometimes I cut it up a bit more, but you can just toss it in too. For this recipe, which is the most substantial element in my vegan meal, I combined the jackfruit with mushrooms, but you could also add chickpeas and/or cashews, if you wanted even more substance and protein. Eggplant also works well with this. Trader Joe’s reliably has green jackfruit cans, and honestly, I find it in most of our local grocery stores these days.

Using exactly the same curry sauce, you get a very different result if you use ripe jackfruit, which is fruity, like ripe mango. It works really well as an accompaniment; I wouldn’t usually use ripe jackfruit curry as the main entree, but it’s a bright, sweet note on the plate. You could also do ripe jackfruit pickle, of course, if you wanted more tang. This is much easier to make if you just buy frozen ripe jackfruit and cook with that; that’s getting easier to find — I’m pretty sure I just got this at my local Whole Foods, but if not, then Indian grocery stores are a good bet. You can also get ripe jackfruit in cans, but they’s usually packed in syrup, so I’d drain the syrup (save it for a dessert or cocktail component) before using the jackfruit itself in a curry.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, I strongly recommend trying both green and ripe jackfruit, if you haven’t yet! And even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, they’re both delicious, so you should try them too. 🙂

All of these options are available on Amazon too.

The Only Problem with Eggplant Sambol

The only problem with making eggplant sambol, is that after I rub the eggplant slices in turmeric and salt, let sit for an hour, blot away the excess bitter water that’s been drawn out, and then fry them, there is a good chance Kavi will come by and excitedly eat a bunch of the eggplant ‘chips’.

This is not actually a problem. 🙂 Salty fried is something she reliably loves, and I’m just glad that she gets a little nutrition from the eggplant.

Whatever eggplant chips she leaves me get tossed with sliced onion, lime juice, a few chopped green chilies, and a few tablespoons of coconut milk, just to bind it together. A really nice contrast on a rice & curry plate!

(Recipe in both Feast and Vegan Serendib.)

A Standard Colorful Vegetable Poriyal

Cooking from yesterday — this is just a standard vegetable poriyal (you’ll find the base recipe in both Feast and Vegan Serendib). Sauté onions, garlic and ginger with cumin and mustard seed and curry leaves in vegetable oil, add chopped small veggies of your choice, salt and usually turmeric, but I actually skipped the turmeric this time, because I was just loving the colors of this so much, and I wanted to keep them nice and bright.

Little purple fingerling potatoes, bright orange carrots, green pea pods. So pretty. 🙂

Peach Harvesting this Weekend

They’re in various stages of ripeness, and the ones that are mostly green, we’ll leave on the tree a little longer, but dozens of them are ready-ish, and some of them, the squirrels have knocked down and those need to be collected. (shakes fist at squirrels)

Plans for the peaches:

– really underripe: turn into green peach salad (like South and Southeast Asian green mango or green papaya salad, but with peaches), or green peach pickle

– slightly underripe: either put in a paper bag and leave on the counter to hopefully ripen over the next few days, or grill, which brings out the sweetness

– perfectly ripe: eat straight up

– slightly overripe or bruised: cut up and make peach jam, peach crisp, peach ice cream topping, peach quick bread, etc….

Accumulating Sri Lankan Dishes

It just makes me happy when the island is accumulating a wide variety of Sri Lankan dishes. Not that wide — I’m restraining myself. But so far, digging through the fridge for whatever groceries I had on hand, I’ve cooked:

– potato, carrot, and pea pod poriyal
– mushroom and green jackfruit curry
– ripe jackfruit curry (I wanted the reporter to have a chance to taste the difference, and I happened to have some on hand)
– coconut sambol

Umm…it’s all spicy; I wasn’t really thinking about it, and ended up going pretty authentic on the heat levels. I hope she likes that. Well, the next two won’t be spicy:

– eggplant sambol (only a little green chili! you’ll barely notice it!)
– rice!
– (oh, and I have some potato sothi in the fridge, I can pull that out too…)

And I have some mango sorbet going in the freezer, that I *think* will be ready in time, and if she likes, I’ll make her a cocktail or mocktail. Many options there, so we’ll see what she feels like.

Little bits of Sri Lanka everywhere in this house, not just on the island. Isn’t the new little elephant on my door adorable? The door is actually held on by a magnet, and comes off entirely, so you could ‘open’ it, in theory. This Etsy shop makes the cutest doors:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueToucanStudios

Just One More Curry

It’s a Vegan Serendib kind of morning — I made (and froze) pol sambol for the people who ordered the trio of sambols add-on in the Kickstarter, and they’ll definitely get seeni sambol (my favorite), and I haven’t decided yet which should be the third sambol. Something vegan, obv., so not kooni sambol, for example, even though Roshani made me kooni sambol for lunch the other day, and it was DELICIOUS.

(Her husband Tom made the dal, chicken curry, and green beans — I was very impressed and maybe a tiny bit jealous. His dal might be better than mine. Shhh… Kevin may have to up his Sri Lankan cooking game; he does a great beef and potato curry, my favorite, but it would be awfully nice to come home from work to a full meal of Sri Lankan food I didn’t have to cook myself…)

I’m also cooking this morning for a local reporter who’s doing a piece on the cookbook, so of course, I have to spend some time waffling about that as well. I think jackfruit & chickpea curry, and eggplant sambol, and rice, obv. I feel like I ought to make something green, but I don’t think I have kale on hand, which would be my go-to for kale sambol, or even green beans. Hm. Maybe we have pea pods. I should check.

But I’m not going to make myself crazed cooking lunch for one person, even if she’s a reporter, so I’ve deliberately taken myself out of the kitchen for at least an hour, to the shed, where I will work on novel revisions first. Be sensible, Mary Anne. She’s not expecting a maharajah’s feast, and you definitely don’t need to make a dozen dishes for one lunch. Do I have to lock you in the shed? I will, you know…

Oh, but maybe there’ll be a photographer, and they should eat too, so that surely justifies JUST ONE MORE CURRY…

(Um, I think I may have just discovered the title of my book of food essays…)