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.

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:

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…)

Pistachio Margarita Float

(makes one giant dessert drink)

Ready to be indulgent? When my daughter and I were traveling in Sri Lanka, she decided that Sri Lanka was the land of ice cream, because we ended up eating it most places (especially when the dishes were too spicy for her). I wouldn’t serve her this drink, but for an adult libation poolside, this lush concoction will delight. (The pistachio margarita is still tasty, even if you skip the float entirely.)

3 oz. tequila, chilled
1.5 oz. pistachio orgeat (syrup)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
dash of Strongwater’s Virtue bitters (rose, alpine, and sage) (optional)
2 oz. lemon-lime soda
lime and sugar for rim
pistachio ice cream (or to kick it up a notch, use bastani: Persian pistachio-rose-saffron ice cream, see below)
chopped pistachios and/or rose petals for garnish

1. Rub fresh lime along rim of cocktail or margarita glass, and dip in sugar.

2. Combine tequila, pistachio orgeat, fresh lime juice, dash of bitters, and lemon-lime soda.

3. Top with scoops of pistachio or bastani ice cream, garnish with chopped pistachio. I recommend serving with a spoon and/or straw.


Bastani: Persian Pistachio-Rose-Saffron Ice Cream

8 egg yolks
2 c. sugar
2 c. whole milk
1 c. chopped roasted pistachio nuts (salted is fine)
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. rose extract (or 2 T rose water)
1/2 t. cardamom extract (optional)
generous pinch saffron threads
pinch salt

2 1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Beat egg yolks with sugar until smooth and foamy.

2. In a medium thick-bottomed pot on medium-low, heat the milk to boiling while stirring. Add vanilla extract, rose extract, cardamom extract, saffron threads, and salt.

3. Slowly and carefully, pour the foamy egg/sugar mixture into the fragrant milk, using a whisk vigorously while pouring (to avoid scrambling the eggs).

4. Turn heat to low and continue heating, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens. (It should thinly coat the spoon).

5. Pour custard mixture into a bowl, and refrigerate until well chilled (at least 4 hours, and overnight is not unreasonable.)

6. Churn in an ice cream maker (be sure bowl has frozen for at least 4 hours, overnight is likely better), or hand-churn (stick in freezer and stir every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals, until it is well-mixed).

7. When ice cream is at soft-serve consistency, stir in chopped pistachios, then freeze until hard (about 2-4 hours).

Vegan Serendib Now Available for Pre-Order

Vegan Serendib is now available for pre-order through Ingram and on various online bookseller sites. Woot!

Request? It would be IMMENSELY helpful if you left an honest review — even a sentence is great. If a book gets enough reviews, it makes it much more visible in the online bookseller search rankings.

I *think* you can review even before the Nov 15 launch date, so if you’re one of the Kickstarter backers who gets your book much sooner, or a book reviewer, please do feel free to review early!

(I’m a Chicagoan, with our…complex…history of voting, so I had to resist the urge to say ‘early and often’. πŸ™‚ )


Also available on my site, of course:…/vegan-serendib-recipes-from…

Gooseberry, Rose, and Violet Iced Fairy Cakes

I didn’t write up a recipe for this, because all I did was use a standard fairy cake recipe, add a little rose to the batter, and then divide the icing and flavor it with gooseberry + citrus, rose, and violet. But they’re charming, no? Would be fun for a tea party, or a kids’ birthday party.

Honestly, the rose ones and the violet ones are a little sweet for me, but I love me the tang, so gooseberry+citrus is my jam. These would also be good with jam. πŸ™‚

For the Spring/Summer Patreon boxes — alas, it is too late to sign up for those now. New sign-ups will get the Autumn box, probably somewhere around November.

High Summer: Rose, Elderflower, and Indian Gooseberry (Cocktail & Mocktail)

I wanted to see just how floral & delicate I could go with a cocktail, while still retaining some interesting complexity.

This one is for those up to a cocktail challenge. The first step is finding Indian gooseberries (Phyllanthus emblica) — an easy task in South Asia, where amla, as they’re known there, are widely available and tremendously important to Ayurvedic medicine. Amla has a massive amount of vitamin C: one 100g serving of amla berries (about a half cup) provides 300mg of vitamin Cβ€”more than twice the daily recommended value for adults.

If you do a little research in medical journals, you’ll see a host of other health benefits associated with it. I’m not a doctor and can’t speak to those, but amla’s tart / bitter flavor makes Indian gooseberry an interesting component in a cocktail or mocktail. In South Asia, amla is used widely in cooked dishes such as chutneys, pickles, etc.; people also drink the juice, often blended with a sweeter juice or with added honey. It’s a little intense straight up!

Amla shouldn’t be confused with European (Ribes uva-crispa) OR American gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum), which are different plants altogether. (There are lots of plants around the world that go by the name ‘gooseberry’.) Amla grows on trees, and is a fairly large fruit; European gooseberries, which are wildly popular in a host of desserts and other preparations, grow on bushes. There was even a ‘gooseberry craze’ in the early 1800s in Europe.

American gooseberries also grow on bushes, but they’re very hard to find, as they were federally banned in the U.S. in the early 1900s, due to their propensity for a fungal disease called white pine blister rust; white pines were valuable construction materials. The federal ban was lifted in 1966, but some states still ban them. You can occasionally find European gooseberries in America, though — usually relatively small green berries, with a sweet-tart flavor.

Now back to the Indian gooseberry — how do you find it? Well, what I really wanted to find was Ceylon gooseberry (Dovyalis hebecarpa), but so far, I’ve had no luck in Chicagoland. But I did find Indian gooseberries frozen in the local South Asian grocery store, and that’s where I’d recommend you start your search. You can also buy them dried online, and then reconstitute them; you can even purchase Indian gooseberry powder. I haven’t tried either of those, though!


High Summer Cocktail

2 oz. vodka, chilled
1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur, chilled
1/2 oz. elderflower & rose syrup
3 Indian gooseberries (for 1/2 oz. juice)
ice cube and rose for garnish

1. Make juice: Remove flesh from gooseberries, discarding inner seed (similar to an apricot pit). Chop coarsely, then blend with 1 c. water. Strain and discard pulp, saving the juice.

2. Combine vodka, St. Germain, elderflower & rose syrup, and 1/2 oz. of gooseberry juice. Serve with an ice cube and rose petals (or a mini fairy rose, in this case) for garnish.


High Summer Mocktail
4 oz. elderflower lemonade soda
2 oz. gooseberry juice (see previous)
1 oz. elderflower & rose syrup
ice cube and rose for garnish

Make juice, then combine ingredients in a cocktail glass. Serve with an ice cube and rose petals (or a mini fairy rose, in this case) for garnish.

A Month for Shipping

Working on the Patreon treat boxes — I’m hoping to finish them off this week and ship them out next week, fingers crossed. I think August is going to be a lot of shipping, between these and the Vegan Kickstarter packages! (Babylon 5 has done a great job of keeping me company with production — I’m about halfway through season 3, and it’s improved mightily.)

This modern jersey scarf is in my temple flowers: jasmine pattern. I think it’d be perfect for summer with a crisp white shirt or dress, ideally to be enjoyed in a light breeze on a sunny boat, with a delicious cocktail or mocktail in hand. I miss boats. Should figure out how I can do sailing in Chicago…

Today’s the last day to sign up for this round of Patreon treat boxes (fairies and starlight, with a hint of tropical heat), you’ll get 50% off your first box!

If you sign up Aug 1 or after, you’ll be signing up for the Autumn boxes, probably shipping in November, which I *think* will be an Alice in Autumn theme — I see wacky tea parties coming.


Current items made, more sweets will be added, and possibly a few soap / resin pieces:

Earth Tier:
blueberry-orange mini muffins
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate mini teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark

fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)

Sol System:
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (2)
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate mini teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkin (1)

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

Milky Way:
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (3)
lime & rosewater shortbread
cherry-chocolate large teacake
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkins (set of 2)
temple jasmine scarf

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

dandelion simple syrup
apple-cheddar scone
bumbleberry-rhubarb bar
blueberry-orange mini muffins (4)
lime & rosewater shortbread (2)
cherry-chocolate large teacake
cherry-ginger chutney
moon mushroom (clay)
botanical clay bookmark
fairy bath salts (calendula, rose, lavender, centaurea)
snowdrop varieties napkins (set of 2)
snowdrop fairies scarf
temple jasmine scarf

chocolate-vanilla rose tea

Classic Food Combos

Made Sri Lankan grilled halibut yesterday to eat with the grilled eggplant and mushrooms from the other day — tasty, but string hoppers are dry without sothi!

It was all right with some yogurt sauce, but today, I made sothi and pol sambol, and it was so much better. Some food combos are just classic, and shouldn’t be messed with too much. πŸ™‚

Sri Lankan Grilled Vegetables

The same Sri Lankan-inspired marinade that I use on meat works well for veggies too. Efficient. πŸ™‚ And as a bonus, the veggies don’t need marinating for any length of time — you can just coat them and grill.

Remember that veggies cook at different speeds, so if you’re mixing them on skewers, be careful about adjusting size of the pieces so they cook the optimal amount.

Of these, I thought the eggplant, mushroom, bell pepper and ripe jackfruit worked best. (You can grill eggplant and mushroom on skewers together, and bell pepper and ripe jackfruit on skewers together. Ripe jackfruit is delicate, so be sure to oil the grill well, and turn skewers with care.).

The green jackfruit and the zucchini didn’t have as much inherent flavor as the other vegetables, so they were a little boring — but tasty once dipped in the yogurt sauce! (I’d expect summer squash to behave the same way as zucchini.) All nice with toasted naan.

To make this vegan, just use vegan mayo and yogurt, and skip the Worcestershire sauce.

zest of 2 limes
4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. plain whole-milk yogurt
3 T lime juice
1 t. salt
1/3 c. ketchup
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
1-2 t. cayenne
3 T vegetable oil (plus more for grill)
veggies of your choice, cut for skewers
naan bread

1. Make sauce: In a large bowl, whisk lime zest, garlic, mayonnaise, yogurt, and 2 t. of the lime juice in a large bowl to combine, add salt to taste. Transfer 1/2 c. of sauce to small bowl for serving; cover and chill until you’re reading to eat.

2. Make marinade: Whisk into the remaining sauce the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, cayenne, and remaining lime juice. Add veggies, toss to coat.

3. Prepare grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. While grill is heating, remove veggies from marinade, letting any extra drip back into the bowl; thread veggies onto metal skewers, spacing slightly apart.

4. Grill kebabs, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through, 6-10 minutes (varies depending on the vegetable, so keep an eye on them). Lightly toast pita on grill, and serve kebabs with reserved yogurt sauce.

Curry powder recipe here: