Crepe variations

Crepe bar lends itself to many variations. I had quite a bit of ground lamb curry leftover from the curried lamb w/ curried spinach pizza I’d made Kevin for Valentine’s day, so I decided to turn that into classic Sri Lankan mutton roll filling. (Confusingly, ‘mutton’ rolls are often (generally?) made with goat meat in Sri Lanka, because it’s easier to source, presumably, but lamb does work just fine too.) It’s my absolute favorite party food, but so labor-intensive that I only get to eat it a few times / year.

Dice some potatoes small, sauté them in oil with mustard seed and cumin seed and salt, when they’re mostly cooked, turn in the leftover ground lamb curry and stir it in.

It came out fine, and Kev and I had a couple of crepes that night like this, but the lamb & potato curry filling was a little lacking in oomph. I ended up amping it up even more yesterday — I diced an onion (MOAR ONIONS), sautéed that, added some more seeds + cayenne + ketchup + salt, and turned the meat and potato mixture into that, stirring to blend. THAT was finally perfect. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get something right.  I filled twenty crepes with that filling and froze them.

One KEY thing that I think I have to add to the roll recipe in Feast if I do a second edition is that you *can’t* make the crepes, refrigerate them, and then try to roll them at a later date. I’ve tried that twice now for big parties, and both times, it was disastrous, because the crepes just kept tearing — once they’ve cooled down, they lose the elasticity they need to make a tight roll. SO FRUSTRATING, esp. in the midst of a big party and after days of prep. Never again.

Making batter and refrigerating it is fine. But once crepes are made, fill and roll immediately. Then you can freeze! (Stephanie, please add this note to the revision notes for Feast’s second edition — thanks!)

The next time I have a small party, I can pull those out, dip them in egg and bread crumbs and deep fry, and it will be delicious.

(There was a bit of filling left after I’d used up all the crepe batter, and I’ve been eating that with toasted pita for breakfast, lunch, snacks. SO GOOD.)

Experimenting with decorative tops on Mas Paan

One reason I’m more of a recipe writer than a cook is that the experimenting is the most fun for me; this is what I was playing with on Thursday. I was curious whether I could do mas paan with a more decorative top than is typical. Answer — sort of kind of.

(The first two photos are mine — the four pretty ones that follow are inspiration images found online.)

Our standard curry filling is robust and moist enough that if you try to do the thing where you slice the buns on top to create a cross or star pattern, and actually slice through, it’ll have a very good chance of basically just bursting open at the cuts. Still tastes delicious, not so pretty. If you wanted that, I think you’d need to make more of a paste, like what I assume they used for the red bean filling buns (photo 3). So I wouldn’t recommend that.

If you’re very careful, you can slice just lightly enough to create a cross or star pattern of indentations, but that is a *lot* of finicky work for many little buns. Honestly, I would have to love you a whole lot to go to that much trouble, esp. since I’d expect some wastage along the way. (Some people are more skilled with delicate knife work than me, so they should feel free to go for it, though. The results are lovely, as in photo 4. Be sure to sprinkle seeds first, then slice, to get that effect.)

MAYBE I’d do scoring for a wedding or similar major occasion — I could make a triple batch, and plan to freeze the ones where I accidentally sliced through, and then eat those for my own snacks (happily) in months to come. But I wouldn’t really recommend the slicing approach either for our curry buns, unless you are quite persnickety. (If you watch the Great British Bake Show, you may remember the episodes where some contestants came to grief attempting their “artistically scored decorative loaves”…).

If you abandon scoring, though, you still have the option of sprinkling seeds. I don’t think that’s typical for mas paan in Sri Lanka — I googled, and only found one image with seeds sprinkled on top, and I don’t remember seeing it when visiting. But it works great.

After filling the bun, turning it over so the seam is on the bottom, and brushing with beaten egg (skip that last if allergic, but otherwise, it adds nice color and sheen to the bun), just sprinkle the seeds of your choice.

This was particular useful to me as I had three different kinds of buns, and I wanted to be sure I could tell them apart easily. (In Sri Lanka, fish buns are typically triangular, but I think most of the other buns I’ve seen are round?)

I ended up with:

– beef curry buns topped with black chia seeds
– spicy caramelized onion buns (seeni sambol) topped with sesame seeds
– jackfruit and chickpea curry topped with organic hemp seeds

The seeds add a lovely crunch element too, so unless I have someone seed-allergic at the table, I think I’ll be making all my curry buns topped with seeds from now on.

Rose bun photo added for inspiration — I may try that someday! And isn’t that last one, perfectly scored and seeded, just gorgeous? Mmm…

Love is slicing eight onions

Love is asking if he can slice four medium onions for you, and then realizing that aside from the slicing, it’s just as easy to do a double batch, and asking if he’d mind slicing eight medium onions instead, and he may sigh a tiny bit, but when you come back downstairs, there they all are, waiting. SO MANY ONIONS.

And now I have enough seeni sambol to make plenty of buns for Bite Nite next week, with probably a fair bit left over for just eating too. Seeni sambol on buttered toast = such a satisfying breakfast.

(It was a little sad leaving the Maldive fish out of this batch, but I did want them to be vegetarian for Bite Nite. There’ll be plenty of fishy goodness in future batches.)

Link to Seeni Sambol Recipe

My gosh, they do feed us well here

At the commencement welcome, one of the conference chairs of SALA made a joke about how we’re going to talk well and eat well. I’m not sure I’m talking all that well (still tired and a little out of it!), but my gosh, they do feed us well here.

Breakfast & lunch for two days are included in your registration, along with a very hearty closing reception that they said could easily be your dinner that night; coffee and tea service is also laid out throughout, which has been very handy for me, as I duck out of my room, grab some hot coffee, and duck back in to work a little more.

But just look at what they’ve served us so far! (I forgot to take photos of the avocado tartine and the fig tartine at breakfast, but they were very pretty.) One slight tweak I’d suggest for the hotel — I love that they used chicken thighs instead of breast, in terms of flavor, but personally, I wouldn’t have served it on the bone for a buffet like this. Too difficult to eat while sitting on low couches, managing drinks, etc. Nothing that requires knives!

I think my favorite, flavor-wise, was the combination of the curried salmon w/ the roasted sweet potatoes. Mmmm… I liked it so much I decided to skip dessert and go back for seconds of that instead. The roasted potatoes were also perfectly done, and delish.


At the Thompson Seattle Bar

The best cosmo I’ve had (pomegranate instead of cranberry, and John uses citric acid instead of lime juice, to maintain the clear pink color, a trick I totally plan to try when I get home for my Sri Lankan arrack cocktail experiments!), beautifully balanced, along with a stunning presentation of my happy hour oysters (six for $6!). I even drizzled the tangy gingered sauce over the micro greens and ate those too! Thompson Seattle bar, you’ve revived me!

Funniest part? I think John may have fed me fabulously before, because ten years ago he was an apprentice chef at Charlie Trotters, where Kev and I went for an anniversary dinner that remains the best meal of my life.


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:

Daly Bagel Collaboration Brunch

Amanda Daly took some great photos at our Collaboration Brunch today.  So good to get some of her bagels; it’s been too long!

(I, um, may have eaten three so far today, and am eyeing a fourth….)

I was too busy talking to folks to take many photos — a great group for today’s Daly Bagel brunch, and a particular shout-out to my high school friend, Carmela Diosana, all the way down from Madison.  Great to see you again and delighted to pass your Feast of Serendib orders to you!

Lovely brunch all around. Much fun foodie conversation!

For today’s brunch, Karina had suggested a kithul treacle & strawberry shmear, which we’d seen at a fancy hotel in Sri Lanka that had a bagel bar in their Western section. That gave me an idea — I had some sugar pumpkins that had come in our imperfect produce order, that I hadn’t figured out what to do with yet. So I split one in half and roasted it, then scooped that out and combined it with whipped cream cheese and kithul (palm) treacle. Makes a great bagel shmear, as it turns out — I had mine on an Amanda Daly chai bagel. Mmm….

My standard Sri Lankan curried salmon + cream cheese = yummy curried salmon shmear with a little bite to it. The shmear bites back. 

Feast recipe cards

The Feast recipe cards are almost ready to order. I do hope people are okay with them being bigger than would fit in an actual recipe box — I realized that I’d promised to put recipe and image on the front, and room to address them and write a note on the back, so you could actually send them through the mail. If I’d done those 4×6 size, the recipes would be unreadably small, I think!
So they’re 6×9, and they’ll hopefully make fun postcards for Kickstarter recipients to mail to their friends, or even to frame. They are: ribbon tea sandwiches, eggplant sambol, hoppers / appam, chai, flood, and rosewater & pistachio marshmallows.
Huge thanks to Sophie Malik Hurst for saving my butt on getting these done and actually looking good — you wouldn’t want to see just how bad my version looked like. BAD. Must up my game on graphic design skills at some point, but in the interim, hooray for helpful folks. Check out her shop, The Biscuit Tin Studio, for truly adorable graphic design work!

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

These little bites of heaven were designed to appeal to my daughter, who can be quite resistant to trying new foods. When I brought one upstairs for her to try, she initially refused. I broke off a small piece and asked her to please try it, that I’d designed it especially for her, with flavors I thought she’d love. Kavya hesitated, but unwilling to disappoint her mother entirely, eventually took it. A few minutes later, she asked for the rest, please.

Kavi then admitted that she hadn’t wanted to admit that I was right, but it was too good, so she had to give in. She’s twelve-and-a-half now; the tween years are…interesting. Two strong-willed women in one house. 🙂

This is another scone where I was aiming for autumnal + South Asian. My pumpkin spices are a little punchier than you might find in most American recipes, with cardamom and ginger added to the classic cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The jaggery drizzle adds a molasses-like complexity; Kavi and I like our drizzle with some lime, because we are all about the tang. The brightness of the lime highlights the pumpkin in beautiful ways; I love this scone with a cup of chai.

But straight up sweetness (Anand’s preference) works here too, pairing with the toffee bits; if you were going to have this with black coffee, for example, you might be just fine with a pure jaggery drizzle. Feel free to also skip the drizzle entirely; the pumpkin-toffee scone will still be delicious, especially warm, slathered with butter.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. toffee bits

1/2 c. pumpkin puree (blot with paper towel if watery)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 cup milk

Jaggery Drizzle:
1/4 c. jaggery, dissolved in 1/4 c. boiling water
1 T lime juice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain). Alternately, cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in toffee bits.

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly and combine with remaining 9 scone ingredients. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Jaggery drizzle. Dissolve jaggery in boiling water, add lime juice if desired, and pour over scones.