Trifle Failure

I tried it last time with passionfruit curd, and that was too rich and thick for trifle, in my opinion. (A thin layer of curd might’ve been all right, but I had much too much.) Instead, I went back to my usual plan, to make custard, but I was out of the Bird’s custard powder I usually use. So I tried making a traditional English custard sauce, and I poked around until I found one without cornstarch, because I didn’t think it should need it.…

And it’s a great sauce, but I think I messed up. I was very tired when I was making it, finishing up around 11 p.m. last night, which is always a mistake for me, because I get impatient and then I make mistakes. I should’ve made the trifle first thing in the morning yesterday, so I could take my time, and it’d have a day to set. But no.

So I’m not sure I quite got it up to temp — it was thinly coating the back of a spatula, but just barely, I probably should’ve let it go another 5-10 minutes. Especially since I then added 1/2 c. of passionfruit puree to it, which made a delicious custard, but also maybe retarded it setting? Either because it was too liquidy or because the acid affected it? Or maybe I was just too impatient…

…because I barely let it cool at all (I really should’ve stuck it in the fridge and waited ’til morning to finish assembling) before I tried to pour it over the trifle ingredients, and as you can see, it immediately started melting the jello. Gah. I wanted clear, distinct layers, and instead, I got a swirly, goopy result.

It got worse when I immediately added the next layer, because apparently, when I am making bad decisions, I like to COMMIT to them…

Not the Most Elegant Method

This post is not for any vegetarians / vegans.

It turns out that if I impulse-buy an entire frozen lamb at Costco ($5.29 / lb), I AM capable of cutting it into small enough pieces that I can fit it in the chest freezer + fridge. Even if I only have a garden saw on hand to use to get through the bone.

Not the most elegant butchery in the world, and I got very tired and was glad that I could tap in Kevin to do a few passes with the saw near the end, but basically, I can do this. Maybe better to start earlier in the day, though. And buy a bone saw first.

I will spare you the photos. πŸ™‚

(I might show them to my friends at Carnivore Oak Park, though, just so they can be amused by my amateur efforts. I think I’ll leave the bone-cutting to them for the most part, going forward…this is hard work!)

Also, if you need an emergency amputation by the side of the road (which I am about to watch on my current medical TV show, by pure coincidence), I think I might be able to manage it. I’ll definitely need a saw, though.

Pretty Fruit Curd Trifle

Made a passion fruit curd trifle last night. It was very pretty, but I want to tweak the recipe some β€” it came out a little too sweet overall for my tastes. Less sugar in the curd, I think, and maybe make the orange jello with some lime juice instead of some of the water β€” you can do that with jello, right?

Might try this again for our Easter party. πŸ™‚. If I get the recipe down, I can include it in the Serendib Teatime mini cookbook we’re planning to do later in the year…

Packing Up Narnia in Love

It was such a rush finishing up the winter Patreon boxes before I left for ICFA, I didn’t get to posting the final photos. I love how this theme came out, “Narnia in Love”.

They boxes went pretty well, but I made one mistake — I should have double-bagged the soap and bath salts in the higher-tier packages, because the scent was strong enough that it affected some of the treats, even though they were wrapped in plastic. I should have thought — sigh. Next time!

We’ve really gotten better at all this; ice packs in plastic in every box, wrapping and freezing baked goods as soon as they’re made to maintain freshness. But there’s a lot to learn too! Complicated. Appreciate patrons who are patient with me; I try to make sure that there’s so much in the treat boxes that it makes up for any small issues. I want people to feel like they’re getting great value for money.

Started baking yesterday for the next batch, theme Fairies and Starlight. Lime & rosewater shortbread, decorated with white chocolate and edible cornflower petals. Photos soon. πŸ™‚

Enjoying the Sharma Women

Watching Bridgerton this morning — caught up on episode one of the second season, about to watch episode two. Am quite enjoying the Sharma women — they’re both delightful so far. I want to be friends with Kate!

Few pics from the last coule of days — progress on a fingerless mitt, although I’ve now reached the point where I have to stop and watch a YouTube video to remind me how to do the thumb gusset, as the instructions are confusing me. I’ve done this once before, but it was many years ago, and I have absolutely no recollection of how it goes.

Made two different chicken curry dishes recently. The first was sort of an improvised combination of my ginger-garlic chicken & a sothi — I used the seasonings for ginger-garlic chicken, which my kids love, added potatoes, and simmered it all in a can of coconut milk, adding some frozen peas at the end. Anand can’t handle spicy heat, so this one was designed to be no spice yet still yummy — it worked well, though Kavi and I were both happy to have some spicy pol (coconut) sambol to eat with it.

Sri Lankan food adapts pretty easily to being vegan or gluten-free, but I have to say, if you’re allergic to coconut, you’re going to have to modify a lot of our recipes. It can be done, certainly — you can use cow milk or soy milk, etc. I had a roommate (hi, Cliff) who was allergic to coconut, and I made curries for him. But coconuts really are central to our cuisine…

Last night, I made a classic chicken curry — this is one of the first Sri Lankan dishes I learned to make and is eaten across the island — you can find it in most restaurants, I think. One change I habitually make to accommodate my family is that I use chicken thighs on the bone, but take a few minutes to cut most of the meat off the bone before cooking.

That means Kevin and Kavi, who eat their rice and curry with a fork, can easily manage, but the curry sauce still has all the richness and flavor you get from simmering the bones. And since I eat rice and curry with my hand, I don’t work hard to get all the meat off — I leave a good bit on, and I’m happy to eat those bones with a bit of meat for my meal. Yum yum. My mom likes to crack the bones with her teeth and suck out any remaining marrow; I don’t usually do that myself, but every once in a while…

The last pic is just some sketches Kavi did. Her hands are amazing to me. πŸ™‚

A Double Batch

Came home, ate leftovers, finished off the pol sambol, so I had to make a new batch, of course. A double batch, in fact, so I could freeze half of it.

Cayenne and salt and lime and onion and coconut. Yum.

A Mad Rush

It was a little bit of a mad rush getting ready to leave town for ICFA — I was trying to grade a bunch of student papers (done!), get all the winter Patreon boxes out the door (done!), and make and photograph stringhopper (idiyappam) biryani (done, in the end, but with additional drama!)

The stringhopper biryani was the last photo I needed for Vegan Serendib — the recipe is almost identical to the non-vegan version, but without egg, and my previous photo had egg, so I had to re-make and re-photograph it.

All of which would be fine, except I’m not actually very practiced at making stringhoppers. Don’t get me wrong, I *love* eating them. I’ve eaten lots and lots and lots of stringhoppers, but mostly when other people made them. They’re one of my favorite Sri Lankan meals, usually eaten with sothi (aka kiri hodhi) and pol sambol, often for breakfast, but delicious at any time of day, really.

I made them a few times for Feast, because I certainly couldn’t put out a Sri Lankan cookbook without stringhoppers in it, but I think I’ve now made stringhoppers maybe 3-4 times total in my life? And they’re super-simple — make a rice flour dough, press through a stringhopper press onto mats, steam. Easy, right?

Except that it’s actually just a little tricky getting the dough right, and I KNEW I was going to have trouble with it, and so I put it off and put it off and put it off…

…and this is why I was up until past midnight on Wednesday night, even though I had to leave for the airport at 5 a.m. the next morning, because I was so anxious about getting started with these. I even made Kevin make the dough for me, at least the first pass of it, and still.

I did finally get through it, mostly through sheer willpower, guilt for keeping Stephanie waiting as she tries to finalize the book layout, and panic at the end. Sometimes panic can be your friend?

These photos look nice enough, but anyone familiar with stringhoppers who looks at them too closely will realize that my strings are just not very good. They aren’t smooth and holding together nicely — they are lumpy and thick and have a tendency to break apart. They’re embarrassing, and I’m glad my Amma isn’t on Facebook right now and won’t see these!

Tips welcome, because now I’m kind of determined to master these and get them right. I suspect mostly I just need a lot more practice.

I’m especially determined to get them right, though, because I served these to the kids for dinner on Wednesday night, and while Anand was not yet a fan, Kavi really liked the stringhoppers AND the fish sothi AND the spicy pol sambol. Which makes a Sri Lankan American Amma’s heart just melt into a puddle. (She did ask for a big glass of milk after eating the pol sambol, but that is just fine, especially since she also asked for seconds!)

So I pretty much have to start making stringhoppers more regularly, and I AM going to learn how to make them properly, dammit. (And I will make sothi without fish for Kevin, so he can enjoy them with us too…) And we will have them often, especially for breakfast on a lazy weekend, and we will be so happy….

(Looking back through my older posts, I see that I had major difficulties last time I tried to make stringhoppers too — no wonder I was avoidant about it. Residual trauma!

(I do still like the photo Paul Goyette took of me trying to make stringhoppers for Feast way back when…)

Hard to Go Wrong

Finished up the higher tier treat boxes yesterday and shipped them out. Will take a break from production for a month or so, then start working on the spring boxes. Also might take a break from eating sweets for a month too? We’ll see. πŸ™‚

What do you do with extra bits of milk toffee and extra tamarind-cayenne marshmallows? Chop them up and add them to melted chocolate. Hard to go wrong here…