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:


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’. 🙂 )

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Vega…/dp/1733040935/ref=sr_1_1…

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