Chicken and Jackfruit Curries with Wattalapam

This was our last Sri Lankan meal and it taught me the importance of reading the recipe and labels on cans of food.

First up, the chicken curry. It was chicken, it was curried, it was good. There was nothing remarkable about making it or eating it. That’s not to say it wasn’t tasty, all of us enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t had before.

Now the jackfruit curry, that was something different. The recipe had a picture of what the dish was supposed to look like and I normally pay close attention to those pictures because I use them as a guide. Most of the time my attempts fall in the “Close enough” range but there have a few times they’re in the “Where did I go wrong?” column. I hate those times.

I think you know where I’m going…

The recipe called for three cans of young green jack fruit. I’d seen cans of jack fruit in a few stores so I knew I wouldn’t have a problem finding them and when I went to the Indian market, I luckily grabbed the last three cans they had. I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point. Then I started cooking. As I opened the cans of jack fruit, I saw that they were in syrup. I looked at the recipe and didn’t see a mention of syrup (typically it will tell you to drain the syrup or not). That should have been the first signal something wasn’t right. I drained the jack fruit and continued along my merry way. After a half hour, I checked the curry because the recipe said it would turn a dark brown color; it had not changed color. I put the lid back on and went back to doing whatever it is I do when waiting for food to cook (hide from my kids in the kitchen and read Jezebel). Another thirty minutes later and it still wasn’t dark brown but at that point I didn’t care because I was hungry and I thought maybe it hadn’t turned dark brown because I wasn’t using a pressure cooker like the recipe suggested.

James and I sat down to eat and dug in. I believe the word he used for the jack fruit curry was “Interesting.” Food that is “interesting” is almost never good. I tried it. It wasn’t bad…Okay, so it really didn’t taste bad, it was just sweet. I thought it was weird that a curry would be so sweet and that this would be eaten as a dinner meal because, really, it was sweet! I pulled up the recipe on my phone, looked at the pic, looked at my plate, “Where did I go wrong?” I re-read the recipe and there it was “Young green jack fruit.” My cans were just jack fruit. I did a bit of research and yeah, there is a big difference between jack fruit and young green jack fruit. Young green jack fruit is often used as a meat substitute and has the texture of chicken; my jack fruit had the texture of an apricot. Actually, it also tasted like apricot. I mentioned this to the girls’ teacher the next day and they were like “Yeah, you used the wrong kind of jack fruit.” They then brought out a can of the right kind and right on the label, it clearly said “Young green jack fruit.” Lesson learned.

Finally the wattalapam. When I told the teachers I was making this, they were really surprised and, honestly, I think they were wondering if I’d be able to pull it off. Apparently this is a dessert that is reserved for special occasions like weddings. All of them exclaimed how much they loved it and one said she’s never even made it because it’s so difficult. Challenge accepted! When I initially read over the recipe, it sounded like flan so having just made a coconut flan during Colombian week, I knew I’d be able to pull this one off. And I would have (if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids!) if I’d had read the entire thing. I mean, I did pull it off, I just had to wait until the next day to eat it because I didn’t read the very last sentence in the recipe that it had to be chilled for several hours. It had the same consistency of flan but was richer, if that’s even possible. It had a slight licorice taste to it, I’m thinking because of the jaggery, but it wasn’t overpowering.

By the way, the teachers loved it! They said it was fantastic and applauded me 🙂

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

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Kik Alicha, Timatim Firfir, Beet-Potato Salad, and Injera

I know, it’s been a WHILE since I last posted, four weeks to be exact. Sorry! We had a lot of social obligations, then Halloween, my birthday, the election… Life has been hectic and I have not had the time nor energy to sit and talk about food. There has been a lot of good, actually a ton of good, and bad in the past month and this project took a backseat to more pressing issues. It’s really hard to get excited about food when there are bigger things to focus on. I’m not going to get into it because I think there has been enough talk in the past week. I will say this, I feel like we need to accept where we are and focus our energy on making the best out of it. We can’t change what has happened but we still have the ability to change the future. Focus on that. Focus on what you can do. Get out there and do it. We’ve all heard the wake up call so now it’s time to sit up, put your feet on the ground, and make the Devil say “Oh shit, she’s up!”

So we ate Ethiopian food four weeks ago! Ethiopia was one of the weeks both James and I were really excited about. We were introduced to it a few years ago when we had dinner with some vegan friends. What we both remember from that first meal was the injera, which is a sourdough flatbread. Our friends warned us beforehand that we might not like it because a lot of people are put off by the bitter flavor but luckily James and I are both bitter people (I’m kidding, sort of). The injera was our favorite part of the entire meal and it has remained one of our favorite things to eat. Making injera isn’t fast. The batter has to ferment for at least three days but you can technically start using it after one day. Making my injera was delayed a day because I’m an idiot. When doing my grocery shopping, I grabbed a bag of teff seeds; teff flour is what is used to make injera. It is a a grain that is similar to millet and quinoa and is high in fiber and iron. The problem was I needed teff flour, not seeds. And even though I read “teff seed” on the package, it didn’t register. It registered after I poured the entire package of seeds in a bowl and mixed it with water. Finally the light bulb went off and I literally said to myself “Dummy. You need flour, not seeds!” and I smacked my forehead. So I had to go back the next day and buy flour. Watching it sit on my counter top was painful because I just wanted to cook with it right away and I am not a patient person. When it finally hit the 24 hour mark, I was so excited! The cooking technique was very similar to making the dosas and we all know how I aced that (brushes off shoulders) so I knew I had this!

I did not have this. I mean, it was fine but the flavor was not the same as what I’ve eaten. My injera wasn’t as spongy and it was kind of grainy. I was sad but I figured it wasn’t as great because it needed more time to ferment. So it goes. I moved on and prepared the rest of the meal.

Yeah the rest of the meal wasn’t much better. The kik alicha was good, even though I substituted white urad dal for the split peas. It was very creamy and buttery and it was similar to another dal we had during Nepal week. The timatim firfir was just onion, pepper, and tomato in olive oil and lemon juice. It really didn’t absorb any of the berbere seasoning and it was pretty acidic. And then the beet-potato salad…ugh. Like the timatim, it was just a sum of ingredients. There was nothing special about it, we just ate boiled potatoes and beets.

So obviously this meal was a fail but I had hopes for the next day’s meal. I can’t remember if the girls ate it or not but I want to say no. Because we didn’t even like it. So it goes.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Shrimp Etouffee and Italian Beef

Today’s post is going to be a first for the blog.

“Will it be well written and clever?”

Probably not. No, it will be a first because I am combining two different meals into one post. I know, I know, your world has just been shattered. Everything you thought you knew about this blog has just changed. The reasoning is because both meals were disappointing and I don’t think I can stretch out two separate posts to make the sentiment known. I am not known for my brevity so this is a pretty big deal. You’re welcome.

First up, Emeril’s shrimp etouffee. We visited New Orleans about five years ago and while there, I bought a book on New Orleans cuisine. I’m pretty sure it was self published because it’s bound by those plastic spiral things and most of the recipes are credited to random people all over the city. Now that I think about it, why did I buy this cookbook? I’m sure there were other, better books at the bookstore. I’m going to blame alcohol.

Anyway, there’s a shrimp etouffee recipe in there that I was going to use but then I actually read it the night before I was supposed to make the meal and it didn’t look right. It only required six ingredients, most of which were “pinches” of spices, and the instructions were literally five sentences. I’m no Bubba Gump but I’m pretty sure shrimp etouffee is more involved than that.

Enter Emeril. I Googled a recipe and his came up first. Emeril can be trusted, he’s from New Orleans. Or Louisiana. I could Google it but no, don’t want to. I followed his recipe to a T except for the part where he said to make a shrimp stock from the shells of the shrimp. I couldn’t do this because I bought shelled and deveined shrimp so I did the next best thing: I added water.

Don’t do what I did. My etouffee lacked BAM. All the bam was gone, it didn’t even show up. It was okay but very bland. It could have benefited from some salt. At my cousin’s suggestion, I sprinkled some cayenne pepper on it and that made a huge difference. We had a lot of leftovers so I’ve been eating it for lunch the past two days. The cayenne pepper has made a load of difference so if you do end up doing what I did, add the cayenne.

Recipe

I had never heard of Italian Beef until a friend from back home suggested it when I asked for ideas on FB. He’s actually not back home anymore, he moved to Illinois in junior high (Hi John!). When I first read his suggestion, I just thought it was going to be some type of beef that was seasoned with like oregano and roasted. Turns out, I wasn’t far off. It is a roast, and it is seasoned with oregano (along with other spices) but it’s a sandwich.

Riiiight?

I forgot to buy the right bread for the sandwich. I usually do all my grocery shopping on Tuesday and had planned this meal for the weekend. I didn’t want to buy the rolls on Tuesday and have them go stale by the weekend so I made a mental note to go back over the weekend and buy fresh rolls.

Except I forgot that mental note because my mind cannot be trusted. It wasn’t until I was slicing the beef that I realized I didn’t have the right bread and I was in no mood to go shopping so I used some French bread we had instead. Don’t use French bread, use a hoagie, it makes a difference. I mean, I don’t know what Italian Beef is supposed to taste like but based on the crazy cult following, I doubt it tastes like what we had. I also couldn’t get the beef thin enough and I think that had something to do with the overall flavor.

So American week ended with a womp womp. At least the meals weren’t fried so there’s that. In order to give our stomachs a break, I’m preparing Indonesian food this week. Gimme some veggies!

Recipe

 

 

 

Ropa Vieja

This dish…this dish right here did not work out so well for me.

Ropa vieja means “old clothes.” My interpretation of the name is that old clothes is typically tattered, or “shredded”, like this dish. As you can see from the picture above, mine was not shredded. I don’t really know what I did wrong, I followed the recipe to a T but the meat came out tough and wouldn’t pull apart. The only thing I can think of is that I covered my skillet and the recipe didn’t say anything about that. Though I don’t really think that would hurt it because if anything, putting a lid on it would keep the moisture in.

Balls.

The meal was fine. I made some black beans and rice to go with it and the meat itself was tasty, it just wasn’t shredded and juicy.

This was not a good way to end Cuban week so I might try my hand at this again during an off week. I really do enjoy my off weeks because I get to experiment with things I’ve picked up so far. For instance, I recently made a cilantro cream sauce that was to.die.for. Yes, this project has turned me into not so much a cilantro lover but a cilantro tolerator. That’s a word. But anyway, that was one of my goals for this project: to learn how foods work together. I was already pretty comfortable in the kitchen but I did (do) feel like I still have a lot to learn in putting together a meal. I’m getting there.

Next week we are eating Vietnamese food. I’m going to make so many shrimp spring rolls.

Recipe

Smoked Pork Chops with Spiced Red Cabbage, Spatzle, and Black Forest Cherry Cake

So based on the title of this post, you can tell I was a little ambitious with this meal. This was our second German meal for the week but it should have been our third. My husband, James, prepared the first meal and will be posting about it someday and I was too tired the second day to cook. Our oldest came home early from school with a fever, which required a doctor’s appointment, and after doing all that I was beat. I can’t even remember what we ate that night.. For this meal, we had dinner guests so I kinda went a little crazy with the cooking.

What I learned from this meal and throughout the rest of the week is that German food isn’t as labor intensive as the others. The food looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. That’s not to say I still didn’t mess up, I totally did, but it still worked out well.

I also didn’t take many pics. The oldest kiddo was home because she still had a slight fever from the day before and like a good mother, I put her to work in the kitchen. What’s that saying? Feed a cold, make your slightly feverish three year old work in the kitchen since it’s better than allowing her brain to turn to mush by watching cartoons all day? I think I saw that on a t-shirt once.

Oh hey, what do you know? My husband did take a pic of the chops before they went into the oven. Teamwork!

I was like “It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine!” It was not fine. You see that hump? Well, when I turned it out, it turned out it was concave. Yep, I had a chocolate cake bowl. So I did what any normal person would do: I filled it with cherries and whipped cream. Success! I am not good at baking, obviously.

Aside from that pretty big hiccup, the meal was fantastic! The spaztle had a nutty taste, due to the sesame oil, and I think I’ll continue making it that way. The pork chops and sauce were super yummy! The sauce thickened a little too much but I still enjoyed it. The cabbage was also really good and I just remembered that I had some the next day and it was even better then. Maybe that’s why you should let it sit a day…my cake turned into one big brownie and that’s never a bad thing.

Recipe

Spice Roasted Cornish Hen with Spiced Potato Momos and Veggie Patties

I want to start off by saying this meal was rough and eye opening. The day before I had to go to my hometown and without getting too into it, it was a horrible experience. So bad that I was still mentally and physically recovering from it the next day. Actually I’m still trying to get over it. Needless to say, I was not in a good mood but I wanted to continue with my little project so I forced myself into the kitchen.

I could not get into it and it wasn’t until the end of the day that I realized just how therapeutic cooking is for me. Like I’ve said, I know my way around a kitchen. Even before this started, even before I became a Stay at Home Mom, I made dinner four to five days a week and I’ve always enjoyed it. Chopping up veggies is like meditation to me and in a weird way, it’s how I relax. It’s hard to do that when your mind is racing and it was not good.

My momos were crap, too. Sorry, I’m getting grumpy just remembering it. Basically I was in the kitchen for over two hours and my entire meal didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. With the exception of the frozen birds, I don’t know what I did wrong, but it did not help my mood. I was very frustrated and angry and I probably even cried a bit. I think part of it was the kitchen failure and part of it was whatever was on my mind but overall, not a good experience.

This recipe will still make my life story, though, but just for the revelation that I cook as a release but not everything can be released. Sometimes things just need to sit and fester and figure themselves out. Festering thoughts are the best!

Also, the veggie stir fry was good but the rest of the food was blah. I’m pretty sure my bad juju seeped itself into my food.

Recipe

Chicken and Apricot Filo Pie

I enjoyed making this meal for two reasons: 1. I like making meat pies and 2. I proved to myself that I kinda know what I’m talking about in the kitchen. Being right is probably my favorite state of existence! I’m an only child…

This was pretty easy to make and like the Chicken with Lemons and Olives, I think it would be a good meal to make to impress people but with very little effort. I say this considering that I took a shortcut, had I followed the recipe exactly, I might be singing a different tune.

Thirty minutes later this came out of my oven. I literally laughed out loud when I saw it. James saw it first because he turned off the oven and he said “Yeah, I saw it and thought, she’s going to be worried” but I wasn’t because I fully expected this to happen. So yeah, puffed pastry gets puffed.

I felt it was a little dry but James liked it. I expected it to be tastier due to the apricots but they didn’t really enhance the flavor at all. I think the yogurt contributed to it being dry so if I do make this again, I might add a little chicken stock. It was still fun to make and again, I ended up being right, and being right always taste better than dry meat pie. 

Recipe