Alcho mysore pak- September sweet surprise

Every year during september I get into a zone, hands itching and nose twitching, like a researcher in a lab working my mind at various flavour combinations and textures to create a sweet that is exciting and different, for my kids to take to school on their birthdays. 

People usually buy something and send it but what’s the fun in that right?

I have been dabbling with the idea of combining sweet chocolate fudge and salty cashew cake. 

Today, is the day it all came together. The start was a bit shakey because organic shops arent open on sundays and I dont have any cashew at home. Then it struck me. I have so many more dry fruits – almonds can certainly replace cashew. I decided to step out of organic cooking zone this time. 

In my mind I went

Ghee- tick

Gram flour- tick

Chocolate powder- tick

Almonds- tick

Sugar- tick

Usually the combinations for mysore pak is always 1:1 for ghee and gramflour. Sugar is double. It is 1:1 for cashew and sugar is also 1:1 for kaju katli, which doesnt need ghee as there is already a lot of fat in it. I decided not to watch out for ghee too much – always the more the better!

Ingredients:

Ghee 250 grams

Sugar 3 cups

Almond 2 cups

Gram flour 1 cup

Chocolate powder 1/2 cup

Cardamom – 10 

Cloves – 6

Salt

Method: 

I dealt with this in two different batches, first the gram flour and chocolate powder. Then the almond mix.

Chocolate Mysore pak halfway:

In a wok I added a table spoon of ghee and I mixed in the gram flour and chocolate powder till it was nice and warm and removed as many lumps as possible. (I didnt bother sifting it). Then I removed it and kept aside.

Meanwhile, in warm water I soaked all the almonds and kept it closed.

Then for the caramel in the same wok I added two cups of sugar and a pinch of salt, pored in two tablespoons of water and brought it to boil. Once it formed a nice froth I checked for a stringy sticky consistency and switched off the stove. I then added the warmly prepared gram flour mixture into the caramel. I kept stirring it vigourously so that lumps dont form, I was surprised to see how it changed from a goey consistency to that of dry toasty breadcrumbs. It felt like a ‘heston blumenthal’ surprise. 😂

I added two more table spoons of ghee in it and kept stirring. It was now a little less powdery. I poured it on a greased plate and thought it will set after it cools.

Then I ventured on my next experiment: 

Badam katli 

The soaked almonds looked nicely bloated and golden. I strained them, saved the water, and then quickly squeezed them out of their skins. (I saved the skin too for my home-made shampoo😉)

In a wok, I added a tsp of salt, the rest of the sugar and two table spoons of water from soaked almonds and let it come to boil for the caramel.

Meanwhile, in a food processor I added the almonds, with the core of the cardamoms and the head of the cloves, saving the left overs for a later day biriyani. Then I blitzed it to a powder as smooth and I could.

Once the caramel was stringy and sticky I added the almond mixture and began stirring. It looked fab. First sticky, then a foldable consistency, all in a few minutes.

I checked on the chocolate mysore pak while stirring and sadly, it was still powdery. So I decided to add it all in the almond cake and stirred them all in folding them from all sides. When it was goey enough and leaving the sides of the pan I took it off heat and poured it all on a greasy plate. Voila!

Now, what do I call this chocolatey almondy mysorepak, I thought.

Alcho mysore pak!

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Gluten-free Pesto sandwiches

Let me first give you my vegan pesto recipe:

A Coriander bunch, prepared, including stalk (I believe the stalk has maximum flavour)

One local tomato (ooty tomato on the other hand has less tang)

One small lemon juice

Six cloves of garlic

One redchilly

Half a tsp black peppercorns

Half a tsp jaggery powder

Drop them all together raw, into a processor and blitz away! Add some salt for seasoning. And its done!
Idlies actually have a lot of potential. We all know they are yummy with almost any kind of chutney, molagai podi of all kinds or sambar. In fact, they are yummy when fried with molagai podi or with manchurian sauce. They can be powdered and made into upma too.

This is a new recipe I tried on one of those days when I felt like a naughty experiment in the kitchen.Slice the idlies carefully into halves. Spread a sizable portion of the pesto and sprinkle the kopra podi that I have shared with you before. Close and bite!😁😁

Restauranty lime and coriander consomme (veg)

My kids are really demanding as far as food is concerned. They crave variety, at the same time need their comfort food regularly too. Paruppu sadam and veekay or dosai and molagai podi or idli chutney has to be on the menu along with one ‘restauranty’ dish every day. I usually dont complain because I love to cook for them, but on the days it gets difficult they don’t get to hear the end of it(!).

I involve them in cooking whenever I can and I love watching Masterchef with them. Inspired, one morning they came into the kitchen and said – “amma, I want to make clear soup”. I was beaming. A sunday afternoon I decided to venture into this adventure. However, on that day a game of cricket beckoned and they conveniently ditched the cooking class. Having decided something backing off is difficult, so I went ahead with the plan.

All clear soup recipes on the internet included cabbage or caulflower or broccoli and it turned out I didn’t have any!  backing out because of a vegetable wasnt an option either!

I opened the fridge, saw my veggie tray and decided to experiment with it. It should work, I thought.

 Ingredients:


Finely chop them all!

One medium tomato

Handfull of coriander leaves chopped

Lemom one small

Oil and ghee

Salt and pepper

Method:

In a wok, pour a spoon full of oil (any oil)

Add in the chopped garlic, green chillies and onions. Once they start to caramlaise add a tablespoon of ghee.

Now throw in the other veggies with a ltr of water and some salt and let it boil for an hour.

Once it boils and smells good around the house, raw grind the tomato and add it along with coriander leaves and lime. Check seasoning and dd pepper. Done!


You can choose to strain and serve or serve it like a clear soup. It will be yummy with vadagam and yummy fresh bread.

Hazel nut butter cream with ridge gourd

One of my random experiments. 5 am in the morning I wake up and have a wave after my yoga!

Crossing all my toes and fingers, with chants on my lips and seeat on my forehead I took out the ridge gourd from the fridge. I knew it was going to be puri for breakfast. I had to make something that would be better than an aloo or bedmi so that my kids wouldnt have a frown while eating thwir first meal of the day! I take it was too personal when that happens and beat myself silly, at the same time I can’t manage to make the same old recipes over and over. It is BORING!!

It turned out more than a success. They went to school with a wide grin on their faces!!

Hazel nut butter cream with ridge gourd

Ingredients:

Ridge gourd five small, washed, peeled and diced to quarters

Two small onions diced fine

Two small tomatoes diced fine

One bay leaf

One quarter inch piece of cinnamon stick

One red chilly (you can add more if you like high spice levels)

One tsp of cumin seeds

Four cloves of garlic

7-8 shallots

Handful of coriander leaves diced

A table spoon full of hazelnuts

One table spoon of coconut oil

Half a tsp of turmeric powder

Salt

Method:

Hazelnut butter cream: In a pan roast these ingredients with a tsp of oil- red chilly, garlic, hazelnuts and shallots. Once it roasts to a nice golden brown, cool it and grind into a nice paste with some oil or water. The consistency should be that of cream cheese. 


Veggies: In a wok, pour in the oil, and add cumin seeds, then batleaf and cinnamon stick. Once it starts to fry, add in diced onions and let them caramelise. When they start to change colour and shine, add the ridge gourd with salt and turmeric powder and let it cook. Half way through the cook add in diced tomatoes.



Add the hazel nut cream to the veggies and switch off. Top it with nicely diced coriander leaves.

Vegan= limitation or opportunity?

I turned vegan about three years ago. ‘Vegan’ is a label that people associate me with (along with ‘abnoxiously anti-plastic). 

Well, I turned vegan and saw the be wfits of it almost instantly. So I decided that my family should turn vegan too. As an involved mother, I felt I was commiting a crime if I were knowingly serving my kids something that is acidic and unhealthy.

I saw this more as an oppurtunity than a limitation. I felt that I could get more creative in the kitchen ans understand taste, textures and balance in the food that I was serving. I started experimenting a lot more. More than half the times I was successful, maybe because I was desperate that being vegan shouldn’t be a limiting factor for my children: they should have tasty home cooked meals. They deserved it and they should miss it when they grew up and live all by  themselves, away from home.   😜

So I try to replace the ‘cream and cheese’ factor with dry-fruits  and coconut milk and much to my surprise it works more than 80% of the time!

This one time when I did a culinary course in a school with children, I taught them how to prepare cream with cashews. They refused to believe me when I told them about it; but the fact that the cream was licked clean even before it reached their plates from the blender, had said enough. 

I shall share my experiences here. You can try them too if you like.


Subway sandwich, but with what?

Banana flower and taro!

I love banana flower. It has a crunch and a unique texture that lends well itself into a lot of recipes.

The two most famous dishes made with banana flower are paruppu usili and vadai. Yes, I have made these successfully several times. So much so that now it takes me just half the time to prepare the vegetable! ( You have to peel off the petals, collect all the florets and remove the pistils from there before you wash and cut it!)

My son suggested I make cutlets which I had tried last time. It was a success. I thought about using taro instead of potatoes today. Seppankizhangu as we call it, it is one of our tambram delicacies. When cut into small chunks and fried in oil it is utterly delicious!

This is what I did today.

Veggies:

Steamed half a kilo of taro, cooled and peeled

Prepared one banana flower

Finely diced two onions

An inch of ginger and four medium garlic cloves

banana flower preparation

diced banana flower
Powder for dusting, a replacement for bread crumbs and eggyolk:

Dry roasted groundnuts, fried gram, redchillies and garlic with salt.

Powdered in a food processor.


Method:

In a wok, pour in some oil (I always use coconut oil, if you think it has an odour that changea the flavour of the dish, organic coconut oil doesn’t!)

Add the diced onions and caramelise.

Add ginger garlic and the diced banana flowers.

Cook till it softens.

Remove and cool.

Add the taro to the banana flower and mash.


Then..


Shallow fry with enough oil.

The final dish:

Infact it tasted good even as an hors d’oeuvres

 

This is me…

My home is a cozy lil’ two bed and open kitchen in the centre of Chennai city, a stones throw from the beach. Crisp cool mornings greet my balcony doors as the sun goes up and moon calls out on my kitchen window throwing light inside with the soft aounds of ruffling leaves as the sea breeze gently blows away.

Quick mix veg paruppu usili

It was only after I attended a lecture on history of traditional south-indian cooking that I knew the difference between ‘curry’ and ‘kari’.

Kari is a dry sauteed vegetable and curry is vegetable cooked in spice gravy of meat broth.

Anyway, paruppu usili traditionally is only prepared with – french or cluster beans. However, the recipe lends itself well with various other vegetables – shallots, carrots, capsicum, cabbage and red beets, are some that I have successfully attempted. I also experiment with it a few other ways – by adding a few other ingredients into the masala.

This time I tried adding roasted Kopra and lime juice. I also cooked it a bit differently as I was running short of time.

Ingredients:

3 capsicums
4 medium carrots
10-12 shallots
1/2 cup of kopra (dried coconut, sliced)
Coconut Oil
Salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon toor dal
1/2 lime

Recipe:

Soak the toor dal in warm water for 30 minutes. Dice the vegetables in equal sizes and keep them seperate. Steam cook the carrots with some salt.

In a hot wok, dry roast kopra and keep aside. Once cold, blitze it the food processor.

In the same wok, pour in 2 teaspoons of coconut oil, add mustard seeds and wait for it to splatter.

Add diced shallots, once translucent, add capsicum. Remember, capsicum shouldnt change colour and become too soft. If it does, it has been overcooked.Wait till it is well sauteed and add the steamed carrots. Give it a toss and switch off the stove. Now add salt to taste and add in the blitzed kopra and keep aside.

Drain the toor dal and put it in the blender along with pepper and asafoetida. ( If you want it nice and spicy I recommend you to add two red chillies to this mix). Blitz them all together to a coarse consistancy.

In the same wok, add a few spoons of coconut oil and add in the dal. Saute it for a few minutes and cover it till it is well cooked. Sprinkle some water if you like.

Once cooked, add the kari to it and give it a toss. Switch off and add the juice of half a lime. That is it!

Paruppu usili with a twist is ready. It is yummy with steamed ghee rice and veekay!

Potato Vathal-kuzhambu🤑

In case you are wondering… Yes vathalkuzhambu(vk) is a dish that defines tambram like Pele defines Soccer.
And if my family were in Game of Thrones, guess what our banner flag would have have on it?

‘Paruppu sadam’

So yes – veekay, as my brother has code named it, with paruppu sadam, is the only common thread that runs across all of us in my family.

And let me add here. Paruppu sadam is NOT dal chawal! It is freshly made sticky gooey rice with toor/greengram dal flavored with turmeric powder, cooked in a pressure cooker. Once it comes out lots of ghee and salt is added to it and it is mashed, using a broad concave ladle.

This is our daily breakfast and oh yes! We never tire of it!!

It is mouth-wateringly delicious with any spicy gravy like sambar, veekay, more kozhambu, kootu, pitlai, and so on. It is also delightful with fried poriyals like potato, okra, brinjal, and steamed poriyals like various kinds of beans, red beets etc.

That is a background I needed to give you before I offer to share this recipe of veekay with you as you would only then understand the sense of achievement that I felt once I made it!

Potatoes are used in sambar but never in veekay. Veekay is famous with fried veggies like brinjal, okra, shallots, red pumpkin etc..

When my brother mentioned potato veekay, I thought – ‘why didn’t I think of this earlier!’ I was inpatient to try the ‘theeyal’ recipe that keralites make too. I decided to combine the two.

Ingredients: (same as a regular veekay, just a few additions)
4 medium potatoes, washed peeled and diced to one-inch cubes
Lime size ball of tamarind soaked in hot water
Sambar podi – 1.5 heaped teaspoons
Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt
2 Red chillies plucked
1/4 kopra, dry roasted and blitzed coarsely

Seasoning:
Sesame oil – 1 table spoon
Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 teapsoon
2 Curry leaves sprigs
Handful of coriander leaves washed and chopped.

Method:

In a thick bottom vessel, pour half the oil. Once hot, add sesame seeds. Once it splatters, add fenugreek seeds, red chillies and the asafoetida.

Add the diced potatoes, salt, sambar powder, turmeric powder, toss for 30 seconds and add water. Let it boil and partially cook the potatoes. Keep the flame between medium and high.

Squeeze the tamarind into the water and pour the syrup into the pot with potatoes. Bring to boil for about 15 to 20 minutes.

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Check flavor by tasting. It should have the right amount of tang, spice and salt. If the liquid is too thin, you can thicken it with half a spoon of rice powder mixed with water. Else skip that step.

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Once it boils, add the shredded kopra and coriander leaves and curry leaves. Finally, pour in the rest of the sesame oil and let the heat soak up its rich flavour!

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Take a big plate with an edge.
Drop in a ladle full of paruppu sadam and make a small whole in the centre. Pour in hot veekay with potatoes…
Now it is ‘dig – in’ time! Slurp slurp.

Once it was ready and my kids tasted it, they said, ‘this is yummm’. My achievement for the day!

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Makeover of morning’s kootu

My husband came back home at night after work. Since he had told me he was full I wasnt prepped with dinner for him. However, we all associate comforts of home to home cooked food, so he was quietly rummaging the fridge to find it uninteresting much to his dismay.

I knew just what to do.

Onions, tomatoes and cucumber diced small.


Handful of groundnuts roasted with some coconut oil and salt.

The chutney powder from the previous post and voila! Its done!

The kootu formed the bed. The veggies formed the first layer, then the podi topped with toasty groundnuts and another layer of podi sprinkled!


Perfect dinner. Tasty. Light!