Sunday, October 19, 2014

4 minute microwave Mysore Pak (Diwali 2014)

Mysore pak was one of moms favorites for Diwali.  She toiled hard for hours on the stove stirring the crazy boiling mix in a large deep pressure cooker so it wouldn't splatter all over the kitchen.  Adding ghee one spoonful at a time, hers was smoother and softer in texture melt in the mouth. Being lazy, I never tried ever.

The microwave mysore pak is slightly coarser, crispier and crunchier like the kind made for weddings.  For a first attempt, I was very pleased with the result.  The recipe was given to me by sis who tried it at a cousins place last Diwali.   Try for yourself!   You can't go wrong with all that sugar and ghee.

Make sure you maintain the proportion. 1:2:1::besan:sugar:ghee.


  • 1 cup - Besan(chick pea flour)
  • 2 cup - Sugar
  • 1 cup - ghee(clarified butter)
  • 2-3 tbsp - milk


  1. Measure out sugar and besan into a microwaveable container and mix well
  2. Add ghee and mix well
  3. Keep a greased plate ready to pour and cut the mysore pak when done
  4. One minute power high on microwave, remove and mix well
  5. One minute in microwave and mix well
  6. Add the milk and mix it well
  7. One more minute microwave high and mix well
  8. One last minute in the microwave...  It will have frothed
  9. Without stirring pour the hot mixture on the greased plate
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut while it is still hot
  11. Let it cool and enjoy yummy mysore pak

Hope you enjoyed my dysfunctional style of making mysorepak am not sure where the recipe came from to give due credit but thanks to whoever thought of making Mysore pak in the microwave.  My family is very happy with the unexpected treat.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bombay Vegetable Sandwich (street food)

So many nostalgic moments linked to street food growing up in Bombay. My favorite, is of sitting on the Government Law College window ledge across from Churchgate railway station, and watching the sandwich walla busy making sandwiches to order. A steady flow of people waiting in line while others hurried past to catch their train. One by one, our classmates would arrive, a few of us from work, laughing and talking, cracking up at silly jokes, making up stories about the passersby and the crowds of people waiting to eat sandwiches always amazed us. Both the sandwich and sukha(dry) bhel vendor next to him had a thriving business.
Sandwich walla
(Picture courtesy - Radha N.)

The sandwich stall was very basic, a bamboo or wooden stand, with box that doubled as a table top. The simplicity was deceptive as it contained everything he needed to make the most delicious sandwich. I'm seriously drooling at the thought of an Amul butter (maska), coriander chutney, vegetables sandwich with layers of red onion, tomato, cucumber, potato, and the exotic and very red beetroot, salt and pepper, all arranged to perfection and cut into bite sized pieces. With a swipe of his hand he would transfer the cut sandwich to a paper plate. Top it with a well known brand of tomato ketchup or an orange colored home brand. A good meal, and all it cost was Rs. 2 or 3, very affordable to students and the general public.  It was a filling and sumptuous meal.

Street food had a charm of its own, we could savor a variety of food and cuisines on our college allowances and minimal salaries during those early career days. We worked hard, studied hard and partied plenty, enjoying life without responsibilities and worries, our parents and friends to fall back on.. Enough of the nostalgia... Here goes the Bombay sandwich, perfect addition to my dysfunctional cooking or should I say 'Non' cooking style.. :)

Ingredients for the sandwich:
  1. 2 or 3 slices of bread (wheat, multi-grain, rye or white)
  2. Soft butter or margarine(optional) as required
  3. 1-2 thin slices of cheese (could be Mozzarella, Swiss, cheddar, pepper jack .... ) 
  4. 1 tsp or more of green coriander chutney(I buy the Nirav brand which stays good refrigerated for months, homemade chutney with coriander, green Thai chilli, peanuts ground smooth with salt to taste.. works great too)
  5. 2-4 slices of tomato(Larger they are, the less slices you need)
  6. 2-4 slices of onions
  7. 8-10 slices of cucumbers(English, Persian or the pickle variety)
  8. 3-4 thin slices of boiled/steamed potatoes(optional)
  9. 3-4 thin slices of boiled/steamed beetroot(optional)
  10. Salt and black pepper shaker

  1. Use the same plate you plan to serve in, it should be large enough for the bread to lie flat
  2. Take 2 slices of bread and spread a thin layer of butter on the inner side
  3. Over it spread a layer of green coriander chutney
  4. Place a slice, chutney side up on the plate.
  5. Add a layer of sliced cheese of any variety 
  6. Add layers of vegetables starting with the tomatoes, followed by a light shake of salt and pepper over the vegetable
  7. Layer on, with cucumbers, onions, potato, beet,.. salt and pepper, added to taste
  8. Top with final layer of tomato
  9. Place the second slice of bread with chutney side facing down
  10. Now for the best part.. The sandwich needs to be cut to bite sized pieces. Hold the sandwich down with the span of your palm and using a sharp paring knife (same kind used to slice the onions and tomatoes). make three or four cuts on the wider side and two or three cuts across.
Notes: It sounds very simple, but the trick lies in the lightness of your hand with the salt and pepper shakes and the thin cuts on the vegetables. I sometimes add spinach or lettuce instead of cucumbers or onions for the crunch, or make it a simple cheese and tomato sandwich. I like cheese since it adds some protein content.

If you don't have coriander chutney on hand, use black pepper with a heavier hand. You can add mayo or mustard or ketchup or whatever you fancy. This is one dish, you have to own, to make it delicious.

You could add a slice or two of vegetables, meats, boiled eggs, whatever you like in a sandwich. I have tried avocado instead of potato; fresh mozzarella cheese (looks like eggs in the picture above) and  loved it.  If you have sandwich masala(available in the Desi Indian store) you can use it also. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eggplant(Brinjal) Red Curry

Eggplant red curry with coconut milk, peanut butter, schezwan sauce

We all love eggplant (brinjal / baingan /..) at home and I try to make different types of sabzi's and gravy's but they are usually from India.
Last week, while browsing the web for a recipe using peanut butter, I stumbled upon this recipe from Archana's kitchen. Knowing how much my husband loved spicy red curry, I figured, why not give it a try. I had most of the ingredients but tweaked the measurements to our taste.
There was a can of coconut milk in the pantry, a bottle of low sodium less sugar peanut butter which no one liked and some store bought Schezwan sauce. I love using schezwan sauce to flavor stir-fry vegetables, noodles or fried rice.
Garlic is something I don't use in my cooking, it was very unusual to have fresh garlic at home.  We got some cleaned garlic pods at the Fresh Farms grocery store this past week, the better half had a brilliant idea of eating them raw.  He took a bite and that was it.
The chopped garlic gave a distinctive flavor to the curry, it was definitely the key ingredient as it integrated well with the spicy red sauce and made the eggplant very flavorful. 
So here goes, a simple and easy recipe that fits right into my dysfunctional cooking alley.

  • 1 large eggplant (baingan bartha variety). Cut into 1cm circular discs, make it a half circle and cut into thin segments like you would section a pie, so each piece has the skin at the end.
  • 6 or 7 cleaned pods of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3-4 dry spicy red chilli peppers broken in half
  • 3-4 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste
For the sauce
  • One 200ml can of coconut milk. If the coconut milk is too thick add 1/4 cup of water.
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter or 1 cup roasted peanuts ground smooth in a coffee grinder
  • 2-3 tbsp of Schezwan sauce, I used 'Ching's Secret' brand found in the Indian store.
  • 1/2 tsp grated jaggery / brown sugar or plain sugar, if needed

the brinjal is well cooked but not mushy
  1. Take sesame oil in a wok and warm for a minute 
  2. Add the halved red chilli peppers and the chopped garlic, saute for a minute
  3. Add the eggplant(baingan/brinjal) and stir well
  4. Cover and cook on low to medium heat stirring occasionally until done (should not be raw or mushed up). It takes about 7-8 minutes
  5. On low heat, add the blended sauce and stir well
  6. Increase the heat to medium, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes until the sauce starts to boil slowly
  7. Switch off the heat and enjoy with some steamed rice
Enjoy yummy red curry
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. My older daughter who will be heading out to university soon is very choosy about food and she absolutely loved it though it was spicy. you can decrease.

Notes: Use a hand whisk to blend the sauce and a heavy wok/pan with a heavy lid will generate some steam and keep the eggplant moist while cooking on a low to medium flame without making it mushy. The first time I used my light pan and the brinjal cooked very unevenly,.  I had to sprinkle water and it got mushy, it was very tasty though. :).   Next time I plan to try this curry recipe using stir fry vegetables instead of eggplant, I am pretty sure it will be delicious, too.  

Do try this recipe and let me know if you liked it.   Today, my daughter wanted the curry sweet so I added a few flakes of splenda and she loved it.  Whatever works.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nei(Ghee) Payasam

Nei payasam takes me back to childhood and the Guruvayurappan temple in  Kerala, where it's served as prasadam(blessed food).  We arrived late and got to eat nei payasam prasadam on plantain leaves served by volunteers.  The temple was having a big celebration with elephants and drums and music.
It is also made for Bhagawati sevai puja, a religious function performed for the good of the family and the home.  This puja is performed annually by my sisters family.  I remember her mother-in-law making the decadent and delicious nei payasam in a huge metal urali(vessel/pan) placed over a kerosene stove.  The whole family taking turns to stir the payasam, it was a collaborative effort and the whole family came together to help. The mere thought has me drooling for some. 

Garnished with powdered cardamom(Elaichi)

Knowing how much I loved it, mom improvised the long, hard and time consuming recipe to a much simpler one.  So here goes, Nei payasam in my dysfunctional cooking style.

  •  3 to 4 tbsp - Ghee(nei)
  •  2 cups Jaggery(grate for easy melting)
  •  1 cup water (to melt jaggery)
  •  1 cup cooked basmati rice  (any variety, cooled and separated)
  •  1/4 cup golden raisins(kismish)
  •  1/4 cup broken cashews or slivered Almonds
  •  a pinch or two of elaichi (cardamom) powder 
  1. Heat the water and jaggery and bring it to a slow boil. Allow the jaggery to melt completely, stir continuously otherwise it will burn (2-4 minutes)
  2. Continue stirring on medium heat until it starts to thicken (4-5 minutes)
  3. In another pan (wok) heat 2-3 tbsp ghee and stir in the rice
  4. Stir fry for a couple of minutes
  5. Add in the jaggery and stir well
  6. Cook while stirring continuously until the ghee starts to glisten on the surface as seen in the picture (7-8 minutes)
  7. Heat a tbsp ghee in a small pan, first roast the raisins, remove them with a spoon and add to payasam
  8. Roast the cashew in the same ghee and add to payasam. 
  9. Top with the elaichi powder and mix well
  10. Enjoy delicious Nei payasam.  It is very rich so you can't eat a lot like sweet pongal.  it will stay good for a week or two in the refrigerator 
Served and ready to eat..

Notes: You could garnish with coconut slivers roasted in ghee and a pinch or two of dry ginger powder have seen mom use them on occasion.  I like the cashews and raisins to be soft and incorporated so I add them halfway in step 6 so they could also absorb some of the moisture.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Soul Food / Comfort food - Vethakoyambu with a side of cluster beans and green gram

Authentic "vethal" koyambu is made with vethal's, sun dried vegetables and berries like Cluster beans, bitter gourd, bitter variety of wild berries called shundakai & marthangalikkai in Tamil, I have no idea what their botanical names are. 

During harvest, they are cleaned, cut, salted, dried and stored away to be used on a rainy day.

Vethakoyambu can also be made with broken pieces of pappadam or with fenugreek seeds (Mendhiyam).

When we don't find an ingredient we need, we look for an alternative ingredient available to us.  So here goes my dysfunctional cooking with vethakoyambu made using with fresh vegetables.

Vethakoyambu with onions, capsicum and tomatoes

- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 or 2 capsicum(green pepper) diced
- 1 large tomato diced.
- 1/4 cup precooked tur dal(skinned and halfed lentils)
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp diluted in 2-3 cups of water
- 1 or 2 tbsp Vethakoyambu powder from grand sweets (or any brand of sambhar powder or home made) depends on the spice level you want.
- 1/4 tsp Asafetida
- Turmeric powder and salt to taste

To Sauté:
- 1-2 tbsp sesame oil(or any cooking oil),
- 1 tsp mustard seeds,
- 2 tbsp chana dal(black gram dal),
- 2 tbsp tur dal(skinned and split Pigeon peas),
- 6-8 curry leaves

For thickening:
- 1 tbsp rice flour (can substitute with besan/chick peas flour) and dilute in 1/4 cup of water. I use a whisk to avoid lumps from forming.
(Double the quantity of thickening mixture if you don't have precooked dal.  Never used dal pre- grand sweets Vethakoyambu powder days.  Its very spicy but tasty and the dal helps.)
  1. Take oil in a deep wok, or vessel, add the dals and fry until the oil starts to froth, add mustard seeds and allow them pop. then add the curry leaves and stir well.  They will sizzle..
  2. Add vethakoyambu powder, turmeric, and asafetida and stir well.
  3. Add onions, stir; add capsicum, stir. 
  4. Let it cook for a 4-5 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally
  5. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
  6. Then add the diluted tamarind and bring to a rolling boil.  Lower heat and let boil for an additional 5-8 minutes until the raw taste of tamarind is completely gone.
  7. Add the precooked tur dal softened in 2-4 tbsp of water and bring back to a rolling boil
  8. Finally add the diluted rice flour, stirring continuously, allow it to thicken for 2-4 minutes
  9. Let it boil for a few more (5-6 minutes) in medium heat. 
  10. The more you boil and thicken the koyambu the tastier it gets and the longer it will keep.
  11. Take a few tablespoons of koyambu and mix with steamed rice, add a few drops of sesame oil to elevate the flavors.  .

Cluster beans and green gram vegetable side dish

- 1 lb fresh cluster beans, with the edges removed and cut to inch long pieces OR 1 bag of frozen cluster beans(Guvar, available at Indian stores in the US)
- 1 lb Fresh green Bengal gram in pod(remove from pod) OR 1/2 bag of frozen green chana(available in Indian stores) OR 1/4 cup green or brown dry chana soaked overnight
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- salt to taste

 For tadka(sauté):
- 2-3 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp udid dal

  1. In a wok, heat the oil, add mustard seeds and udid dal, let the mustard splutters and dal is brown.
  2. Reduce heat, add the cluster beans and whole green chana, stir well
  3. Add turmeric and salt, sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water cover and cook until the vegetable is cooked but still crunchy, the raw taste gone.  It should take ~10-12 mins to be done, 
  4. Remove cover, stir well and continue to cook until the oil starts to glisten.
  5. It tastes good as a side dish for sambhar and rasam, too.
My dysfunctional cooking improvised mom's ultimate comfort food of pappadam vethakoyambu and parappu thogayal (lentil chutney) to another great combination of mixed vegetable vethakoyambu with cluster beans curry. The compliment each other beautifully and have become our comfort food.

Cluster beans are slightly bitter and the green chana is slightly bland, together they make a tasty dish.  We love it & our girls love it, too.  It makes a great side with more(buttermilk) koyambu, too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Diwali Special.. Sheera cake with left over haldiram rasgolla sugar syrup.. :)

Wish you all a very Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak(Happy New Year). 

Diwali Diya(lamp) lit early in the morning before sunrise
This year we decided not to make sweets or savories for Diwali since the girls were busy with their activities thru the weekend.   Ed had a brilliant idea, "Let's open a dabba(box/can) of Haldiram rasgolla's" he said, and for once I agreed, everyone loves it at home and we always stock a couple for special occasions.

Later, while rummaging around the garage fridge, I found the last box of  Sri Krishna Sweets(India) Mysore pak hidden away, they stay good for at least a year refrigerated..  Savories, we had some from the Indian store, last weekend we bought some Anand  jackfruit chips and Swad corn chewda, added some Swad boondi to it to make it mixture, a south-indian must have for Diwali.

Diwali breakfast - Idli, chutney,
jackfruit chips, chewda,
Rasgolla, and Mysore pak
Early morning did the naivedyam and heated up some Deep idli's in the microwave and liquefied some Nirav coriander chutney to go with and we had our yummy Diwali breakfast.

As evening came the rasgolla's were almost gone but more than 1/2 a can of the sugar syrup remained, reluctant to dump it in the sink, I have refrigerated it in the past and then thrown it away after a week.  This time I was determined to try something and what better reason than it's Diwali today!  Looked up for recipes online, but wasn't successful finding any.   Have always loved my sister's Satyanarayan puja sheera made with milk. so thought why not. 

Diwali Naivedhya (or Naivedyam) of sweets and savories
We had the sooji(rava/cream of wheat), the sugar syrup, milk, but wait the store bought Ghee bottle was empty!  Think that would stop a determined me, never! Luckily, we had butter as my younger daughter has been on a baking spree these past few weeks.  So first, I had to make some ghee, well that's another recipe..  not really but let me add it separately for folks who want to make some of the good stuff at home.

Ghee made, drained the liquid ghee into a steel vessel before it hardened and allowed the darkened impurities to stay at the bottom, my older daughter and husband love to eat the left overs, so nothing wasted. 

Here goes the recipe for Sheera Cake(cake, as in cut into diamond shape).  Didn't take many pictures while making the improvised recipe based on watching sis make it over the years.  I can safely say it was a super hit at our house, it all gone by the next morning.

Sheera Cake with Haldiram's left over sugar syrup
From Left, Greetings, Rava(Soji), Sugar syrup, ghee remnants, milk, sheera being stirred, cashew,
Indian golden raisins(kismis) and Sheera Cake cut and ready to serve
- 1 and 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 and 1/2 cups of water
- 1 and 1/2 cups of the leftover rasgolla sugar syrup (strained)
- 1 cup sooji/rava/cream of wheat(we shall call it rava)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup ghee(there will be some leftover)
- 1 handful cashews
- 1 handful raisins
(can add more or less of both)

To color and flavor
- a few(7-8) strands of saffron
- 4-6 cardamom (elaichi) peeled and powdered

  1. Take 1 tbsp of ghee in a small pan, when hot, add the cashew and stir for a couple of minutes.  then add raisins and stir until the raisins are puffed up and the cashews is a golden brown, remove from pan and keep aside
  2. Using the same kadai. I wiped it clean with a paper towel, add the rava and stir in 1/2 tbsp ghee.  Stir slowly until it starts to brown takes ~4-5 minutes on low to medium flame.  Remove from pan and keep aside(if left in the pan it will continue to cook and brown).
  3. In a larger kadai, you need the extra space for stirring so it does not spill over add the milk and water and a few strands of saffron(kesar), once it starts to get hot, lower the heat and add the strained sugar syrup and stir in well.  Allow it come to a slow boil increase to medium heat. ~2-3 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to a minimum and add the roasted rava slowly with one hand while stirring with the other, so it does not form lumps.
  5. Add 2-3 tbsp of ghee and keep stirring until it starts to thicken(~2-3 minutes) still on low heat.
  6. Stir in the roasted cashews and raisins from step 1.  You could add them in at the end, if you like the crunch, or over the top just before cutting into slices,  I prefer it cooked in as it spreads out evenly.
  7. Increase the heat to medium low and add 2-3 more tbsp of ghee, continue stirring it will harden as the water gets absorbed.
  8. Test if the rava is fully cooked.  If you feel its too grainy and dry, then add 2-3 tbsp of water or milk and continue stirring.  It should not burn or brown.
  9. Once its done it will leave the sides of the pan easily and the ghee starts to glisten and ooze out, the cooking time is ~12-15 minutes after adding the rava.
  10. The more ghee you add the more ghee will ooze out when done.  1/2 a cup of ghee is plenty.
  11. Add elaichi powder and stir well.
  12. You don't need to grease the plate.  I like to transfer it to a glass Pyrex and then cut into diamond shape..  Easier to serve and eat..
  13. Using the back of a spoon or a knife to make 3/4" wide cuts going in one direction and then a 3/4 or 1" going diagonal to the first, to make diamond shapes.
  14. You can make it look fancy; brush ghee across the top, or sprinkle edible glitter or spread silver foil or press in a sliver of almond or a raisin.  You could also roll it into balls and place in a small cupcake wrapper if you want to serve to guests.
  15. Let it cool before covering with a lid.  We had missing corners before it had cooled.  So I know it was a hit.
Could we call it sugar free since technically we never used any sugar.  No way!  Enjoy a delicious sweet treat with leftover sugar syrup from Haldiram's rasgolla.  You can use any kind of left over sugar syrup.  If it's thick, dilute on the stove with some water before using.

Hope you enjoyed making my dysfunctional style of cooking sooji/rava sheera, kesari, halwa whatever it may be called across India; a tried and tested recipe in most homes. Mom's 'sunset yellow' food colored rava kesari was never one of my favorite sweets, so never bothered to make it.  Now I'm pretty sure each time we open a Haldiram's rasgolla dabba there will be a request for this Sheera cake!

Tip: Additional milk or water may be needed as it depends on how much liquid is absorbed by the rava to cook.  I used milk and needed 1/2 cup more which I added a few spoonful's at a time as needed before it was done.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Zucchini Sabzi(vegetable)

My family loves Zucchini, so over the years I've tried to include it in our diet.  Most often, sautéed it lightly in oil and added it to Maggi noodles OR Chinese style noodles / fried rice OR Italian pasta.  It tasted good in sambhar but wanted to try something else. 

The first trial, cooked it as a side dish for sambhar rice, with a tadka(seasoning) of mustard and udid dal and seasoned with turmeric and salt.  It tasted awful.  

Second time around, thought of making it like the Raji-bhajji and it was super yummy. It cooks fast, doesn't disintegrate and tastes good.  Cook too long and it could become mushy.  I added frozen peas to give it some color. 

So here goes.. another quick and easy recipe in my dysfunctional cooking style..

- 8 - 10 zucchinis cut length wise in half, then slice (you will have beautiful semi circles)
- 1 handful frozen peas (optional)
- 5 - 6 medium sized tomatoes chopped
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped fine

 For Tadka(Saute)
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds

For Seasoning
- 1/2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tbsp Turmeric powder

salt to taste
- 1 cup water to cook

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add cumin seeds, cover and keep in medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add turmeric, chilli powder.
  3. Add finely chopped onions. Sauté lightly until coated with masala.
  4. Add the chopped zucchini and peas/edamame beans. Stir well and let sauté for a 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, stir well.
  6. Add 1 cup of water,
  7. Add cumin powder and coriander powder, if necessary add more chilli powder.
  8. Add salt to taste.
  9. Taste the gravy and add salt or chilli as desired
  10. Cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes on medium flame OR until done with a slight crunch 
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  12. Enjoy with steamed rice, pita bread, roti's or chapattis.