Mysore pak (Indian chickpea fudge) for my Madras ajji

WordPress tells me that it is my 100th post. I never thought I’d get here when I started writing on a cold winter’s night in December 2011. I also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the constant support and encouragement of my partner (now husband). To all others who have been with me from the time canwehavesomerasam started, I am eternally grateful. You keep my spirits up, encourage me and make me want to share my kitchen experiments with you. I hope you continue to do so and that I don’t disappoint you.

As this is a landmark post, I’d like to dedicate this post to my paternal grandma, Madras ajji who passed away a year ago. “Ajji” is the Kannada word for grandma and Madras, or Chennai as it is known as today, was where she lived most of her life. Despite being a diabetic for as long as I can remember, she still had a super-soft spot for sweets/pudding. The picture of her smiling in front of a large chocolate cake, on her 80th birthday, is one I will always have in my head when I think of her. While Mysore pak may not have been her favourite dessert, it definitely ranked highly on her list and hence, the dedication.

What is Mysore pak ? Well it is essentially Indian fudge made with just 3 ingredients – chickpea flour (or besan), sugar (white, refined, caster sugar) and ghee (clarified butter). As you can see, none of these ingredients are meant to be healthy. The word “paka” pronounced as you would “parka” means a sticky syrup usually made from sugar or jaggery/palm sugar. Mysore was the capital of Karnataka for nearly six centuries until the end of the British rule in 1947. Legend has it that Mysore pak was invented in the royal kitchens of the Mysore palace and the royalty enjoyed it so much that they got the cook to set up a stall outside the palace so it could be shared with the common people. Today, it is one of the most popular desserts in the state and features on many a wedding, birthday, and anniversary feast.

Note: Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredients – Mysore pak is one of the hardest desserts to get right and timing is everything. I hope to demonstrate it to you with my good and not-so-good versions.

Good version of Mysore pak

Good version of Mysore pak : Soft and literally melts in the mouth

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Vegetable Uppittu/Upma or Vegetable and Semolina porridge

I have written about Uppittu/Upma before and in that recipe, I used bread as the base ingredient. Uppittu/Upma is a dish traditionally made with coarse semolina and some simple spices. Uppittu/Upma is made all over South India in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Depending on where your are, different types of semolina (coarse, fine) may be used. In addition, semolina can be substituted for broken rice and that version is called “akki tari”. In Karnataka, the state I’m from, uppittu is a very popular breakfast dish. During a particular time of the year, a bean called Avarekalu (Hyacinth bean, Indian bean, Lablab purpureus) becomes available and uppittu made out of these beans is a local delicacy. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find these beans in England so I’ve settled for vegetables in this recipe.

Uppittu can be had as breakfast, lunch, evening snack or even for dinner. As I mentioned in the previous Upma post, it is quite heavy and as a result, a good thing to make if you have a lot of guest-mouths to feed. If you are unable to have semolina as it wheat-based, then you can make the same thing with polenta. You’d have to cook the vegetables and polenta separately and bring them together at the end. Polenta sets quite nicely so you can cut it into little squares and serve.

Hope you try this traditional South Indian dish and like it!

Uppittu – ready to eat!

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