Bari Soppina Saaru

I love  regional Indian cuisine. The robust Punjabi dishes, the refined and elegant Awadhi dishes, the rich and royal Hydrabadi, the elaborate Chettinadu cuisine, all of them are my favorites. My own Kannda cuisine is nothing like any of these more popular cuisine, I cannot claim Kannada cuisine to be refined and elegant like Awadhi dishes, nor is it rich and royal like Hydrabadi or Mughali or even robust like Punjabi but it is earthy, simple and unpretentious. Kannda food is what Kannadigas are, simple. What we grew we ate in the most simple fashion. I guess we are a no-nonsense, to the point creed when it comes to our food..A can think more than a dozen dishes with few ingredients than finger in my hands. And yes Kannda cuisine is not just the fare we get at the ubiquitous 'Udupi  hotel's around the world.

Here is one example of a classic Kannadiga dish. This dish is an example of how people ate in the era before the advent of super markets stocking all sort of produce all the year round. Back in the days (i have seen them too, so it was not like 200 years ago) in the smaller towns, we had a weekly market "Sante". We would buy most of our produce for the week there like onions, tomatoes, garlic ginger etc. The rest of the week farmers would hawk their wears in a bamboo basket right on your doorstep especially your regular ones. They would sell freshly harvested greens and things that would not survive till the next "Sante". (and yes, cold storage is still unheard of in a large part of our large country). This dish is from that era, when your pantry staples came from a Sante and a farmer just sold you freshly harvested greens right at your doorstep. 

We will need,

Assorted fresh greens 1 lb
Onions 4 medium
Coconut 1 cup (grated)
Garlic cloves 5-6
Chillies 4 green and 2 red dry (dry chillies optional)
Tamarind paste 1/2 tsp
Coconut oil /peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Wash and chop the greens. Put it in a big pot, along with half of the coconut and  2 cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil. Once the greens are tender i.e the first boil, turn off the heat and pour the mixture over a sieve collecting the drained cooking liquid in a another pot. Set aside the cooked greens. 
  • Throw in the remaining coconut, two cloves of garlic, green chilly, jeera , tamarind  and little water into a blender and pulse till the mixture is very smooth.. Remove the mixture into a  pot and cook it till the raw smell of the masala disappears. 
  • Once the masala paste smells fragrant pour in the cooking liquid strained from the greens. Adjust salt and bring it to a rolling boil. Simmer for a few minutes and remove from fire.
  • Chop onions and remaining garlic. 
  • Heat oil in a Kadai, throw in the mustard and red chillies if using. Once fragrant throw in the onion and garlic. Once the onion is golden brown, throw in the cooked greens. adjust salt and add lemon juice if preferred. Serve with Ragi Mudde or rice.

Boondi Laadu

Finally the dust settled over the elections, we have a new Prime Minister and hope of a new dawn. All that needs to be is seen is how far the promises are kept and manifesto delivered.

It is summer here. As my fingers pound over the keyboard, I hear the gentle swish of the breeze blowing through the dense leaves of the big trees in our back yard. In a few hours, the breeze will carry with it the tantalizing fragrance of a flower , the name of which I know not. These remind me of home and make me home sick indeed. More than home sick I should say nostalgia. Because I can still come back home. But the 'home' as I remember is no longer the same. The swish of the breeze between the leaves of the "Arali mara" near our ancestral farms is no longer there because the farms are now residential area, it is some body's home now. I cannot go home and hope to pick 'Karehannu' the buttery, sweet berries off the bush on the road side and pop it into my mouth, because the bushes are no longer there, it is a concrete jungle out there.

Despite the water under the bridge, there is always a hope that one day things will resemble days gone by when everything we had was valuable, time, the breeze, the carefree life, birds singing in the back yard and rooster crowing at day break.

For now it is some Boondi Laadu. Boondi Laadu is an exquisite sweet. Made right it can win the heart of the most bitter skeptic. Made wrong it can break the heart of the most generous fan. Laadus are synonymous with Kannadiga weddings. If it is not -Laadoo-Chiroti, nah! what a wedding feast it could be? It will be featured in at least one of the meals. (Yes it was there in my wedding, and all the weddings in the family and beyond!) if not, it will be packed in nice little bags with a savory snack like Chakkuli and given as a return gift at the weddings along with the Tambula- the auspicious combo of coconut, beetle-nut, betel leaf and a small present.
My first encounter with Boondi Laadu was when my uncle got married. Honestly I don't remember what I ate in the wedding. All I remember was the frantic last minute shopping for a nail polish with my oldest cousin, and then the entire family dabbing the same nail colour for the wedding. Kids these days would scoff at some thing like that. But those were the days. It was perfectly alright for 25 girls/women to wear the same nail polish on the same day at the same place.
Before the actual wedding, my grandparents had a cook prepare Laadoo and Khara Boondi for the customary present for the wedding guests along with the Tambula. The cook came home at the appointed hour and set up a make shift stove in the back yard with three big granite stones. Some one got him the wood he needed to get the stove going. He had a huge Kadai, something that would fit me and my sister together back then. He set the Kadai on the wood-fire make shift stove and poured tins of 'refined-oil'. Then the Laadoo factory started. I sat  there watching for hours till the smoke and heat got me...I do not remember much about the proportions he used but I do remember his tip. He said 'Boora sakkare' Boora sugar makes the best laadoo. The laadoo he made that day was unremarkable, well the end product would be as good as the raw materials that went in. What better could we expect with gallons of refined oil? The real deal means pure ghee or at least a combination of ghee and 'refined oil.'
I had been meaning to make these for a long time but was rather intimidated. Finally I did manage some brave heart to go ahead and try these and they came out surprisingly nice. Not the best ones I had ever had. (I remember that one, it was again a wedding present back in the 1990s. I cannot forget good foods ever!)
We will need,

Chickpea flour 1 measure
Turmeric a pinch
Salt a pinch
Sugar 1-1.25 measure
Fine Sugar /Boora sugar 0.25 -0.5 measure
Saffron a generous pinch
Cloves 2-3
Cardamon 1
Nutmeg  a dash
Raisin (as desired)
Cashew nuts (as desired)
Ghee 1 tbsp + to deep fry

  • Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan and toast the cashew nuts and raisins till the cashews are golden brown and raisins plump up. Set it aside.
  • Prepare the sugar syrup. Mix the sugar and 1 measure of water and cook till the sugar becomes one thread consistency. That is when the syrup is pulled between the thumb and forefinger, it should form a single thread. Remove from heat and throw in crushed saffron, cardamon and nutmeg. Set it aside.
  • Sift the chickpea flour to get rid of impurities and lumps. Once the flour is fluffy and light,stir in the turmeric and salt. Add water to make a batter rather a thin one something like a dosa batter. I had to use  a little over 2/3 measure of water to get it runny. 
  • Heat ghee in a Kadai and once the ghee is hot (try dropping a a dab of batter into the hot oil, the batter should puff up and rise to the top in a matter of seconds.) pour the batter into the oil through a sieve or a laddoo ladle. (I just used my sieve)
  • Once the boodis puff up  remove them carefully and drain them over a paper towel for a few seconds before dunking them into the sugar syrup. Repeat till all of the batter is used up.
  • Let the boondis sit in the sugar syrup till it is cool  enough to handle (while still warm to touch). Throw in the cashew-raisin mixture, cloves and the Boora sugar. Stir the mixture gently.
  • Grab a hand full of the boondi mixture and press it tightly between two palms to form a tight ball of sorts. Let it air dry for a while, when completely cold, pile them on to an air tight box and it says good for weeks.
1. I used golden raisins and it does nothing to the presentation. I wish I has some of those dark ones.
2. I  have tried the 'Made in Canada' besan which is more widely available here, but it is bitter, never use those. Always try to find the 'Made in India' Besan brands they come out much better.