Saturday, April 12, 2008

Recipe: Obattu

Happy Ugadi to all. It is new year’s day for many people on Ugadi or Yugadi. The new year that has dawned is known as Sarvadhari . The Sarvadhari varsha for people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala who observe Suryamana Ugadi starts on the 14th April.
As always festivals mean good food and also food made of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The season is also the start of spring or Vasantha rithu in India and trees and plants are blooming after the gloomy winter months. The neem trees are full of fragrant blooms. Hence the use of neem flowers in cooking on this new years day. Neem flowers have anti fungal, antibacterial and anti diabetic properties. In Karnataka, the ritual is called eating bevu bella or neem and jaggery, bitter and sweet to symbolize that life is full of sweet and bitter turns.
In Andhra, the ritual is to make a chutney known as Ugadi pachadi using neem flowers, mango, jaggery, chili powder and salt. These raw ingredients are mixed and served as pachadi. This is supposed to cleanse the system.
Besides Ugadi Pachadi the special dishes prepared for Ugadi are Obattu and Ambode in Karnataka. I understand Andhra people also make obattu(known as bobbatlu in telugu) and Pulihore and payasam and vadas.
It is my long-standing promise to post the recipe for Obattu and Ambode. The time has at last arrived, with my making obattu and photographing them.
Obattu or Holige(Kannada), Poli(Tamil), Upputu(Kerala iyer), Bobbatlu(telugu), Puran Poli(Marathi) all refers to stuffed sweet parathas made of Maida. The sweet stuffing can be made from a variety of ingredients, most popularly using chana dal, jaggery and coconut. Kannadigas use equal quantity of chana dal and toor dal and coconut. This filling can be prepared using only coconut and jaggery or green gram dal and coconut and jaggery (Kerala Iyers make uppitu with this stuffing) and in the new age, the sweet stuffing can be made with carrot, coconut and jaggery to give a vegetable touch to it (healthy and nutritious as the presenters of tv cookery shows like to say). And again the rolling is done like parathas or on banana leaves.
Given below is the recipe for Karnataka obattu, as prepared by my authentic Kannadiga friend, Veena.
Chana dal: 250 gms.
Fresh grated coconut: 1½ cups
Grated jaggery: 2½ cups
Dry ginger power: 2 tsps.
Cardamom powder: 2 tsps.

For the outer covering:
Maida: 250 gms
Salt : a pinch
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp.
Gingelly oil: ¼ cup
Water to knead the dough
Ghee for brushing on the obattu
First make the dough by kneading the maida with salt and turmeric powder and water to a soft and elastic consistency in a large bowl or plate. Add 2 tbsps.of gingelly oil and knead again. Make a well in the centre of the dough and add the remaining oil and keep it aside for 10 minutes. Knead again incorporating the oil well into the dough to make the dough more elastic and pliable. Keep the dough covered with a moist cloth. The quantity of oil could be increased to get more pliable dough or if you are calorie conscious, decrease the quantity of the oil (honestly speaking let go when making obattus, if the quantity of oil is decreased the obattu do not come out as flaky and tasty).
To prepare the filling, cook the chana dal with just enough water to cover the dal in a pressure cooker until just done (Do not over cook). Strain to remove the water. (Kannadigas use this water to make a special rasam ). At this stage I deviate a little from Veena’s method.
Veena continues thus: She heats the strained dal, coconut and jaggery in a kadhai until all the moisture evaporates then cools and grinds the mixture and adds cardamom powder and dry ginger powder to get the stuffing.
As I have always said, I like to strain the jaggery to remove the dirt and sand, hence the following method. Grind the strained dal and grated coconut .Boil the jaggery in ½ cup of water until the jaggery dissolves. Strain to remove the sand and other dirt particles. Pour into a heavy bottomed kadhai and boil until the syrup starts thickening. Add the ground dal and coconut mixture and continue stirring until the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Remove from the stove, add cardamom and dry ginger powders. Mix well and cool. Make lemon sized balls of this mixture and keep aside.
Knead the dough once again. (People with weak shoulders like me may use a electric kneader for this to get excellent result or else seek the help of your better half like I do). Take small quantity of the dough and pat into a small circle with the palm of your hand on a banana leaf or plastic sheet. Place one ball of the filling in the centre and close from all sides. Pat the ball into a thin paratha with the palm of your hand. Heat a tava. Gently remove the obattu from the plastic sheet and roast on the heated tava on both sides until brown spots appear. Remove from the tava and drizzle ghee on it. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Serve the “Melt in the mouth hot obattu“ drizzled with ghee and enjoy your holiday with your family.
To add to the sweet taste,Kannadigas serve this obattu with a payasam made of khuskhus, coconut milk and jaggery . We love it with ghee.