Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ugadi obbattu

In Karnataka, Ugadi & bele (Dal) obbattu have an unspoken camaraderie. Though we love obbattus any day of the year, Ugadi becomes an excuse to make this slightly labor intensive but extremely delicious traditional sweet.

There are 2 very popular kinds of obbattus - one is the bele/dal/lentils obbattu and the other kaayi/coconut obbattu. It is essentially a sweet stuffing inside an outer cover and roasted on tava. The bele obbattu is made with a mixture of chanadal and toor dal in some homes but we always liked nammamma's recipe which had only chana dal and that is what I make too.

A good obbattu is measured in three dimensions - first is by the way the layers are formed when cooked, second by the thinness (notice, I don't say thickness, the thinner you are able to spread the obbattu out, the better it is) and the softness of the obbattu (Anna always said, 'this obbattu is like the Mysore silk seere' when eating nammamma's obbattu which meant the obbattus were as soft and silky as the famous Mysore silk sarees :-)). I kept thinking about my dad looking at the way my obbattus were puffing up on the tava, missing him all the time.., food and cooking is all about memories.. don't you agree?
Because of the work it takes, obbattu is typically considered as big league cooking reserved for experienced cooks. For a long time, I had put off making it in my kitchen as I always thought it was a skill I didn't have and one day it all changed when we went to a festival dinner at one of our friends house. The lovely couple V & S are both experts at cooking and have been very popular for their delicious mysore paks and bondas in the friend's circle but for the first time that day, I saw someone closer to my age group make a 100 obbattus in addition to all the other wonderful dishes she had made. So it dawned on me that I wasn't too young to make obbattus :-) and if I wanted, I just had to jump in and try it myself. I have missed a perfect obbattu in the past but this Ugadi turned out fabulously with the obbattus and here I am confidently sharing what I did.

What do you need to make bele obbattu? 
NOTE: The below proportion made 18 good size obbattus
For Hoorana or the stuffing:
3 cups chana dal/kadle bele
3 cups of crushed or grated jaggery
4 green cardamon - peeled and powdered or use a Tsp of cardamom powder
1/2 nutmeg broken into 2 or 1/2 Tsp of nutmeg powder
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 cups of water to cook

For Kanaka or outer covering:
2 cups wheat flour
1 cup maida
1 cup chiroti rava (also called bombay rava or sooji)
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 cup cooking oil

How do you make bele obbattu? 
Hoorana making: 
  • Wash and soak chana dal in water for about 4 hours. 
  • Clean the dal in 2-3 changes of water, pressure cook it until very soft with the nutmeg and cinnamon pieces. 
  • Once the cooker cools, open the lid and strain the water out. NOTE: the amount of water I have mentioned above didn't leave a lot of extra water and so I didn't have to strain it. 
  • Mash the dal once with a potato masher or a thick spoon. 
  • Take the dal and grated/crushed jaggery in a heavy bottom pan and heat it on medium heat. 
  • Jaggery dissolves and leaves some water, keep stirring frequently until the water dissolves and you see a single blob of dal in the pan leaving the sides. This took about 15 minutes for the amount specified. 
  • Switch off and let it cool, fish out the cinnamon & nutmeg pieces at this stage and discard them.
  • I have tried using the blender/mixer and my stone grinder for grinding the hoorana but since both these methods require some water to make them work, it is tricky. Nammamma put this into the traditional manual stone grinder (Varalu kallu) but here is a very easy way to do it.
  • Take handfuls of the cooled & slightly dry mixture and grate it in your grater and you will get smooth noodle like output which is completely soft without a trace of dal in it. 
  • Make the hoorana into lime sized balls, I got 18 balls for the above mentioned quantity. 
Kanaka making: 
  • Put all three dry flours into a wide bowl, add salt and a Tsp of oil and mix it well. 
  • Add water slowly and make a soft dough, similar to the paratha dough. 
  • Cover it with a wet dish cloth or paper towel and leave it aside for an hour. 
  • Take the dough out and knead it for atleast 15 minutes adding a Tsp of oil every 5 minutes. 
  • Your dough will turn completely soft and pliable at this point. 
  • Cover it with a wet cloth and let it rest for another hour. 
  • Make lime sized balls by pinching portions of the dough and shape them into a smooth ball. 
Stuffing the hoorana: 
  • This is similar to paratha stuffing, smear your palm with a drop of oil, put a ball of kanaka and pat in into a small disc.
  • Place the hoorana ball in the center of the disc, close the ball with the kanaka covering by gently working the kanaka upwards and over the hoorana ball. 
  • Smoothen the stuffed ball. 
Obbattu making: 
  • In Kannada it is called 'Obbattu tattodu' which means pat the obbattu and not actually roll it like a chapathi. 
  • Take an aluminium foil sheet, put a drop of oil and spread it on the sheet with your hand. 
  • Place the stuffed obbattu ball in the center of the sheet and start patting it into a round disc of even thickness. 
  • The trick is to move the sheet and your hand in unison so the obbattu expands in all directions uniformly. 
  • Take it all the way without tearing the obbattu. 
  • Heat a flat pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat and put a couple of drops of oil and prepare the pan. 
  • Put the aluminium foil with the obbattu side facing down and let it sit for a minute. 
  • Now gently remove the aluminium foil by lifting a corner, use a flat spatula to coax the sheet off the tava if you need to. 
  • Once you see bubbles appearing on the top surface of obbattu, gently turn it over to the other side and let it roast till it turns golden brown with a few spots.
  • Serve hot obbattus with ghee, we love soaking obbattu in warm milk, try that combination for a great sleep inducing meal.
  • Soaking chana dal helps cook it soft. 
  • Do not heat the mixture of dal & jaggery too much, else it will turn into a burfi consistency and cannot be stuffed or rolled out into obbattu.
  • I prepared the hoorana the previous evening and made the rest on Ugadi day. 
  • During the obbattu patting process, the trick is to make sure the hoorana inside is moving uniformly as you move the obbattu all the way to the edge to avoid the edges from becoming hard after roasting. 
  • When you mix the dal and jaggery, taste to see if the sweetness is right for you, sometimes the sweetness of jaggery changes the proportion.
  • Every time, before patting the obbattu on the sheet, put a couple of drops of oil and spread it over the sheet. I used 2 sheets alternately. 
  • I used kanaka balls slightly smaller than hoorana balls which worked very well in the final product.
  • If you feel comfortable using a chapathi roller, go ahead and use it to make the obbattu but do use it delicately so the hoorana doesn't spill out. 

1 comment:

NamsVeni Pothas said...

obbattu is always a delicious and very delicate sweet. it adds a flavour to our menu. whenyou eat obbattu you sure forget the hard work you did for it.thanks for this nice dish.